Fish in Kashundi – a mustard relish from Bengal

 

Kashundi

 

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.

 

kashundi fish

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.

Hello Spring!

 

Kashundi fish

 

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.

Kashundi

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?

kashundi fish 1

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.

 

Kashundi

 

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.

 

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Fish in Kashundi - a mustard relish from Bengal
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Ingredients
  • 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)
Instructions
  1. Clean, wash and marinade the fish in turmeric and 1 tsp of salt for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat oil and shallow fry the fish on both sides until it takes a golden hue but is still soft
  3. Drain on kitchen towel and keep aside.
  4. 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.
  5. Add kashundi (keep a metal mesh or cover near you as it will splatter like crazy)
  6. Once it starts bubbling, add crushed garlic and stir
  7. Lower the flame and add chili powder and give it a nice stir
  8. Add water and raise the flame to high
  9. Let it come to a boil
  10. Split green chilies half way through the middle and add to the gravy.
  11. Add tomatoes
  12. Lower the flame to medium, cover half way and cook till the tomatoes are nice and soft
  13. Add the fish gently
  14. Let the gravy reduce to about a cup.
  15. Check for salt and add more if you need.
  16. Using a spoon, drop the reserved ½ tbsp of mustard oil.
  17. Take it off the heat, and garnish with coriander (optional)
  18. Serve hot.

 

Pabda

Pabda (Pabo catfish)

Turmeric

fry fish

drain them

Heat oil and fry kashundi

add garlic

add water

IMG_1367

 

tomatoes are soft

 

add fish

 

add coriander

 

Pabda fish

kashundi maach

Serve with rice.

 

Rice and fish

Rice and fish…..the staple in any traditional Bengali house.

 

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9 comments for “Fish in Kashundi – a mustard relish from Bengal

  1. April 10, 2014 at 1:26 AM

    OK. I don’t quite get why you can’t make a sauce if it wasn’t passed down by a particular side of the family. Doe it have to do with religion. Anyway, I think you should open a restaurant. Your food is always so exotic sounds delicious. I always enjoy seeing what you come up with.
    Mireya @myhealthyeatinghabits recently posted..Roasted Garlic and Rosemary “Mock” Mashed PotatoesMy Profile

  2. April 10, 2014 at 5:51 AM

    I know it’s not politically correct to call that a wacky tradition but I’ve never been known to stay quiet. I wish you’d been able to get the family recipe, Minnie. This fish dish looks amazing!
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted..In My Kitchen, April 2014My Profile

  3. April 10, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    Fish was never my fav, don’t think ever going to be unless its fish fry or fish finger ;-) but this one recipe was always my fav among the fish recipes of bengalis. With that pabda I have had this many times. Its absolutely yummy!!
    Bhaskar recently posted..To live like a Flower!My Profile

  4. April 10, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Oh I have a jar of this in my fridge! They told me that it was very versatile and it certainly is :)
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella recently posted..USA Road Trip: New Mexico to San Antonio, TexasMy Profile

  5. April 10, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    What a stunning colour of a dish, why have I not seen this before! I bet it’s super popular :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    Choc Chip Uru recently posted..CCU Undercover: Izakaya Samurai RestaurantMy Profile

  6. April 11, 2014 at 2:46 PM

    It ever ceases to amaze me the number of old wives tales we have in India and what we can and cannot do! My mother was a great believer in this type of thing and it drove me crazy! I don’t follow any of the tradition hype :) I’m not a seafood fan so I usually stayed clear of fish dishes in India. But I love mustard and mustard sauces and I think I could be persuaded to try this. Looks good!
    Coffee and Crumpets recently posted..Pan Cubano | Cuban BreadMy Profile

  7. April 11, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    You are right, kahsundi who made from scratch will be very tasty than the bottle ones. Lovely fish recipe.
    Swathi recently posted..Kaniyappam/ Vishu Kaniyappam/Deep Fried Rice pancakeMy Profile

  8. April 13, 2014 at 10:51 PM

    All cultures have their own “odd” customs and rules. For a foodie like yourself, Minnie, it must be hard to know that a treasured family recipe is lost because of a tradition. I’m glad that you’ve found a bottled version that you enjoy and hope that you’ll find a recipe to follow that pleases you even more.
    ChgoJohn recently posted..Maltagliati Pasta with Pistachio PestoMy Profile

  9. April 19, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    Ooh, that relish has such a gorgeous colour! I bet it gives an amazing flavour to the fish. Looks so nice Minnie – you should find out if you can make it, I’d be interested in seeing a recipe!
    Charles recently posted..Cream of Feta DipMy Profile

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