Friday, August 10, 2012

Ilish Macher Dimer Tok Mishti Ambol - Hilsa Roe in Sweet and Sour Gravy

Monsoon in India is going on in full swing. The name 'Monsoon' brings about a host of delicacies in our minds, the most coveted one is Hilsa. Everyone knows about Bengalis' fascination with Hilsa, but very few might be aware that we love only Monsoon Hilsas. Now what's so special in Monsoon that we Bengalis are so picky about consuming hilsas only during this season, one might think. The fact is during monsoon a shoal of hilsas cluster together from the sea into the sweet water of the Bay of Bengal for laying eggs. The otherwise salty hilsa coming into the touch of fresh water of the river metamorphoses itself into a culinary delight.

Once eggs are laid, hilsas swim back to the sea. Before they could sail on their return journey, they are caught aplenty in numbers all across the deltas of Padma, Meghna and Jamuna rivers in Bangladesh by the fishermen who then preserve them in a freezer, pack and send them to all over the world. However, though hilsas are abundantly available in US in the Bangladeshi grocery shops, tracking down the right store nearby your place is a challenge. Not all the people are so lucky to have their work project based in the heart of New York where right from the Indian restaurants to grocers everything is available right at your door step.

In the place called Perrysburg which is our sojourn for the moment, not a single Bangladeshi grocery store is to be found in close vicinity. So forced by the circumstances and our longing for a morsel of hilsa, we made a recce of our nearby neighborhoods and counties in search of a Bangladeshi grocer that sells hilsas. Unfortunately, the store in Detroit we usually buy fishes from don't sell hilsas, rui or katlas because of which we were forced into looking out again for a better grocery shop that have our favourite fishes on the counter. Indeed, we spotted one in a nearby county few weeks back. You ought to have seen the glow in our faces at the sight of the hilsas to believe the magnanimity of our craving. It was stupendous!!

Ingredients:                                                   Cooking time: 30 minutes
ü  300 gm Ilish Macher Dim/Hilsa Roe, beaten
ü  3 tbsp raw mango paste
ü  1 tsp tamarind extract
ü  1 tsp turmeric powder
ü  2 tsp dry red chilli powder
ü  2 tsp corn flour or corn starch
ü  1 tsp rice flour
ü  1 tsp all-purpose flour
ü  2 dry red chillies
ü  1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
ü  Salt to taste
ü  2-3 tbsp of sugar or more (the taste of the curry should be both sour and sweet. So take care that none of the flavours becomes overbearing.)
ü  Green chillies (for garnishing)
ü  Mustard oil for cooking
1) Agitate the eggs lightly with the help of a spoon. Add turmeric powder, 1 tsp dry red chilli powder, salt, sugar, corn flour, all-purpose flour and rice flour. Combine well.
2) Heat oil in a skillet. When oil comes to a smoking point, add spoonful of the above mixture and deep fry into the shape of dumplings. (Note: better fry the roe dumplings on medium heat so that the roe gets properly cooked from inside.)
3) When dumplings are ready, keep them aside and make arrangements for preparing the gravy.
4) Heat oil in a wok. When oil turns hot, add yellow mustard seeds and dry red chillies. Allow them to sizzle.
5) Add raw mango paste followed by one or two cups of water. Add tamarind extract, 1 tsp dry red chilli powder, salt and sugar. Bring the gravy to a boil.
6) Toss in fish roe dumplings and simmer the gravy for 2 minutes allowing the flavour to soak in.
7) Garnish with green chillies. Serve hot with steaming rice.

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