A week ago, we carried out ‘Ask me Anything’ in Instagram. Someone asked a question, which is often asked by many. What gets cooked at home? What gets cooked in a kitchen is a representation of the influx and amalgamation of cultures which is prevalent and also what comes in. One of the most influential way, how the kitchen culture changes in a home, is when a new bride comes in. The bride brings in – her family recipes and parts of her kitchen history and soon some gets incorporated.
My Nonta /Savory Mom and Sweet Grandma
We have a ready example in the Ilish Maach Bhaja and Ilish Maach tel in our home. Before that, one of the best examples is in my kitchen. My mom often shared this story which happened after her marriage. Being a ghoti, Ma did not like mishti that much and even in her cooking, she didn’t prefer sweetish food. She has a penchant love for snacks and savourie and she never ended her meal with desserts. A habit which she has successfully passed on to me.
When Ma got married, in her early days, she saw my Grandmother use jaggery while cooking daal. And once she found out that she added jaggery in Shorshe Jhaal too. Soon, Ma with her background of growing up in various parts of Bihar and in Railway Bungalows with khansamas cooking, slowly changed the kitchen culture of our home. More of chops and cutlets got made at home and the taste profile of everyday food was a little spicy.
The Big change getting married with a Bangal woman
Ilish is celebrated at the dining table in any Bengali family. Madhushree prefers celebrating Ilish with a full course from beginning to end and from head to tail. Before marriage, Ilish Mach bhaja with Ilish mach tel was always accompanied by alu bhate or mashed potato mixed with mustard oil. Baba would make small spherical shapes along with a green chili. Initial days, Madhushree used to have Ilish macher tel with dried red chili fried and no alu bhate. Slowly, we came to an ideal midway. Ilish Macher tel with Ilish Maach bhaja and dried red chili fried and alu bhate. It’s an ideal scenario of our kitchen getting enriched with her ifluences, as I have found dried red chili fried is always a better a combination than green chili. A perfect example of Ghoti + Bangal = Bati
Ilish Maach Bhaja – some tips
Ghotis always carry the enigma of frying the Mach more than necessary. Some even say that we fry any mach / fish more than necessary and kill it’s flavours. I have never seen any fish going into any jhol or wherever without being fried. Since Bangals claim that they handle the fish better, here are some tips from Madhushree on how to fry Ilish Mach.
- The most important being, don’t wash Ilish too much. Some people even eat ilish without washing. However, I prefer to give it a single wash under running water. Too much of water will kill the flavour of ilish. It is an oily fish afterall.
- Once the oil is almost smoking hot (not smoking), slip the marinated ilish into the oil.
- In a couple of seconds, keep the heat to a medium to high when we are eating ilish maach bhaja.
- We want a crispy coating. So, fry for about 2 minutes on each side or more if required.
- Flip the fish and cook equally on the other side.
- If we are using ilish for a gravy, either don’t fry it all all or simple fry for a few seconds on each side.
- And always fry ilish just before eating. reheating ilish maach bhaja is not pleasant. Not the same taste at all.
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Ilish Maach Bhaja | Ilisher Tel
- 2 pcs hilsa steaks
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2-3 tbsp mustard oil
- 2 dried red chillies
- salt to taste
- When you buy the hilsa steaks, make sure to not wash it too much. Just once for a few seconds under running water.
- Marinade the fish with salt and turmeric powder.
- Heat mustard oil in a frying pan to almost a smoking point.
- Slide the fish into the pan and keep the heat at a medium to high.
- Let the fish crisp up on one side and then flip to cook the other side. Takes no more than 2 minutes on each side and depending on the thickness of the fish, less than that too.
- Take the fish out of the oil and keep on a plate.
- In the same hot oil, add the dried red chillies and let them puff up and brown.
- Take them out and keep aside. Pour the oil in a bowl and keep it.
- Serve ilish maach bhaja with the ilisher tel or oil, dried red chillies and some mashed potatoes or alu bhatey. Take some salt and mix the rice with the oil, crumble red chillies and have it.