I love curd. I like it on its own, I like it as a dip, or a raita, I like it on chaat… And I love it when it’s used in cooking. It’s tangy, it’s creamy, and it can turn most anything into food that’s rich and delicious. Meat, fish, veggies, even pulses (dahi vada, kadhi) are rendered finger-lickin' good when they come laced with this magic ingredient.
One of my favourite dishes with dahi (or doi, as we call it in Bengal) is Doi Maachh – fish cooked in curd. There are variations in the recipe and the more commonly used one calls for the addition of onion and ginger paste to the sauce. That can be quite divine too (I promise another post on that), but the one I make more often does away with such additives. Its USP lies in methi phoron (seasoning with fenugreek seeds). Somehow – I know not by what magic -- the methi and the dahi combine to produce a mellow pungency that makes this fish dish pretty hard to resist.
We call this one Chhotoner Doi Maachh at home – as the recipe was originally derived from one Chhoton long since vanished amidst the far-flung web of one’s extended family. But I remember Chhoton Mashi briefly each time I make this brilliant dish.
I cooked it on Bijaya Dashami last week. It was fun to make it after a long time. And I always knew satisfaction was guaranteed – both for moi, the cook, and for those who tucked in.
The process is simple. And it cooks in a jiffy. But do use fresh fish. Fish taken out of the refrigerator and defrosted will simply not make the cut. Freshness is vital when the cooking process and ingredients are so minimal. Otherwise the sauce won’t infuse into the fish properly and the taste will suffer.
Try this one -- it’s a treat.
800g fresh rohu steaks (the fish skin should be nice and fatty)
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
8 red chillies ground to a paste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
5-6 whole green chillies
Salt to taste
Mustard oil for cooking
Put the curd into a bowl and beat it with a fork to smoothen it. Salt the washed fish steaks lightly and then marinate them in the curd for an hour.
Heat the oil in a kadhai. When it’s ready, drop the fenugreek seeds into it. Let them plump up a bit and turn golden brown (It’s essential to get this part right as overdone methi will ruin the dish with its bitter flavour. And left underdone, the taste will lack punch.) Now add the ground red chillies and turmeric powder and fry the masala on high heat.
Drop the fish together with the dahi marinade into the wok. Add the whole green chillies. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Taste the gravy and add more salt if required. When the fish is done – that oughtn’t to take more than 10-15 minutes – and the gravy has thickened, take it off the fire.
Serve with steamed rice. I have served this particular doi maachh with pulao too (a simple one —NOT a pulao groaning under 'n' number of vegetables) and it tastes as great.