Of Fish, Chili, and a Little China in IndiaLima has returned to these corners. With the irresistable Turron even! Yummy. Welcome back to your own blog, Cesar! (Sorry, couldn’t resist being a little mean, C).
Getting back to food in the earnest; this week I found the recipe for a simple-to-cook dish, which can be best described a spin off of Chinese cuisine. Sometime back, Cesar wrote about Chaufa rice and referred to the manner in which Chinese food got improvised in Peru. From talking to friends from different parts of the world, I have come to observe, that’s the deal with Chinese food. It has penetrated almost every corner of the globe, and nearly in all those corners it has taken on the flavour of the region, flexibly lending itself to the local eating and cooking ethos, and generating interesting if a bit distorted geographical variations. This to some extent explains why the dish I cooked, Chili Fish, is probably a brainchild of some Chinese cuisine loving Bengali. I mentioned earlier how fish and Bengal are inseparable.
However, Chinese association with Bengal goes back a long way. In the late 18th century, a Chinese called Young Atchew (what an interesting name—Young at-chew…) landed in the city of Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal. He wanted to try his luck at setting up a sugar mill in the city and even though he made an effort in that direction, he ran out of luck, mainly because of scarcity of funds and labourers deserting his enterprise. Three years later, Atchew died a disenchanted man and his tomb now serves as a pilgrimage site for Calcutta’s Chinese populace. However, the influx of the Chinese into the city did not stop. In the World War II years and later during the Chinese Revolution of 1949, a sizeable number of Chinese reached the shores of Bengal, and made it their home. Of the areas in Calcutta where they settled, no place bears the insignia of Chinese culture better than Tangra, situated in the eastern part of the city. Here, you will still find authentic vignettes of Chinese life, be it during traditional festivals like the Chinese New Year or in the many restaurants run by Chinese. Calcuttans love the cuisine and I know many Bengalis outside Calcutta, who while visiting the city, make it point to dine in an authentic Chinese food joint.
Little wonder then, that Chinese influence rubbed off on the Bengali palette and even made its mark on the local wok and griddle. My attempt at making Chili-fish paid off nicely, and for all fish lovers reading this, this is a recipe you must try, for its sheer ease of making. The good taste comes as a happy bonus though.
* 500 g bhetki fish (bhetki machh)—This is a non-scaly sea fish. You could substitute it with Pomfret too.
* 1 onion, diced
* 1 green pepper, chopped into cubes
* 2 green chillies (You could use more, depending on your liking)
* 1 tbsp vinegar
* 3 tbsp Soya sauce
* 1 tbsp tomato sauce
* ¼ cup water
* Oil for frying
* Salt to taste
* Wash and cut fish into 2 inch pieces. Rub fish pieces with salt.
* Heat oil in a skillet. Add fishes and fry lightly. Caution: Since bhetki has no scales, the pieces tend to jump in the oil while you fry them. A tip is to put the fish pieces into the oil, lower the flame, cover the skillet and let the fish cook. Open the lid and keep turning the sides a few times. Once it’s lightly fried, keep the fish pieces aside.
* Add the diced onion to the same oil and fry till transparent.
* Add green chillies and green pepper. Stir fry for about 2-3 minutes.
* Add Soya sauce and water. Add tomato sauce, vinegar and salt.
* Add fish. Cover and cook for around 5 minutes until the gravy is thick.
* Serve hot with plain rice.
Once you get the ingredients together, making this dish is a matter of minutes. And the result is surprisingly yummy. Try and test (taste too) for yourself!