Shorshe Pabda

I have not written a blog post for almost a year. We moved back to Delhi earlier this year, change offices and houses (of course) and have been crazy busy as usual. I was pretty surprised to realise that I have come to really like this city and actually missed being in Delhi. So now, I call Calcutta, Bombay and Delhi my home. Weird.

Enough about me. About food now.

This recipe is about my love for Bengali food. This is the most common (and commonly loved) fish curry that you will find in any Bengali household. So, while this recipe is not unique, this is the first time I actually measured out the ingredients, since I usually always make this curry the way my mom taught me – instinct! Well, actually she is a fantastic cook and like all mothers, is fabulous at creating amazing food by just a pinch of this and a handful of that, but I know how difficult that is to follow.

So I hope you enjoy this quintessential Bengali fish curry that is both comforting and delicious.

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You will need:

  • Butter fish (pabda): 1/2 kg (medium size, cut into two pieces or whole) (You can substitute the butter fish with most types of fish.)
  • Black mustard seeds (kalo shorshe): 1 and ½ tablespoon
  • Yellow mustard seeds (holud shorshe): 1 tablespoon
  • Green chillies: 1-2
  • Nigella seeds (kalo jeera): 1/4 teaspoon
  • Mustard oil: 4 tablespoons (approx)
  • Turmeric: 1 + ½ teaspoon
  • Salt: 1 teaspoon + to taste
  • Water: 2 tablespoons + 1 and ½ cup
  • Coriander leaves and green chillies for garnish (optional)

Special appliances:

  • Small masala grinder
  • Non-stick wok – of at least 2.5 litre capacity

Grind the mustard seeds (black and yellow), green chillies and a pinch of salt with a couple of tablespoons of water. Add a little more water if the paste is too grainy. The paste should be smooth and thick. Keep aside.

Clean, wash and drain the excess water off the fish or dry with paper towels. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of salt and coat evenly.

Heat three tablespoons of mustard oil in the non-stick wok. Make sure that the oil is adequately hot (the colour should become slightly paler) but not smoky. Shallow fry the fish (one/two at a time, depending on the size of the fish) for about 30 seconds on each side, and keep aside.

In the same work, add the remaining mustard oil. Add the nigella seeds until they begin to splutter.

Mix the mustard paste and ½ teaspoon turmeric with 1 and ½ cups of water, and add to the wok. Gently add the fish and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat for approximately 12-15 minutes. Adjust the salt to taste.

Garnish with coriander leaves and green chillies (optional).

Serve hot with steamed rice.

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