You know however much you grow old, there are certain things that never leave you. One such thing is my love for Bhetki Maachher Paturi. I guess I was introduced to this sensational dish quite late in life. My parents proclaim that it was a regular affair in our house throughout, but I don’t really remember having paturi as a child. Or maybe I didn’t touch it in one of my won’t-eat-fish bouts. But as my cousins and friends started getting married, more and more weddings brought to the fore more and more paturi, and no sooner was I completely in love with it. Pre-wedding ceremonies like Aai buro bhaat (traditional bachelorette) and Gaaye Holud (err…turmeric ceremony?) are never complete without generous supplies of bhetki paturi. There’s usually an empty plate at the centre of each table (usually for 6) to discard the banana leaves and as the meal progresses people start counting the number of leaves piled on the plate.
However my highest paturi-eating score hasn’t been made at any biye bari but at my friend K’s place. K lives in Melbourne for the last decade and comes to Calcutta on a month-long yearly pilgrimage. Now K’s family is one of the most incorrigible foodie families that I’ve ever seen and Kaku-Kakima’s hospitality is also exemplary. Good food is made in abundance in their kitchen, and I’m sure if her dad starts a blog on Calcutta’s street food and sweets, it’ll be a huge hit. On one of her trips back home, I had gone over to her place for a night in. As usual on reaching I peeped into the kitchen to see what was cooking. To my utter joy I saw kakima prepping for bhetki paturi. I was determined I won’t eat anything for the rest of the evening and save all my appetite for that, and save I did. That night at the dinner table I put everyone to shame when I gulped down at least 4 paturis!
Unfortunately this time I didn’t get that opportunity as my Stockholm-returned friend SNB had come over and I had to part with a couple for him to savour. He loved it so much that tomorrow he is again coming down to have Chitol Maachher Muithya!
Makes 8 paturis
Bhetki fillets: 8
Lime juice: 1 + for drizzling
Mustard seeds: 2-2.5 tbsp
Coconut scraped: 1 cup
Green chillies: 4-5
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Mustard oil: 3 tbsp + for drizzling + 2 tbsp for frying fish
Turmeric: 1.5 tsp
Banana leaves: 2 big
String/thread: as required to tie
1. Wash the banana leaves thoroughly, pat dry and wait till the water completely evaporates. Now smear the leaves with mustard oil on both sides. Cut each banana leaf longitudinally into 4 equal parts. Switch on your gas to medium, hold the edges of each banana leaf segment and roughly brush them over the heat so that they lose their firmness. Otherwise they may tend to break when you fold it around the fish later. Keep the banana leaves aside
2. Grind the mustard seeds, scraped coconut and green chillies with a little water (together or separately) into a smooth thick paste. If grinding separately mix them together once pasted. To this paste, add salt, sugar, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 3 tbsp mustard oil and mix thoroughly. Divide the marinade into eight sections and set them aside.
3. Smear the bhetki fillets with a little turmeric and salt and lightly fry them in 2 tbsp oil till they become opaque.
4. Now place a fillet at the centre of a banana leaf segment. Coat the exposed side with the one section of the marinade. Drizzle a dash of lime juice and a little mustard oil on top. Neatly fold the banana leaf around the fillet and tie it with a thick string or several loops of thinner strings.
5. Heat a non-stick tawa till smoking point, and place a couple of wraps at a single time. Cook well on either sides for 7-8 minutes. The banana leaf will appear parched and blackish gradually.
6. Take them off from the heat and serve hot with plain rice. Unwrap your parcels of joy and dig in. 🙂