Maacher Kalia or Maacher Jhol is a simple Bengali fish curry that is a hot favorite in Bengali cuisine. Maacher means “fish” and kalia or jhol means “in curry or gravy.” To make the most authentic Bengali curries, you should ideally be using Bengali cuts of fish, now readily available.
Like usually found in Bengali cuisine, this dish calls for frying the fish in mustard oil before it is added to the gravy. This adds a new depth of flavour to the dish, and many believe it also helps the meat to absorb the gravy better.
When frying your fish, remember not to over crowd the pan, and remember to be gentle while turning the fish, as it cooks quickly and can break easily.
- Wash the fish well, drain all water, and pat dry. Lay in a flat dish. Sprinkle turmeric and salt, coating evenly. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Fry the pieces of fish until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Next, pan fry the potatoes in the same pan, till they are half-cooked and golden. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the cooking oil on medium heat and add the bay leaf, cardamom pods, and cumin seeds. Sauté until the spluttering stops. Add the onion paste, ginger paste, and garlic paste and fry for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Next add the tomatoes, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and yogurt. Stir to mix well. Fry this spice mixture until the oil begins to separate from it forming a sheen on top of the mixture. About 8-10 minutes.
- Add hot water and the previously fried potatoes to this mixture. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Once the potatoes are cooked through, add the previously fried pieces of fish to the gravy and stir gently. Cook on a low flame for about 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and garnish the dish with the fresh, chopped coriander leaves.
- Serve hot with freshly prepared plain rice.
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