Are my stories of Calcutta street food and Bengali weddings boring you? But you know what? A quintessential Bengali fish fry is an integral part of both. It is also something that you serve to unexpected guests in Bengali households. Most of our festive menus comprise of pulao, chholar dal, alu dam, kosha mangsho and fish fry. A Bengali Fish Fry is not your regular fried fish (maachh bhaja). Fillets of bhetki marinated subtly, then crumb-coated an deep-fried are an absolutely indispensable affair for us Bongs.
The streets of Calcutta are studded with telebhaja-r dokan (shops selling deep-fried items), of which chop, cutlet, pakodas and drumsticks are rampant. But the most coveted is fish fry. There was this super-talented fry-wallah in the lane next to my house. One of my usual evening rituals would be to walk upto his shop, get a bagful of crispy delicacies, come back and enjoy those with my evening cup of tea or coffee. Now this fry-wallah, talented as he is, is super-lazy. Because his stuff were so good, they would be sold out really soon, and happy with his day’s earnings he would go on a hibernation for the next 4-5 days. Sometimes he would be absconding for months on end. Ever since I’ve come back from Delhi I haven’t seen the guy around. My friend S (who stays in San Jose, California) suddenly reminded me of the chap a few days back. I must go and check at the earliest whether he is still around or bunking merrily. But till the time that happens, I decided to fry up some fillets in my own kitchen to satisfy my pangs of greed. Homemade and absolutely lip-smacking!
Makes 8 fries
Bhetki/Beckti fillets: 8
Oil: for deep frying
Breadcrumbs: 300 gm (or more if required)
Onion paste: 2 tbsp,
Garlic paste: 1.5 tbsp,
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Green chillies: 3-4
Fresh parsley leaves, made into a paste with a little water: 1.5 tbsp
Lime juice: 1 lime
Salt, to taste
Black pepper powder: 1 tsp
1. Wash and pat dry the fillets well. Marinade them with all the ingredients listed under marination and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. DO NOT refrigerate overnight as the fish might be prone to breaking.
2. In a bowl with a wide surface whisk the eggs with a little salt and pepper and in a another plate pour the breadcrumbs. Keep a third plate ready sprinkled with a little breadcrumbs to prevent the crumbed fillets from sticking. With one hand dip the fillet into the eggwash and place on the bed of breadcrumbs. With the other hand roll it gently in the crumbs. DO NOT use the same hand for doing both as that will render the crumbs moist. Once fully coated on all sides, rest on the plate kept ready.
3. Heat sufficient oil in a non-stick kadhai till it starts to almost splutter. Gently drop a crumbed fillet and wait for it to get crisp and brown on all sides. Start with high heat but moderate as and when necessary. Also turn the fillet from time to time. Fry one fillet at a time. Each fillet will not take more than 3 minutes to get crisped up. Once done, use a slotted spoon to take it out of the pan and drain on a plate lined with kitchen towel/tissue.
4. Serve hot with onion rings, green chillies, wedges of lime and Kashundi (Bengali mustard)!
Eat Like a Bong: Day 16