Sunday, 24 April 2016

Doi Maach (Fish braised in light yogurt gravy)

This Friday me and some of my team mates went for the Global Testing Retreat being held in O Hotel in Koregaon Park. This was one of the largest testing conference being held in the city. Software professionals from around the globe attended the meet and presented their papers. While the seminar was good, I was rather interested in the fact that German Bakery was situated bang opposite to the O hotel. I have heard so much about the German Bakery from the time I came to Pune that I had made a plan that somehow I need to hop in there while we were at the seminar. And I easily got two partners in crime among my team mates. So as soon as the tea break was announced, as all the delegates lined up for the tea and biscuits we three stealthily slipped off and went to the German Bakery. 

The German Bakery is located near to the famous Osho Ashram. You would see many disciples of Osho roaming around the street here in their maroon dresses. This eatery offers mostly European kind of dishes and is a popular hangout of the foreigners and Indians alike. The place came to the headlines of news when in 2010 a fatal terrorist attack ripped this place apart. After that it was renovated and restarted for its connoisseurs. Its a very small joint almost inconspicuous by its presence. However after the attacks they have a metal detector at the entry and your bag is combed thoroughly before you are allowed to enter its premises.

We found the place lovely and colorful, with the adept usage of blue, orange, yellow and green.  We hardly had 30 minutes at our disposal hence whatever could be prepared in 10 minutes was all that we could have. The fancy menu had a lot of options like omelettes, Greek salads, gorgeous sweet dishes  and what not. Good enough to confuse a first timer over here. So we stuck to the breakfast menu instead and two of us ordered scrambled eggs with toast and hash brown potato. The other ordered fresh fruit and cream. Surprisingly the scrambled eggs arrived much faster than the fruits. The quick breakfast was quite fulfilling and we returned to the seminar 10 minutes late but happily fed!

It was a happy happy Saturday following the Friday with the mercury coming down quite a few notches and pleasant breeze throughout the day. Huge respite for the parched city from the unforgiving summer heat. I was in a mood to cook good food as it didn't feel like a torture being near to all the heat. So I decided to make Doi maach which I had not prepared in a long time.

Doi maach is one of the most traditional preparations in Bengali cuisine. This mildly spiced and delicately sour gravy can be found on the menu of any Bengali household very frequently. Especially when you want an onion based fish gravy minus all the spiciness. I love making it in the summer as the gravy is not too heavy on the stomach. Plus this is the only onion based gravy that hubby polishes off without any coaxing or threatening from my end. 

The best suited fishes for this preparation are - Katla, Rohu, catfish (yes they taste awesome), salmon or any thick meaty fish would also be good.

The recipe that I am going to write about is a bit different from the traditional method and has a twist at the end. My mother used to make it all the time when I was a kid and thats the time I started to love this. So the twist is adding curry leaves in the end. I can already see raised brows on the foreheads of many Bengalis reading this. Curry leaves in Doi Macch? How non-conformist one can be? Well had I heard about it and not tasted it even I would have thought in the same way. But guys let me tell you try this out at least once to know how potent your traditional Doi maach can become just with this simple fine tuning. And no it wouldn't start tasting like a south Indian dish  I guarantee you. It will still be the same old Bengali dish with enhanced flavors. Try it and you wont ever regret.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes  

Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 2

Cuisine: Bengali 

  • Katla fish - 4 medium sized pieces 
  • Curd - 2 + 1 tbsp
  • Fresh Ginger Paste - 1 tsp 
  • Onion - 2 Medium 
  • Bay Leaf - 1
  • Cardamom - 3
  • Cinnamon - 2 inch piece
  • Sunrise Sahi Garam masala - 1 pinch (optional)
  • Green Chilli - 2-3
  • Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
  • Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
  • Mustard Oil - 4 tbsp
  • Sugar - 1 tbsp
  • Salt as per taste
1. Clean the fish and pat dry. Rub a little salt and turmeric powder to the fish pieces and set it aside for 30 mins of marination. Take care to select the fleshy parts of the fish.

2. Prepare a fine paste of onions.

3. Whisk the curd into a uniform consistency

4. Take a wok and add mustard oil in it. When the oil is smoking hot add the fish pieces and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side so that they have a uniform golden hue. Take care not to fry the fish crisp. We want a little moisture to be present in the fish pieces when we cook them in gravy. Remove the fish from the oil and keep it aside.

5. In the same oil when it is still hot add the cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf. You can add some more mustard oil to the wok if less oil is remaining after frying the fish. be slightly generous with the oil as it enhances the taste. Once the spices are fragrant add the onion paste. Add a pinch of salt and sugar. Sugar will help the onion caramelize and salt will help it to cook faster. Keep stirring the paste occasionally to avoid it from sticking to the wok.

6. When the onion paste is lightly golden add the ginger paste. Keep frying this mixture until its rich light golden in color and the oil begins to separate. At this stage add 2 tbsp of whisked curd. Fold in. Keep frying till the curd is uniformly mixed in the onion ginger paste.

7. Add two cups of lukewarm water and the fried fish pieces.

8. Add turmeric powder, salt, sugar and stilted green chillis. On medium flame simmer the gravy till oil floats up and the gravy takes a gorgeous golden yellow hue.  The fish should be really tender by now. Add the remaining 1 tbsp of whisked curd and give a few minutes for the curd to mix well into the gravy.  If you feel your curd might curdle then take the wok off from flame add the curd when the gravy has cooled down and then put it back on the flame to simmer. But what I have notice now a days that rarely the curd curdles, whether its Amul masti, sphurti, daone or any other brand that I am using. 

But since curd is one of the key ingredients of the recipe make sure you use a good brand.

9. At this stage add a pinch of Sunrise sahi garam masala. If you don't have this brand of garam masala you can finely grind cardamom and cinnamon and sprinkle it else you may omit this step altogether but DO NOT add any other brand of garam masala as they contain different ingredients than what is required here and may totally alter the flavor.

10. The last and final step add the magic to this very traditional Bengali recipe. Add a few curry leaves to the gravy and switch off the flame. Cover the wok and let the spicy fragrance of  curry leaves intertwine with the subtle flavor of curd. The contrasting aromas will blow away your senses :)

Enjoy it with piping hot steamed rice.

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