Our fish cravings just spiked with Durga Puja celebrations coming up...
Here's our guide to Bengali-style fish preparations that will knock your socks off
Big fish, small fish. We don't discriminate. With Durga Puja celebrations around the corner, it was only fitting to dive into a sea of restaurant menus to reel in our pick of Bengali fish preparations. From the much-awaited Bhapa Ilish made with hilsa flown down from Kolkata to Chingri (mustard prawns), we have you covered for a week's worth of dinners. And no, we're not fishing for compliments - but if you have one after reading this — go on, make your Fry-day!
We hear no two households make this fish the same way in Kolkata. And it plays an integral part of local cuisine which is rich, colourful and vibrant in all its avatars. Sample the quintessential Macher Jhol, made with Mahi Mahi, and served alongside Govindo Bhog rice at Bharat Bistro. Rs 595. To make for an authentic dining experience, co-owner Nikesh Lamba tells us, "We get a few of our ingredients from Bengal such as Jharna ghee, Govindo Bhog rice and Patali Gur (seasonal jaggery extracted from dates)." The latter is a seasonal jaggery that is extracted from dates, that goes into their Nolen Gur ice cream which you can enjoy for dessert.
Up the hilsa
Forty kgs of Bengal's most beloved river fish — hilsa — will be flown down to Chennai, as part of Durga Puja celebrations next week. While that might sound like a lot, you might want to pre-book an order to get some because according to Aloka Gupta, partner at Bay Leaf in Gopalapuram, guests call in over a month in advance to find out when it will be available. "I don't mean just Bengalis in Chennai but South Indians as well," she says with a smile. Expect traditional preparations of Bhapa Ilish (steamed hilsa in mustard paste) and Shorshe (hilsa in mustard gravy). Available between October 15 and 21.
Rs 900 a plate approx.
Spice spice baby
This fiery red curry is rich in both spice and flavour. It's called Rui Maach Kalia and made with the popular Rohu fish, known to be a regular feature at the table in households in West Bengal as well as a go-to for any special occasion. "What gives this dish a unique flavour is that the fish is fried," says Pradipta Nag Chowdhury, Kitchen Executive, at Six 'O' One, The Park Chennai. He elaborates, "The curry being cooked in the same oil enhances the flavour." Available on prior request. Rs 795 + taxes.
No delay, just fillet
If you don't like sorting through pesky, let's not forget pokey fish bones — this Katla preparation is for you. Simply called Bengali Fish Curry, try this homestyle and delightfully wholesome version at North View Kitchen, which opened less than a month ago at St Thomas Mount. The Bengali chef on board, SK Israfil tells us the fish fillets are cooked in onions, tomatoes, green chillies, potatoes and of course mustard oil! Rs 240.
Prawn in 60 secs
That's how fast this dish disappears when it's placed at a table. A hit at parties and weddings, Chingri is a must-try dish made with prawns, Kasundi mustard, chillis, curd and turmeric. Chef Willi, who consults at Sarah's Soul Kitchen also tells us that the menu includes his version of Mahi Mahi in mustard gravy that he fell in love with during a stint working in Kolkata. Rs 369 for each.
Shorshe mach with salmon?
Bengali-born Indrashis Saha is recreating a Bengali classic, with a bit of twist. The chef who handles KoKoMMo, the beach shack at the InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort says he will be using salmon this time around, instead of the more likely choices like Mahi Mahi. "I will be marinating the salmon with stone ground mustard and fennel (a classic flavour profile of shorshe mach) and then grilling it to perfection," he tells us. Enjoy with a side serving of fennel salad and butternut squash paired with mustard relish. Available between October 14 and 19. Rs 1,250 approx.