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Fish favourites

By Shawkat Osman

Doi Ayre
1 kg Ayre Fish, filleted
4 Tbs Yoghurt, whisked
4 Tbs Onion past
1/2 tsp Ginger paste
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli (Paprika) powder
3 tsp Red Chilli powder
1/2 tsp Cumin powder
5 cm long Cinnamon stick, halved
10 Cloves
4 Cardamom, seeds only, powdered
3 tsp Salt
2 Tbs Soya Oil

Aar/Ayre (Mystus aor) a long-whiskered catfish, abundant in all the rivers and large water bodies, is popular for its soft white flesh. This recipe uses no garlic; the ginger gives this dish a unique flavour uncommon in fish preparations. This preparation is unlike from that of the Doi Rui preparation, for the Ayre needs a robust jhol to compliment its bland flavour, the flesh is sweet and rich in oil.

In a mixing bowl combine yoghurt, onion paste, ginger paste, turmeric, red chilli, kashmiri chilli, cumin, salt and set aside.

Wash the fish fillets properly and pat dry. Place the pieces in the mixing bowl. Rub the mixture all over the fish fillets, and marinate for about an hour.

Heat oil in a wok and toss in cinnamon and cloves. Cook undisturbed for a few seconds and then take the wok off the flame.

Gently arrange the fish fillets, side by side over the spices in the wok. Pile the remaining marinade on top of the fish and return wok to the flame.

Cover the wok with a lid, set the flame to low, and cook for 3 minutes.

Using a tong, carefully turn the fish fillets over again. Cover wok with a lid and let them cook for 2 more minutes.

Check if fully cooked, then sprinkle with ground cardamom, and transfer to a serving dish.

Lebu-Mach Bake
1 kg Koral Fish fillet
1 Tbs Butter
10 Dry Red Chillies, cut into rings
1 Stock Cube
1 Tbs Corn Flour
1 Tbs Oil
1 Tbs Ghee
2 Onions chopped
4 Garlic, crushed
8 Green Chillies, chopped
2 Preserved Lemon, sliced
1/8 tsp Saffron, soaked in 1/2 cup tepid Milk
1 Red Capsicum, cut into rings
1 Yellow Capsicum, cut into rings
1 Green Capsicum, cut into rings
1 Lemon, grated zest
4 Egg Whites
2 Egg Yolks
2 tsp + 1/2 tsp Salt

This recipe uses 'Lebu'r Jarak' (Iemons preserved in a salt-lemon juice mixture for a minimum of 30 days). Preserved lemons have a silken texture and a distinctive flavour. Though used as an "Aachar' (relish) in Bangladesh, they're an indispensable ingredient and flavouring in Mediterranean cooking and widely used as a flavouring by many of today's leading chefs. As every Deshi pantry has a jar of 'Jarak', I evolved its use in our Deshi cuisine.

Mix the butter with: 2 tsp salt and the red chilli rings. Coat the fish fillets with this spiced butter.

Dissolve the stock cube in 1/2 cup water; if stock is not salted, add 1/2 tsp salt and set aside.

Dissolve the corn flour in 1/2 cup cold water, set aside (slurry).

Heat oil and ghee in a wok and lob in chopped onions, crushed garlic and green chilli. Saute until onions are translucent.

Pour the stock into the wok, add the saffron, and stir to mix, slowly lead it to a simmer.

Stir the slurry to dissolve the sediments and add it to the stock, mix it properly and cook for a minute.

In the meantime arrange the fish in an ovenproof pan, and cover them with capsicum rings and preserved lemon.

Pour the hot stock over the fish and vegetables and sprinkle grated lemon zest directly over the fish. Whisk the egg-white stiff with an electric wire beater, mix in egg yolk with a pinch of salt, and whisk again.

Pour eggs over the fish, and bake in a preheated oven at 180 C, for 20 minutes.

Alternatively, microwave at high power (10) for 8 minutes.

Elish Tikka
4 Hilsa Fish
1 cup Onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Cilantro, finely chopped
¼ cup Mint (Pudina) finely chopped
2 cup Soyabean Oil
2 Tsp Pepper, roughly ground
2 Tbs Green Chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp Salt

Cut off the heads and tail of the fishes. Put the body of the fish on its side and slice lengthwise to divide the fish into hump and belly parts. Boil hump and belly portion of the fishes until tender. Keep the remaining portions for use in other recipes.

Pick out the bones from the Hilsa pieces and discard bones. Flake the meat.

To the fish flake add onions, cilantro, mint (pudina), pepper, green chilli and salt. Mix all the ingredients properly with your fingers.

Grease your palms with some oil, take 2 tablespoons of the mixed flake on your palm and form into patties, 1cm thick and 5cm in diameter.

Shallow fry the fish patties to a golden brown, then turn and brown the second side.

Recipe contributed by Nahid Osman

Elish Paturi
The name Paturi comes from the word "Pata" (leaves), foods wrapped in leaves and cooked are Paturis. The leaves generally used are banana leaves, pumpkin leaves and bottle gourd leaves. The Adibashis of Chittagong Hill Tracts uses bamboo leaves also. Paturis are traditionally cooked in the hot steaming rice, added during the last few minutes of cooking, and can also be steamed in a two tier steamer, fried, baked and microwaved.

1 Hilsa Fish-steaks, or use any fish steaks of your choice.
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Yogurt
1 Tablespoon Mustard seeds
2 Garlic cloves, peeled
1 Tablespoon + 3 Tablespoon Mustard Oil
4 Red Onions, sliced
10 Green Chillies, slit
1 small Banana/Taro Leaf

Grind turmeric, yoghurt, salt, mustard seeds and garlic in a food processor/grinder. Work into a smooth paste.

Coat the fish steaks with this spice mixture, and set aside.

Pass the banana leaves over an open flame to soften the brittle leaves. Cut a portion of the leaf to the exact measurement of the casserole's diameter. Keep the larger section of the leaf for covering the bottom and the sides of the casserole.

Grease an ovenproof casserole with 1 tablespoon mustard oil; place the larger piece of the leaf in the casserole to cover the bottom and the sides of the dish. The edges of the leaf should come up the sides and more to overlap. Pile the marinated fish steaks on the centre of the leaf. Drizzle with 3 tablespoon oil and scatter the green chillies and onions all over the fish steaks.

Place the leaf portion, which was cut to the exact dimension of the casserole, over the fish and overlap it with the edges of the bottom leaf. Set a heavy ceramic half-plate on top of the leaf parcel to stop them from opening up.

Cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid or an aluminium foil. Bake in a preheated (1800 C) oven for 20 minutes.

Or make leaf parcels as shown in the photograph and steam them for 30 minutes.

Deem-Sheem Bhorta
The fishmonger sells fish eggs or roe separately; the usual ones sold are the rohu and hilsa roes. Always a delicacy, but roes of certain fish are now banned for the preservation of the mother species. My friend Sunny loves Shingi roe, his wife Donira painstakingly squirrels away tiny shingi roe (2 g each) for god knows how long, and makes a delightful bhaji once she accumulates enough for a single serving of 'bhuna'.

250g Fish Roe
12 kg Broad Beans (Sheem), sliced into julienne
2 Tablespoon Soyabean Oil.
4 Red Onions sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, crushed
6 Green Chillies, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoon Mustard Oil
2 teaspoon Garlic paste
4 Red Onions, chopped

Heat soyabean oil, in a heavy wok, and then add sliced onions, crushed garlic and green chilli. Saute' for 2 minutes. Chuck in the beans, and cook until the beans are nearly done, but still crunchy.

First whisk the roe to separate each individual egg. Toss in the whisked roe into the wok. Sprinkle with salt, and saute for 3-mins. Take wok off flame, and transfer all the contents to a mixing bowl.

Now to the mixing bowl add mustard oil, garlic paste and chopped onions. Place a handheld wire whisker directly into the mixing bowl. Pulse for few seconds at a time to lightly half-crush the ingredients.

Alternatively, lightly pound them in a stone mortar.

Serve at room temperature with lemon wedges. Do not reheat this dish.

Pholi'r Koofta
2 Ash Pomfret (Pholi)
1Cup Soya Oil
1 Tablespoon Coriander powder
1 teaspoon Cumin powder
2 teaspoon Red Chilli powder
¼ teaspoon Turmeric powder
5 Cardamoms, seeds only
5 cm long Cinnamon stick
10 Cloves
1½ teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Cilantro, chopped

Pholi/Grey Featherback/Ash Pomfret is so bony that it has become a great favourite as a fish to make kofta (fish balls) with. The flesh is exceedingly tasty therefore much trouble is taken to make the koftas. The same trouble is taken to make koftas with the hump of the Chitol Fish/Humped Featherback. Make the classic basic Mach er Salon to cook the koftas

Dry grind cardamom seeds, cinnamon and cloves. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add red chilli, cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt. Blend well and set aside. Cut off the heads of the fishes and gut them. Beat the fishes on a hard surface to loosen their skin.

Slash the underside (belly) from one end to the other, and lay the fish skin side down on a work station. Using an ice-cream scoop scrape off the flesh. Be careful not to damage the skin. Pound the flesh & bones in a heavy mortar into a smooth paste. The bones should be mashed so fine that they will easily integrate with the flesh. Transfer the pounded flesh to the mixing bowl and blend with the dry spices. Now place half of this paste on one skin and wrap it up completely with the skin. Repeat and do the same to the remaining paste and skin.

Heat oil in a wok; slide in the parcels, one at a time and saute them on both sides for 10 to 15-mins. Strain them out and slice them into 3 cm X 3 cm x 3 cm cubes.

Make a 'Macher-Salon' and cook the cubes in the simmering jhol (gravy) for 5-mins. Before taking the kofta off the flame sprinkle with cilantro, cover with a lid and serve after 3-mins.

Chapila Chalta Tok
½ kg Chapila Fish
1 Chalta (Elephant Apple)
4 Onions, chopped
10 Green Chillies, slit
1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Red Chilli powder
4 Tablespoon Mustard oil
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 teaspoon Salt
4 cups Water

Chapila (Gudusia chapra -- Indian river shad), 20 cm found in middle and upper reaches of rivers affluent to the Bay of Bangal, chiefly the Ganges and Brahmaputra systems. Also occurs in ponds, beels, ditches and inundated fields.

Chalta, aka elephant apple (Dillenia indica), originally from Indonesia, is a large greenish-yellow knobbly fruit, with a hard protective rind, borne by a large tree (Feronia elephantum) related to the orange. Unripe fruits have an acidic flavoured edible pulp, often made into pickle and chutney. A hot and peppery "chalta-chatni" is very popular in Dhaka, sold by wandering hawkers, especially at the gates of girls' schools, and women's hostels.

Tear out the outer covering of the chalta, and discard. Cut the remaining chalta into four pieces, and pound them in a mortar until soft.

Soak chalta in water for 2 hours. Discard water, and slice the chalta into long strips.

Dress the fish. Then cut the fish into small pieces and combine chalta, fish, onions, green chilies, turmeric, red chilli, oil, sugar, salt and water in a wok.

Place wok over a medium flame. Lead the fish combo to a gentle simmer and cook until the oil floats to the top.

Tip: Use 2 Raw Mangos, skinned and sliced, if Chalta is unavailable.

If you want to use 'seafish' use Moori fish (selar boops) 25 cm, also called Salar and Ozeye Shad.

Photo: Rukhsara Osman


Deshal's Baiskahi Offer

To welcome the many colours of Baishakh, Deshal brings together its Baishakh collection. Keeping the heat in mind, the various garments are threaded together from carefully selected Taant from Pabna, Narshingdi and Tangail. Breaking the barriers of black and yellow, Deshal joins a new breed of trendsetters adding more colours to Baishakh, bringing in the colours of nature to pay homage to the season.

The new collection has something for everyone. Children's wear like fatuas, T-shirts, frocks, two-pieces and saris, priced between Tk.180-700. For men and women, there are t-shirts, fatuas, panjabis, sari, tops, two-pieces and three-pieced all priced between Tk.300-2200. Various designs and colour combinations have been carefully mingled to mimic the flavours of Baishakh making it a wonderful collection.

Baishakh at Cats Eye

Keeping up with the traditional red and white colour scheme of Pahela Baishakh, Cats Eye has come up with some extravagant designs this year. The panjabis have been made with linen fabrics to accommodate the hot and humid weather of Bangladesh. To complement the red and white theme, some satin fabrics and vibrant stitches on the panjabis were used. Available at: Elephant Road, Rapa Plaza, Bashundhara City, Gulshan, North Tower, Mirpur - Dhaka and Sanmar Ocean City - Chittagong. Price range Tk.1950 to Tk.2450.


That red and white

By Iffat Nawaz

I have been searching for some red and white. Off white actually. A sari that was once common and now almost extinct and hence fashionable. It's a gorod sari Ma used to wear, the one which I had borrowed for school programs for Pahela Baishakh or Rabindra Joynoti. The off white body with the red border -- a staple in households with female members in the 70s and 80s.

It was so common once that I dreaded it. In every television programme on BTV singing women would drape themselves in those while they mouthed “anondo lok e mongol alok e” or “esho heey baishakh esho esho.” It was over worn by all and therefore it carried a personalised stain for each person. The stubborn drop of tea that never came off or the rip on the border while making rounds around the Batamul on 14th April, a rip that of course was carefully stitched later for the next year. Those saris were everywhere at that time, and I never found them exceptionally beautiful. Certainly not as beautiful as I find it now.

In the 90s, a popular band came out with the song “melay jai re” which got every Bangladeshi going to Ramna and other Baishakh related gatherings more than ever before. The artist sang in his song “bashonti rong sari pore lolona ra hetey jai,” when in reality the colour of Pahela Baishakh was red and white not bashonti as in deep yellow. Bashonti was always the colour of the first day of spring in Bengal. Yet somehow that song was the start of a change in fashion for Bengalis when it came to Baishakh. People broke out of those red and white gorod saris and boutiques started growing and designing new collections with colourful fabrics. Red and white did remain but not as uniformly as they once were.

And I too, with others, forgot about those gorods. Those red and white silks that once defined the uniformity, culture, mental state, anti-class or social status sentiment; hidden in the bottom of suitcases and closets to grow permanent crease marks. The off white turned unwearable grey and yellow, the threads unwinding slowly like deletion of memory. Like a hidden lost love they disappeared with the glow of new things, changing unwritten traditions, forgetting the never appreciated yet demanded necessary piece.

A few days back I saw the same silk on television. Worn by a lady singing some known song. I have bought and worn hundreds of saris by now, my taste has been redefined and set in draping over me everyday. And seeing that sari again, which is now almost an antique, pulled at different parts of my memory, my new found senses of fashion, and I had to have it.

I looked high and low in the markets. The boutiques carried more stylish things. When I asked about the simple gorod, they replied no one wears them anymore, and they told me perhaps you will find it in Kolkata. I am not rich enough to fly to Kolkata for a sari so I kept on looking. My mother's old saris have been lost long ago between all the breaking, moving and rebuilding of time, so it was out of the question to find it in her closet.

I did finally locate the piece. It didn't look exactly like the old ones I remembered from childhood. It was glossier, more expensive. But the shopkeeper promised it is exactly the same thing. I touched it and felt it, put it around my body to see how it looks. I tried to own it again so I bought it and now it lies in my wardrobe with newer fabrics, mishmashed where you can't tell the difference.

I plan to put it on soon, either on the first day of the Bengali New Year or a day later or earlier. I haven't felt so excited about a piece of fabric since those days of childhood Eids, when new clothes gave you that specific girly excitement. More than wondering about how the sari will look on me, I wonder who will I be when I wear it, a reflection of my mother from the 80s, a symbol of traditional fashion, or just another girl in a red and white silk trying to wrap around her past, just so she can be part of all things forgotten.


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