I have had a lifelong struggle with that word..I wasn't really ever too keen on following a particular tradition, just for the heck of it...just coz thats how things have been. Oh no I didn't.I was not a rebel, but I was( still am) quite opinionated...especially when it comes to someone trying to force their believes and value systems down others throat in the name of tradition.
India isn't really an easy place to live in..Its a little too crowded...a little too steeped in conflicting traditions that should have been thrown away along with the Mughals and the British! Traditions that dont match the heart of today's youth..that have no place in the nation that we are trying to build ..traditions soo steeped in hypocrisy that it sounds mind numbing just reading about them..
Don't get me wrong. I love India. It is a beautiful gem of a land, driven to madness by the loud cacophony of incessant noise one hears in the name of tradition.. a country that is sagging with the buden of its own tradition...a society where men believe they rule or own women...where Love is considered to be a dirty word..and marrying for love is tantamount to the most heinous of crimes, warranting a death certificate by their own kins.. where its considered OK to educate the boy and let the girl child help with the chores at home, hell, where if the girl child is lucky, she might get born., the tradition of child marriage..and girls bearing kids when they themselves are kids...Tradition of worshiping the billion Gods we have in the hope of forgiveness, and then promptly forgetting that same God while doing horrible crimes..That is the tradition I am against..
But I love tradition of a special kind... I love the tradition of mothers handing down their love to their kids..of fathers keeping the tradition of respect for one's elders alive in us..the tradition of touching the feet of our elders ...the tradition of treating our guests as Gods or "Atithi Devo Bhawa"..the tradition of believing in the sanctity of marriage..the tradition of sounding the conch shells and lighting diyas in the evening..the tradition of a sister tying her brother's love in a simple thread during Rakhi..the tradition of that same brother vowing to protect and cherish his sister....the love of a wife as she fasts "nirjal" or without water for her love on Karvachauth...the tradition of our Poojas and festivals...the tradition of invoking Lord Ganesha before starting a new task...the tradition of Holi and Diwali..the Sindoor Khel of Durga Pujo..the gloriousness of Lohri....I love the tradition of putting a kaala tika on our babies...i love the tradition of valuing everyone...and i especially love the tradition of mom's passing on some gems from their kitchens to us!!
Yup.... I am talking food now. Lets just say I have a Love-Hate relationship with Tradition.
But this particular tradition is one I love love love!! And I am not talking about your mom's prized china or copper utensils here people...I am talking about the gems of recipes..the little pearls of wise tips..the delicious little anecdotes that comes with the recipes one gets handed down from their mothers and grandmoms!That is a tradition that I am proud to be a part of...and lucky to get hold of !! :P
This particular fish curry needs no introduction to most Indians...from whichever state they might belong to.
Its a simple,time tested curry thats been passed on from generation to generation..
Although Bengalis and Oriyas make it the way I have done here, most regions have their version of a similar mustard curry and I am sure it must be just as delectable.
The original recipe of my mom and grandmom before her asked for the use of "ambula"..I have no idea what its called in hindi or english! Its a sour dried tamarind thing that gave the curry a rather special flavour. I cant find them in these parts, so I amended it to use standard tamarind paste...And my version works damn well too! In fact its a very very rich and flavourful curry...
Once you open up the lid of the pot, your senses will be intoxicated with layers of flavor and fragrance...There's the strong hard-to-mask pungent fragrance from the mustards, the earthy aroma of garlic,the heat from green chillies...tang from tamarind and the special magical aroma of curry leaves!
As for the fish....hmm .... You can eat the fried fish as it is...they are super yumm with a squeeze of lime..and the fish in the curry?? Oh My... now that one can sing a song.... croon a soft melodious tune in your ears as its breaks open at the lightest touch to reveal a shiny white inside thats utterly deliciously flavoured from the spices of the gravy!
Here's how my grandma, my mum and me make it... :
Rohu Fish or Hilsa maach- 1 kg , cut into fillets, scakes removed and cleaned.
For the fish Marinade (15-20 mins before frying) :
Salt (as per taste)
Turmeric 1 tsp,
Kashmiri Red Chillie Powder 2 tsp
Ginger Garlic Paste 1 tbsp ( i use fresh paste)
Lemon Juice of 1 lemon
Tamarind Paste 1 1/2 tsp.
Mustard Oil 2 tbsp.
For the Masala or the gravy :
Grind together into a fine paste the under mentioned:
Black Mustard Seeds - 40gm
Yellow Mustard Seeds -20 gm
Garlic 1 whole
Green Chillies - 3 or more.
Red Chillie -1
Turmeric -1/2 tsp
Salt- a pinch.
Ripe Tomato- 1 small.
Onion 1 large
Ripe Tomatotes - 1 medium
Potatoes - 1 ( cut into wedges)
Crushed Garlic Cloves - 2
Green Chillies Slit- 1
Dried Red Chillie - 1
Curry Leaves - 1 stem
Black Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Coriander Leaves - 1-2 tbsp
Lemon Juice - 1 lemon
You also need Tamarind Paste of 1 1/2tbsp.
Next for the curry:
- Before marinating the fish, soak both the mustards in a bowl with water and a pinch of turmeric. Mix .Set aside.
- Now marinate the fish in the above mentioned ingredients thoroughly. Increase or decrease the spices as per your taste..I don't measure them as I can judge on seeing, so this is just an approximate.
- Leave it aside for 15-20 mins.
- Cut up a potato into wedges and start by frying it off..Simply drizzle a little mustard oil in the pan, throw in the wedges,a little salt and turmeric and let it cook.Take it off once done and keep aside for use later.
- After 15 mins, heat some Mustard Oil (ONLY, PLSSSS) in a kadhai or pan..
- When hot, add the fish to the pan making sure its away from you,coz it will definitely splatter! Lay as much as it can hold..I do 3-4 at a time ..You don't want to over crown them..
- Do not move the fish immediately. Let it fry on one side for 3-4 mins, turn it over to the other side and cook for another 5 mins till done. It should be golden brown.
- Remove from the pan and set aside the fried fish on a plate.
- Start by making the masala paste..Grind together all the ingredients mentioned above into a fine paste.But still try to let it have some texture..You can see its just a little bit grainy. It adds a certain rustic charm to the dish which I adore! Traditionally my grandma used a mortar and pestle to make the paste..grinding laboriously till the whole kitchen smelt like a pungent heaven! But I simply use my blender. Add a little water or mustard oil if needed while grinding. Do NOT forget to add salt and turmeric. Again, adjust chillie acc to taste..but it tastes super delicious our way.
- Next, heat a little mustard oil in a kadhai or pan.I use the same oil the fish was pan fried in to incorporate even more flavor.
- Add a little black mustard seeds, pop a red chillie, once it splutters add some curry leaves,saute for a minute. Now add the onions and cook till pink and translucent.
- Next add the prepared ground masala to the onions, adjust turmeric and red chillie powder accordingly depending on the color desired.
- Cook well, stirring for 3-4 minutes.
- Add in the chopped tomatoes,a pinch of salt and cook the masala till oil leaves from the sides... and it smells really pungent and wonderful .
- Add the tamarind paste..mix well and cook for a min.
- Next add the fried potatoes and let it mix well with the masala for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in sufficient water to make a gravy of not too thin,not too thick consistency.
- Once the water is bubbling, add in the fried fish pieces. (I reserve some fried fish to eat as it is)
- Lower the flame and let it simmer for 15 minutes till thick and cooked beautifully.
- Once done, turn off the gas.
- In a small tadka pan, add a little mustard oil, mustard seeds,the crushed garlic, the chillies and the curry leaves, ..Let it all come to a splutter ..then simply pour this on top of the curry and immediately close the lid of the kadhai or pan.
When ready to serve, add a touch of chopped coriander to your curry and enjoy!
I serve it with some plain rice,fish fries sprinkled over with lime juice and dhania patta, a green salad ,some cool raita,.poppadums and a cold drink.. Perfect Traditional Indian Lunch is served. .
Passing on the tradition from a long line of feeders,
(This one is for you grandma "aayi")