I have been a notoriously greedy kid. The notoriously greedy bit still remains, alas I’m a kid no more! My childhood is replete with stories that positively put my parents in major embarrassment. I have been accused of shamelessly staring at people’s plates of food till they stared back at me. I have had strong desires to finish off the leftovers if anyone left a restaurant with his food unfinished. And the list is actually endless.
Now my dad happens to be a retired principal of one of south Calcutta’s well-known colleges. So right from my childhood I’m used to seeing students come and go at my place. This was when I was around 6-7 years old. A girl (then in college, I presume) had come with her mother to meet dad after some auspicious occasion…may be Biyoja or Poila Baisakh, or may be after her results came out. Who expects a 6-year-old to remember really! So my dad offered them two plates of fish chop and roshogollo/pantua. And then probably somebody rang him up and he had to go upstairs to receive the call (yeah, yeah, those days of landline phones!) Taking advantage of the clear coast I started doing what I was best at…stare. A couple of minutes and nothing happened. I was getting impatient by then. I walked up straight to the girl and told her nonchalantly, “Tumi mishti duto khao, ami chop duto khai (You eat the two sweets, I’ll eat the two chops). She was in splits and obliged me with a chop but by then Baba had come back and I couldn’t ask for the second in front of him!
I don’t know how the story reached my folks but within days I found that it was doing the rounds in my family. Even till date, my Jekubaba (Jyethu/Father’s elder brother) teases me with the story. I may no longer remain that shameless that I’d snatch food off a guest’s plate, but my love for chops remain the same. I’m not the shingara/kachori type of girl. To me the essence of Calcutta street food is its fascinating offering of chop-cutlet-fish fry. Mukherjee Sweets, Das Cabin, Dilkhusha Cabin, Mitra Cafe — I’ve had them everywhere and never tire of them. But the joy and euphoria multiply when you fry up neat little fish chops in your own kitchen. However much I cook otherwise, making chops gives me a feeling of belonging to my family (where everybody is a chop-cutlet specialist) like nothing else!
Makes 12 chops
Rohu fish, with bones: 600 gm (5-6 pieces)
Onions, sliced finely: 2
Potatoes, quartered and parboiled: 4
Green chillies, sliced finely: 4
Bay leaf: 2
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Garlic paste: 2 tbsp
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Kashmiri red chilli powder: 2 tsp (reduce quantity if that’s too hot for you)
Cumin powder: 1 tbsp
Coriander powder: 1 tbsp
Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
Bhaja masala powder: 1 tsp
Fresh parsley, chopped: 3/4 cup
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Breadcrumbs: 200 gm (or as required)
Oil: 1.5 tbsp + for deep frying
Chat masala: for garnish
1. Smear the fish pieces with salt and turmeric and set aside for 20 minutes. Now in a deep-bottomed pan, boil the fish till soft and cooked. Strain and set aside to cool. Keep the fish stock
2. Mash the parboiled potatoes to a very fine and smooth paste and keep aside.
3. Once the fish is cooled, gently and cautiously remove the bones. After every single bone is removed, mash it very finely till almost paste-like. (Don’t be fancy and use your hands please!)
4. Now heat a non-stick kadhai till smoking and then add 1.5 tbsp of oil. Add the bay leaves and let them splutter for 20 seconds. Add the sliced onions, green chillies and sugar and keep stirring on medium high heat till the onions turn translucent and golden. Add ginger and garlic paste and continue to stir for another 5-6 minutes. Add garam masala powder and cook for another 2 minutes
5. Now add the chilli, cumin and coriander powders and salt along with 2 tbsp of the fish stock. Keep stirring till the raw smell is gone and oil starts to separate.
6. Now add the fish and mix well with the spice paste. On medium high heat keep stirring for 10-12 minutes tills the fish browns. Add the potato mash, bit by bit and gradually mix with the fish paste. Make sure no lumps remain and that the entire mixture is well coated with the spices. If it looks/tastes a bit bland add more spice as necessary. Check seasoning.
7. Once the mixture is dry and cooked through, turn off the gas. Sprinkle the bhaja masala and parsley and mix well. Leave to cool.
8. After the fish paste cools down, use both your hands to roll it into any shape of your choice. You can make flat round patty or a bit longish ones like mine. Press it a bit with your hands and make sure no cracks are there on the surface of the patty.
9. In a bowl with a wide surface whisk the eggs and in a another plate pour the breadcrumbs. Keep a third plate ready sprinkled with a little breadcrumbs to prevent the chops from sticking. With one hand dip the patty into the egg and place on the bed of breadcrumbs. With the other hand roll it gently in the crumbs making sure it doesn’t break. 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.
10. Heat sufficient oil in a non-stick kadhai till it starts to almost splutter. Gently drop a chop and wait for it to get crisp and brown on all sides. Start with high heat but moderate as and when necessary. Fry one chop at a time. More than one will cause both to break! Once done, use a slotted spoon to take it out of the pan and drain on a plate lined with kitchen towel/tissue. Sprinkle some chat masala on top.
11. Serve hot with onion rings, green chillis, your favourite ketchup and mustard!
Eat Like a Bong: Day 11
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