Fish and Bengal have a long history. In fact, sometimes fish(y) issues become a matter of pride for the Bengalis. A case in point is the antagonism between East Bengalis (residing in India) and West Bengalis. Not many people outside Bengal know the fact that the symbol of the East Bengalis is Hilsa whereas that of the West Bengalis is Tiger Prawn. One can always notice these ‘emblems’ being carried over to a football match whenever a game it to be played between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. Anyway, whatever the situation be, it’s always gastronomes like me, who win the bait! If you don’t believe this, read on to know the sumptuous and lip-smacking dishes that the Bengalis wrap up every now and then—
What better fish to start this list than this delicacy! Simply sprinkle a pinch of turmeric powder and salt and shallow fry the fish till crispy on the outer part to get this wonderful dish! Ilish or Hilsa is the pride of Bengal. One can assured that you’ll simply fall in love with this simple fried fish. Though you can have this dish whenever and whatever way you feel like, but Bengalis take pride in having this during monsoon with the favored Khichuri combination. The dish has one longing for more.
Rui or rohu fish might be a common one in India, but Bengalis have a magic wand when they wrap it up into a great dish from what is an ordinary fish. Kaliya is a special dish that is had during special occasions or during a get together. Be it with boiled Basmati rice or fried rice or even pulao – Kalia simply adds grace to the wholesome meal. It’s a staple dish that must be served during wedding luncheons, the sacred thread ceremony, baby shower and other such auspicious occasions.
If you’ve heard that a Bengali begins and ends a meal with fish, you have heard right. Mourola maach are very tiny fishes that are found in ponds and rivers, and although there are various ways to cook them, they taste best when made into proper ‘khatta’ chutney! Sluuurpp!
Yes, this is a Dal but with fish in it, it is a non-vegetarian Dal. For this dish, you cook Moong Dal that also has fried heads of Rohu fish added to it. Try it, and you will never have tasted a better Moong Dal in your life. To the Dal and Rice combo add a pinch of lemon juice—lo and behold, you have just tasted a food fit for the Gods.
It’s a sort of batter fish fry that has been made very popular by the famous restaurant Bijoligrill. It’s a starter that tastes best when had with salads. The dish has gone viral and has become one of the most sought after starters at wedding and other social functions.
Where there are starters and desserts made with fish as an ingredient, then there need be a fish(y) Saag item too on the menu. Bengalis love for shaag (crushed vegetables or herbs) is known and pui saag tops them all. Again, there are at least 15 different ways to cook this saag but there is hardly any Bengali who doesn’t have Ilish Maach’er Matha Diye Pui Saag on his or her ‘favorite’ list of dishes.
If you’re a calorie conscious but still want to taste a true Bengali fish item, then this one is just for you. Bhetki fish’s fillet is mixed with mustard paste, green chilies and mustard oil and then wrapped in fresh banana leaves. It is then steamed (preferably while rice is being cooked). It is one of those dishes which can simply lift up your mood. And, the devouring aura of the dish will drive a craving hunger crazy.
Where East Bengali’s swear by their Ilish paturi or Ilish-kalo jeera’r Jhol, so do the Western counterparts swear by this dish. Generally made of tiger prawns, coconut and coconut milk, this dish is the ultimate paradise to tickle the taste buds of a fish lover! Even if you don’t like fish, do try it once, you will be converted forever.