How can I forget Doi maach?
I will start with an honest confession. I don’t remember having doi maach before. Wait, before you start thrashing me on this, let me rephrase – I don’t remember the taste of any doi maach, which had strongly registered in my mind. There are several reasons for that and I will explain. Please have patience and in the end, let me know if I am justified or not.
Growing up years and eating out
I did a hashtag search with my memory but none of the memory cells returned any entry on Doi maach. In my growing up years in Chandannagore, there were barely any restaurants sans “Samrat” a cabin/restaurant. My mom treated me with Moghlai Paratha at Samrat, for being a good boy at her monthly shopping in LokkhiGonj Bajar.
We used to come to Kolkata once in a while in 80s and early 90s. At that time, there weren’t any notable Bengali restaurants in Kolkata. Aaheli opened in 1993 and Kewpies even later. At that time, the pice hotels were considered as an aspirational place to dine out with family. Therefore, a middle-class Bengali family would go to Park Street and feast on Chinese food. The first choices were Peiping (now closed), Waldorf (changed its location in between and now in bad shape) and Chung Wah (a hit with all, from ABP house). There were others too.
Jhol and Jhal at home
A Bangal often takes a dig at the ghotis by saying that the fish preparation for Ghotis start at Jhol and ends at Jhal. Rui and Katla were an everyday feature at home. Most of the time, they were made with Shorshe or mustard, green chilies and coriander leaves in winters. That’s the Jhal with slightly thicker consistency and a spunky flavour. Jhol was lighter in consistency with seasonal vegetables, almost like a stew and a perfect muse for gorom bhat (steamed rice). On special occasions, Ma would make a take-off on Kalia with onion, tomato and some red chili powder but that was rare. Ilish in monsoons meant either Doi Ilish (a house favourite) or Ilish begun Jhol or Shorshe Ilish Jhaal. Nowhere, Doi maach invades my memory.
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We learnt the recipe of Doi maach from the best place
If Ma had taught me first to chop onions or to make noodles (Maggi came later), it was my Mama who taught me to master Kosha Mangsho. A great cook, who loves to experiment, he helped my Mami to develop as a master cook too (this is a dispute between the two and we love getting into this debate time and again). Last week, we visited them and as it was a last-minute decision. So Mami made whatever best she could from leftovers in kitchen and she made Doi maach. In a glass bowl, 5 large pieces of Katla half sunk, half afloat in a jhol, which had red and yellow hues. Thicker than a jhol, the constituency of this Doi maach comes from onion paste.
The end story and a secret too
I had 2 pieces of fish and gorged on the jhol. I had the intention of wiping the bowl clean but heat and humidity made me ‘retire hurt’ halfway, from an ongoing great experience. We had to ask for the recipe of Doi maach and we got it too. Madhushree has tried it this way but I don’t see the day far behind when I will also make the Doi maach.
Madhushree used to make her own style of doi maach, which she claims and I don’t remember. I am being very bold and unafraid of my future while making this statement. However, I did ask her why her doi maach was different from Mami’s doi maach. Apparently, Mami’s trick was to use mishti doi along with regular doi. That almost gave it a thick caramelized texture and reminded me of a biye bari maacher jhol, or the maacher jhol served at some weddings. Also, Madhushree would marinate the fish with the yogurt and the spices and put everything together in the pan to cook. In this case, the sauce or the gravy is first made and then the fish is added.
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Doi Maach Recipe
- 6 pieces rohu or katla fish you can use steaks, ie gada or peti (the belly portion) or both
- 1 no Medium Sized Onion
- 100 gm yogurt or dahi 1/2 cup approximately
- 50 gm mishti doi 1/4 cup approximately (see notes)
- 1 1/2 tbsp Ginger Paste
- 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder
- 3 nos split green chilies
- 3 tbsp Mustard Oil
- 1 tsp All purpose flour
- Salt To Taste
- Wash the fish under running water and then pat them dry. Marinade the fish pieces with salt and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and leave for ten minutes.
- In the meanwhile, make a paste of the onion in a blender using very little water.
- In a frying pan or a kadai, take, 2 tbsp of mustard oil and let it heat. When smoking, gently slide the fish pieces and put the flame on medium. The fish should be lightly fried Just a little bit of colour on one side and then it's time to flip the fish on the other side. Once both sides are done, take the fish out of the oil using a slotted spatula and keep aside.
- In the same oil, add another tbsp of mustard oil and let it heat. Add the onion paste and kep frying. After a couple of minutes, add ginger paste and continue frying.
- Take both mishti doi and normal yogurt in a mixing bowl. Add a tsp of maida or all purpose flour and whisk thoroughly, till there are no lumps and keep aside.
- Add 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and the kashmiri red chili powder and continue frying. Sprinkle some water if the masala starts to stick to the bottom.
- Continue frying till oil starts to show around the sides. At that point reduce the heat to a minimum and add the whisked yogurts.
- Keep stirring or else the yogurt will split. After a minute or two, add a cup of water and stir well. Then you need to slowly increase the heat and let the gravy cook and the raw smell of the yogurt should go in a while.
- Slide the fish pieces in the gravy and check the seasoning. Add the split green chilies and increase the temperature. Adjust the water as per your liking.
- The sauce should continue simmering for a while till you can see oil floating on top. That's from the yogurt.
- Turn off the heat and serve doi maach with steamed rice.