Bengal has such a wide variety of fresh water and river water fish. If we begin to name them, we can cover all the alphabets of the English language. Other than Rohu and Katla, it is the smaller fish variety that lends a far superior taste. Pabda maach is one such fish. It is from the catfish family. However, it has shiny silver skin. The best part is that like most catfish varieties, this one also has one central bone. Easy to pick, full-bodied flavour, sweet in taste and quite fleshy, Pabda mach doesn’t need a lot of work. A simple pabda macher jhol cooked with alu (potatoes) and bodi (vadi or dried lentil dumplings) is a match made in heaven.
How is this recipe of Pabda Macher jhol different from others?
Traditionally, we make pabda macher jhol with only one whole spice, that is nigella seeds. It is also a no onion, no garlic recipe. First, you temper mustard oil with nigella seeds and green chilies, then you add potatoes, turmeric powder, and sometimes tomatoes. Adding tomatoes is a personal choice. After adding water, add the fried fish and more slit green chilies and ginger paste along with coriander leaves for flavour. You can add brijol to pabda macher tel jhol too. However, my padba fish curry is a bit different and definitely not how my mother makes it. It’s just something I tried a long time ago and the flavour worked. Since then, this is my favourite way of making pabda macher jhol with alu and bodi.
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In my version, I rub salt and turmeric powder on the fish and fry them lightly. The bodis are also fried beforehand and then I soak them in water. This fastens the final process of the recipe. Here comes the major difference. Instead of nigella seeds, I temper mustard oil with panchphoron (a medley of nigella seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds). Panchphoron usually has radhuni in place of mustard seeds but you don’t get radhuni everywhere. Hence mustard seeds work quite well. Throw in a couple of green chilies with the panchphoron. Then add a bit of crushed garlic. I love the garlic flavour and it goes really well with pabda fish. Add the potatoes, turmeric powder, and salt. Then on low flame, cover and cook the potatoes. Halfway through, add water and let the potatoes boil in the water. Finally, add the fish, adjust the salt, green chilies, and dust a bit of maida to thicken the gravy. Garnish with coriander leaves.
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This pabda mache alu ar bodi diye tel jhol is a light stew and tastes the best with steamed rice. The fish tastes best when served immediately.
You can also try another small fish variety called koi maach. Tel koi is an extremely popular Bengali recipe. Here’s the link to the recipe – Link
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Pabda Macher Jhol | Pabda Fish Curry
- 8 pcs Pabda fish
- 1 ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp red chili powder optional
- 2-3 nos green chilies
- 2 nos potatoes
- 8-10 nos bodi urad dal vadi / dried lentil dumplings
- ½ tsp panchphoron read text above
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- 1/2 tsp maida or aata all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
- salt to taste
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- coriander leaves for garnish
- Rub the fish pieces with ½ tsp turmeric powder and salt.
- Heat 1 tbsp of mustard oil and fry the bodi. Keep the heat at a medium since bodi browns too quickly. Once they are golden, take them out and dunk in a bowl of water.
- Heat 1 tbsp of mustard oil in a frying pan and gently fry the fish for few seconds on each side. it shouldn't be more than 30 seconds on each side. While frying pabda, cover and fry. It has a tendency to splurt oil. Also, it is a delicate fish, so handle with a gentle touch.
- Once done, take the fish pieces out of the oil and keep them aside.
- Cut the potatoes into thin half-moon slices.
- In the same oil, add more oil and heat it. Add panchphoron and 1 split green chili.
- Add the crushed garlic and stir-fry for 20 to 30 seconds and then add the potatoes.
- Sprinkle turmeric powder, red chili powder and salt. Mix everything well, sprinkle some water and cover and cook the potatoes.
- Halfway through the cooking, add a cup of water. Let the potatoes boil in the water and soften.
- Then slide the fish in the pan. Add the bodi and cover and let the fish cook in the stew for not more than three minutes.
- After that, adjust seasoning. Add slit green chilies and make a slurry with aata or maida and add the slurry. Adjust the quantity of water as per your need.
- Finally, tear some coriander leaves and add to the stew.
- Serve with steamed rice.