But before I begin, let me warn, cooking is not at all for the faint hearted. It can often result into gruesome accidents like excessive salt, burnt spices etc. etc. Like the numerous times I have encountered during my previous cooking experiences. But hey, as they always say – one who tries, never dies (at least from hunger, though he may die of other silly reasons like cancer, accident, etc.).
So if you are ready to brave all the odds, here is a simple, logical, and an any body can cook recipe of the bengali’s 3rd all time favourite element – the fish. The top 2 being Saurav Ganguly and Politics, which incidentally are impossible to put in a pot full of boiling oil so we will start with the third. The fish. And today I am going to share a detailed and artistic post-mortem of the art of cooking a fish kalia.
Stage 1 – The first thing one has to do for cooking a fish is buying a fish. Pay attention here, there is absolutely no alternative to this stage. However one could have the liberty of choosing what fish one wants. Though Rohu (Rui) is the most popular choice for a kalia one can go for other steak based variants as well. Especially those like me, who do not have access to fresh water fishes may need to make their choices carefully. For my demonstration here, I have chosen a frozen variant of the Emperor fish – goes well with the majestic nature of the bongs.
Some other items you will need to keep handy are (in order of their appearance) – 1) Turmeric powder (disclaimer – not to be confused with Vicco turmeric, which is an antiseptic only seen in movie theaters); 2) Red chilli powder; 3) Salt; 4) Mustard Oil (disclaimer – the choice of oil is not influenced by the rising cost of petroleum) or you could also use some vegetable oil; 5) Cumin Seeds; 6) Cloves; 7) Bay leaves; 8) Cardamom (disclaimer – no cardamom and asking mom for help is not the same thing though I confess it is the safest thing) – and if you are by any chance not familiar with how these looks you may take help of http://www.google.com; 9) Ginger Garlic Paste; 10) Onions – chopped (disclaimer – no you do not get chopped onions in the market, you will have to buy and chop it yourself. It is advisable to keep a pair of sunglasses and band-aids handy) 11) Garam Masala; 12) and a nice bouquet of coriander leaves.
Stage 2 – The first real stage of cooking the fish is marination. It is a very important custom in bengali culture. Even during auspicious events like marriages, we love to marinate the bride and the groom with turmeric and later the groom applies red vermilion on the bride. In this case we will use red chilli with turmeric, which needs to be applied to the steaks. Add some salt too, and keep mixing until it looks something like this –
Once the fish is properly marinated, heat some oil in a pan. Thoroughly fry both sides of the fish and then set aside for later use (disclaimer – make sure you do not finish the fried fish while you are preparing the gravy. For obvious reasons). The fried steaks should look like this –
Once the fish is fried and kept aside, put some cloves, cardamom, cumin seeds, and bay leaves in the oil to temper. Remember a fish with a great temperament can beat the mutton on any given day. Once the mixture has started showing some temper immediately add 2 tsp of ginger garlic paste. Cook until the rawness is gone. Once done add the chopped onions and keep stirring until nicely fried. A good sample should like this –
At this stage add some tomato puree (oops forgot to mention before kindly manage) and keep stirring for 2-3 minutes. Then add a little turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin, a pinch of sugar, and some salt. If you are cooking Kalia, it is advisable to use Gabbar Singh brand salt. Kalias has a tendency to soak more salt if its Gabbar Singh salt so you must be careful about the quantity of the salt.
And once all of those are added, keep cooking the mixture until it gets to a stage of tel ka tel and pani ka pani. I.e. until the masala and the oil can be distinctly distinguished. You may add a little water to get the desired effect, we all love short cuts! Main objective is, the mixture should now look like this –
Once the gravy looks consistent add 2 cups of warm water and allow it to boil. At this point add the fried steaks and some garam masala and leave it covered on simmer for 10-15 minutes. (I wanted to put a picture of a pan with a lid, but then how would you know its not a fake and has the mixture in it?). You have 10-15 minutes which you can use by indulging into some facebook or whatsapp or whatnot. But once the 15 minute is done and the gravy has reached a thick consistency add some chopped coriander leaves. And it should look like this –
And voila! you have done it… Your majestic fish kalia is ready for savouring. All that is left to do is – let out a roar of a laughter and say, looking at the fish – “Ab tera kya hoga re Kalia?”
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