The clouds of cold are finally lifting from the horizon, slowly, but surely. The residue is there, in form of ice on the ground that has now solidified into rocks, blanketing the green brown earth underneath. That Earth is now rebelling, throwing off the white blanket, emboldened by a sun that is slowly turning a bright golden and willing to stay up a little longer, and a little brighter.
The squirrels are out, foraging into the wild in search of whatever they search for; the deers bask in the sun by the melting stream a little more. The tall fine branches of a now bare tree has started showing a hint of green, promising spring.
The fancy jackets are getting off the hangers finally, as the need for resembling the snowman every time we step out going down every day, little by little.
This is a bright, easy and delicious fish curry made from a very special mustard relish/sauce called kashundi. It comes in bottles and are available in most Bangladeshi stores. Kashundi is quintessentially a Bengali recipe, and it’s just not a recipe, but a ritual.
In the days when kashundi was not sold in bottles, it was made by designated kashundi makers in families. Not every family was allowed to make kashundi. Now, I don’t know the reason behind that. To me there is no rhyme or reason really. For example, my Mom’s family could not make kashndi, but my grandma’s family could. So while my maternal grandma knew how to make this spectacular sauce, she could not make it after her marriage because the traditions of her married family did not allow it. As a result, she never could pass on this knowledge to her children. Hence my Ma does not know how to make it. Funny thing is, my Dad’s family is allowed to make it, but as he lost his mother as a little child, there was no one to pass on the family recipe to make it.
As for my family, I have never even tried to find out what the policy is. Maybe it’s time I did?
Many families still make kashundi, and there is a lot of reverence placed on making of this sauce. Maybe someday I will be fortunate enough to witness the making of this sauce. For now, I am content in enjoying it out of a bottle.
This recipe calls for a flaky fresh water fish or small fish. A type of fish called ‘Pabda’ (a famous variety of catfish from Bengal/Bangladesh) – works very well in this recipe, as does ‘Ilish’ or ‘Hilsa’. However, these are difficult to source, so in their absence, Tilapia works fine too.
- 8-10 pieces of Pabda OR 4-5 fillets of Tilapia
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ¼ cup mustard or any other oil plus 1 tbsp
- 1 tsp of coarsely crushed garlic
- ½ cup kashundi
- ½ tsp red chili powder
- 5-8 Thai green chilies
- ½ cup chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups water
- chopped coriander leaves to garnish (optional)
- Clean, wash and marinade the fish in turmeric and 1 tsp of salt for 15 minutes.
- Heat oil and shallow fry the fish on both sides until it takes a golden hue but is still soft
- Drain on kitchen towel and keep aside.
- Using a metal strainer, transfer the left over oil in a fresh pan, and add ½ tbsp of fresh oil and heat it back up.
- Add kashundi (keep a metal mesh or cover near you as it will splatter like crazy)
- Once it starts bubbling, add crushed garlic and stir
- Lower the flame and add chili powder and give it a nice stir
- Add water and raise the flame to high
- Let it come to a boil
- Split green chilies half way through the middle and add to the gravy.
- Add tomatoes
- Lower the flame to medium, cover half way and cook till the tomatoes are nice and soft
- Add the fish gently
- Let the gravy reduce to about a cup.
- Check for salt and add more if you need.
- Using a spoon, drop the reserved ½ tbsp of mustard oil.
- Take it off the heat, and garnish with coriander (optional)
- Serve hot.
Serve with rice.
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