Maacher jhol- the term is literally synonymous with all Bengalis. It’s part of our staple diet and isn’t something we have once in a while. It’s every day, well, other than the Sunday murgi or mangshor jhol. No surprise, we have a variety of recipes to make simple fish curry. And the interesting part is that we have different ways of making different fish. However, there are a few recipes which go with all kinds of fish. One such is our kalo jeere kancha lonka diye maacher jhol. That’s a light fish stew with tempered nigella seeds and green chillies. Mustard paste goes with almost any fish. And another one is this recipe of doodh maach. It is incredibly light and yet has beautiful and pungent mustard flavour without any mustard paste in it.
It was at one of the gatherings at Dolon’s place for lunch. Her mother, Sharmila Aunty, cooked a whole lot of food. While having the fish, we were all intrigued by the taste. I inquired about the recipe and she casually asked us what the ingredients were. Almost out of a masterchef challenge, we started picking the ingredients. We got the panchphoron right. We got the turmeric powder right, green chillies and mustard oil right. However, the sauce had that light mustard flavour. Almost as if, a tsp of mustard paste was strained into it- just like a light shorshe’r jhol. We often eat that every day shorsher jhol, which has a thin consistency. Sharmila Aunty smiled and said there was no mustard paste at all. It was just milk and mustard oil.
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Dudh Maach can be made with any kind of fish (other than a few)
You don’t need to be picky about which fish to use. You can use almost any kind of fish to make doodh maach, other than a boal, shoal variety. Rohu, katla, pomfret, pabda, gurjali and even some sea fish would be good for it. In fact, doodh katla is a dish in itself and is quite popular. Bhetki maach also works well with this recipe. However, if you are wondering about the use of milk with fish, it does not have that typical rich milk-based gravy in Mughlai dishes kind of taste. You can use skimmed milk for this recipe too. The richness will depend on the fat content in the milk. It tastes good either way.
A very easy recipe, where the fish is first lightly fried with a rub of turmeric powder and salt. Needless to say, fry it in mustard oil. Then temper the oil with panchphoron- our magic spice blend and some green chillies. After that add a cup of milk and turmeric powder, just enough turmeric powder to give it a bright yellow colour. Simmer it for a while and add the fish into it. Add half a cup of water and cover and simmer it. Adjust the seasoning and then, this is the important step. Finish with a drizzle of mustard oil and split green chillies for that beautiful pungent hit.
Doodh Maach tastes best when eaten with steamed rice.
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Doodh Maach | Bengali Dudh Mach Recipe
- 4 pcs Katla Maach or fish of your choice (read notes)
- 1.5 tsps turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder optional
- 1/2 tsp Panch Phoron read notes
- 3.5 tbsp Mustard oil
- 3-4 nos green chillies
- salt to taste
- 1 cup milk see notes
- Wash the fish pieces and pat them dry. Rub half tsp of turmeric powder and a little bit of salt to the fish.
- In a frying pan or kadai, take 2 tbs of mustard oil. Heat the oil till it almost reached a smoking point and then gently slide the fish pieces into the pan to fry them.
- Fry the fish on each side for less than a minute. Just a little bit of golden colour would do.
- Take the fish out of the oil and keep aside.
- In the same oil, add another half tbsp of mustard oil. Heat it and add panchphoron and break a couple of green chilies into it.
- Stir it around on medium heat till you get the panchphoron fragrance.
- Take one cup of milk and dissolve the rest of the turmeric powder into it. Also dissolve the red chili powder into it, if you are using it.
- Add this milk to the oil. Keep the heat low and let it simmer for about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Then slide in the fish. Add another half cup of water, add salt to taste and let it come to a boil. Then lower the heat, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Let the oil come out of the gravy.
- Uncover, drizzle 1 tbsp of mustard oil and add a couple of split green chilies.
- Turn off the heat and serve doodh maach with steamed rice.
- You can use this recipe for rohu, katla, bhetki, pabda, pomfret and much more white fleshed fish. If you are using sea fish, I suggest you also add a tsp of freshly grated ginger.
- Panch phoron can easily be made at home. Use equal quantities of cumin seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, black mustard seeds and half the quantity of fenugreek seeds. Radhuni is also used in panch phoron in place of mustard seeds.
- You can use skimmed milk, double toned milk to full-fat milk.