Serve it hot (Pomfret kosha)
August 25, 2010
It’s called pampa in Portuguese, saranga in Marathi, vavval in Tamil and avoli in Malayalam, but nothing compares to the sweetness with which pomfret is endearingly called in Bangladesh: rupchanda (the beautiful silvery orbs) and kalachanda (the black ones).
Though the Calcutta bhadralok, out of syntactical ignorance, still asks the fishmonger for a kilo of pomflet, I found their Dhaka counterparts adopt the more lilting tone in the markets: “Aiz rupsanda koto koira?” (How much are pomfrets for today?)
So when Narayan, the saviour of all Bengalis living in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar, coaxed me the other day: “Rupsanda loiya zaan. Ekkare A-class (My pomfrets are top class today),” I was struck by pleasurable nostalgia.
Not only is the silvery-white pomfret tastier than its black cousin, it also doesn’t smell so much of the sea.
Back home with my weekly catch, I decided to experiment a bit. Though i usually settle for fresh lime juice to marinate the fish — you can also use vinegar to cut out the smell — i thought of using lime cordial (an excess of it spoiled many a vodka I have had).
I love rohu, hilsa, mourola, parshe, prawns, bekti or pretty much any fish fried and served with tea, so it’s of no surprise that pomfret fry with a squeeze of lime and green salad is one of the ways to pamper the glutton in me.
Ma, though, wanted me to cook pomfret kosha (fish in a thick hot gravy).
Because onion and tomato as a base would not have yielded enough gravy for the four of us to eat with rice, she gave me an idea. Finely chopped potato and brinjal would add body to the fish kosha.
I was initially apprehensive, having used potato and brinjal as the principal base only while cooking a hot dish of Bombay duck (loitta/lote maacher bhuna), a similar preparation of dried fish (the supremely pungent shutki maachh) and grinded prawn (chingri bata).
The clouds of doubts dispelled midway into cooking the dish with the tomato, onion, potato and brinjal forming an inviting body of gravy into which the fried pomfrets were raring to be lowered.
At the end, things came out well, though i felt like kicking myself for not buying coriander (dhaniapatta) to sprinkle on top of the dish before serving.
Pomfret kosha (serves four)
Marinate four pomfrets in lime juice and refrigerate overnight.
Smear the fish with salt and turmeric the next day and fry them preferably in mustard oil.
Finely dice potato and brinjal and set aside.
Chop onions, garlic and ginger, slit some green chilies and empty the mix in spattering mustard oil (5-6 tbsp)
Add turmeric, red chili powder, salt and a pinch of sugar to it and stir the contents in the pan for three minutes before adding a coarsely chopped tomato.
Add the diced potato and brinjal and vigorously stir for another five minutes, cover the pan and let the contents simmer for some time.
Add a cup of warm water when the oil floats on top. Gently place the fish in the thick gravy, stir cautiously and simmer for five more minutes.
Garnish with chopped coriander before serving with steaming hot rice.