Frugal delight (foloi maachher jhol)

June 27, 2010

It ends almost as soon as it begins. From coating it with turmeric and salt to shrouding it with coriander, it takes flat 17 minutes to cook foloi maachh for two.

The process, though brief, is not as simple as it may appear. The chef (yours truly) is up against odds, each one enough to tempt Gordon Ramsey launch into his favourite expletives.

He wakes up to a power cut at dawn, swims in his own sweat, falls into a fitful slumber and is tricked by his biological clock into springing up from the bed thinking it’s past 9.30 when the clock barely inches pass the 7.30 mark.

A tired brain and weary limbs are the last things you need while bonding with the crown princess of fishes.


Foloi coated with turmeric and salt (Pic: Dwaipayan Ghosh Dastidar)

The moment arrives at 10.20. A bowl of water holds five pieces of glistening fish, thawed and ready to be dressed up in turmeric and salt.

The steady stream of mustard oil finds its way to the pan. Hissing and crackling and spattering, the oil invites the fish and barely five minutes later, the lightly fried pieces (never deep-fry this tender fish or the skin will blacken and the pieces will start crumbling) are gently put back on a plate.

A spoon more of oil is added to the pan and a pinch of black cumin (kala jeera/kalonji) and four plump green chillies, slit along the length, are thrown in.

Just then, the chef feels steady streams of, i hope it doesn’t put you off, sweat all over him. The humidity has shot up and the chimney in the kitchen is not working. Su asistente (also his wife) is amused at the travail and even jokes with him that the amount of coriander chopped and kept aside for the final garnishing is enough to cook a dhaniapatta pulao.

The fish, lightly fried (Pic: Dwaipayan Ghosh Dastidar)

Composing himself and staying true to his task, as all great chefs do in face of adversities, he adds one-and-a-half cup of water, a dash of turmeric and salt, gives it a stir, covers the pan and lets it simmer for four minutes after which the fried fish is lightly laid in the thin gravy with as much care as Millais took in letting Ophelia float in a river.

The key to cooking foloi lies in moderation. A pinch of extra turmeric or a minute more of frying, and the delicate fish will push the self-destroy button.


Ready to eat with rice (Pic: Dwaipayan Ghosh Dastidar)

At exactly 10.35, the lid covering the pan is opened and coriander showered over the fish. The camera flashes in action and the chef, covertly tipped off by seu ajudante (undeniably his wife) on THE moment to switch off the burner, precisely does that with a flourish and a rare show of immaculate timing.

It’s too early for lunch, so the chef doesn’t know how the fish will taste with steaming rice. On being assured “it will taste good”, he betrays a triumphant smile, boots his laptop and starts writing the post.

PS: My wife served butter toasts and fried eggs and peaches and bananas for breakfast. Caviar and blini was not missed, nor was luchi and alu.


2 Responses to “Frugal delight (foloi maachher jhol)”

  1. Sharmi said

    My tummy is rumbling…let’s just lap up that superb fish with some steamed rice…
    Mouthwatering post on a mouthwatering dish…
    Thank you so much for this great lunch today 🙂

  2. netdhaba said

    You are always welcome, Madam!
    With a master super like you ready to help a pretender in the kitchen, whipping up no dish should be tough 🙂

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