I’ve got to start with a random confession… or confessions. It took me a while to figure out what pabda maachis called in English and with it came the realization that despite having grown up with the privilege of speaking and understanding 4 languages, I am not very good at either. Maa helped me fry the fish because all that spluttering and splattering scared the life out of me!
Since I’ve just returned from Sri Lanka, the ideal situation would see me sharing some Sri Lankan recipes with you. I do intend to! I always did! Why else would I pester A into helping me pester accessible chefs into sharing a few recipes with me!
But until I get around to step in the kitchen for longer than 20 minutes, I’ll stick to sharing recipes that are popular in the Bhaumick household in the scorching summer heat. Today’s recipe, for instance, allows you to enjoy the goodness of fish without torturing the gut with a masala-laden curry and can be cooked in all of 20-25 minutes!
The pabda or Indian Butterfish is popular in Bengali households for a variety of reasons – a rather fleshy fish, the pabda is filled with flavour and is enriched with several beneficial vitamins and proteins. The fish, due to its size, is cooked whole and served the same way. It also looks rather fancy when dished out, making it a preferred fish to serve to guests.
Because this fish is particularly flavourful, most Bengalis prefer to simmer it in bare minimum spices. You will spot restaurants serving Shorshe Baata Pabda – Indian Butterfish cooked in ground mustard – but most households prefer the simpler pabda cooked in black cumin and green chillies.
There are a few things to keep in mind while cooking the pabda. You need to cook the fish whole so choose a bigger vessel. The pabda, while it fries, tends to splutter a lot and sticks to the vessel, irrespective of the amount of oil used to fry. To combat this, lightly coat the fish with wheat flour before you fry it and add a pinch of salt to the oil as it heats. Allow the pabda to cook through completely before you turn it over.
To cut down on cooking time and avoid the possibility of mutilating the fish, you can cook the curry in a separate container – as done in this recipe – before pouring it over the fried fish and allowing them to simmer in the curry.
If you make this fish curry at home, don’t forget to share your experience in the comment section below. To stay updated on new recipes, follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. You could also subscribe and be a part of the mailing list. Until then, happy cooking and eating!
Indian Butterfish cooked in curry seasoned with fresh green chillies and black cumin.
- 4 Pabda /Indian Butterfish
- 1 Potato medium
- 2 teaspoons Wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons Turmeric Powder
- Salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon Nigella Seeds | Black cumin
- 2 Green Chillies
- 1 tablespoon Ginger paste
- ¼ teaspoon Sugar
- ¾ cup Mustard Oil
- 1 cup Water
Marinate clean fish in this powder and set aside.
Peel and slice – lengthwise – one medium sized potatoes and dunk in a bowl of water. Set aside.
Once the oil is adequately hot, gently slide in the fish one at a time.
Be careful to maintain a distance as you fry the fish as they splutter a lot and can cause oil burns.
Let the fish fry on medium flame and flip only once they are well cooked or they will break.
In a second pan, heat 2 tablespoons mustard oil.
Add ½ teaspoon black cumin (buy here) and 2 fresh green chillies to the oil. Let the spices splutter.
Add sliced potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon ginger paste (buy here), a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Cook till the potato is lightly fried.
Add 1 cup of water to this mixture, a teaspoon of turmeric and bring to a boil.
Once the potatoes have cooked, pour this curry over the fried fish. Simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning and if satisfactory, remove from flame.
Serve hot with steamed rice (buy here).
If the curry seems too thin for your taste, dilute 1 teaspoon cornflour in ½ cup water. Add this slurry to the curry as it cooks.