I know what you’re thinking….how does a piece of crumbed cutlet qualify as a ‘Fish Fry’, mmmhmm? Oh yes, I know, I know, this is a dilemma many people are faced with, when accosted with what is a very popular Bengali snack. The ‘regular’ fish fry, or ‘Maach Bhaja’, is almost an everyday affair; pieces of fish, mostly sweet-water/river fish like Carp, are marinated with salt and turmeric and then deep-fried in mustard oil. This fried fish steak can then be had as it is, or dunked in gravy, made into a curry. The ‘Fish Fry’ however, is this….a remnant of the British legacy, a deliciously fried, crumbed fillets of fish.
The British have their ‘Fish n Chips’ and we, we have our Fish Fry; the words are enough to elicit a nostalgic reaction from Bengalis, be it in California, Calicut or Canning (the latter in Kolkata). Though many consider this to be street-food, the Fish Fry is more closely associated with special occasions, especially weddings. After all, what is a Bong wedding without the much-awaited plate of Fish Fry, served with Kashundi (Bengali mustard), sliced onions, and a wedge of lemon? “Dada, aar ekta fish fry hobe?” (( Sir, may I have another piece of fish fry? )) ….. 😉
Having grown up outside Bengal, my association with Fish Fry has been very limited, barring those food stalls that were put up during Durga Puja, one of which was bound to sell greasy and cold Fish fries at exorbitant prices! *sigh* and we salivating ‘Probashi Bangali’ folks (Bengalis living outside Bengal), would drool and ooh aah over them anyway. Because you know, the only other option was to await a trip to Kolkata, or be invited to a Bengali wedding. *deeper sigh*
Now traditionally, the Fish Fry is made with a Bhetki (Barramundi) fillet, but in dire circumstances, can be made with Tilapia, Cod, or even….Basa…(please don’t shudder) 😛 And you don’t have to wait for a wedding feast or a trip to Kolkata to enjoy these heavenly snacks either 😉 Now-a-days, everyone is making Fish Fry at home, it’s that easy. Also, the weather right now is perfect for enjoying a few slices of these with a hot cuppa tea! Andddd….I’m celebrating too, because my blog finally has 100 followers, yayyy! So, why not something special to celebrate the occasion? ❤
Sweet-fleshed bhetki, coated in a spicy masala, crumbed and fried, best enjoyed hot off the pan! Do you see the allure in it like I do? I have no idea why I’ve never attempted to make this before, probably because it’s so easily available here? Either way, am super happy with my first try and the Fish Fries turned out great.
You may choose to get thinner fillets, it really makes no difference except reducing the cooking time by a few minutes. The basic marination paste also remains the same, but I hear many families have their own recipes where they add special masalas…this is mine, and it’s relatively simple..
- Bhetki Fillet (or Tilapia/Cod/Basa/Swai) – 12 pieces, cut into rectangles of about 3 in x 2 in
- Lime juice – of 1 lime (about 2 to 3 tsp)
- Black pepper powder – 1 to 2 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Onion – 1 small (preferably purple onion)
- Garlic – 5 to 6 cloves
- Ginger – 1 inch piece
- Green chilies – 2 to 3, as per taste
- Coriander leaves – 1/4 cup, chopped roughly
- Eggs – 2, beaten and mixed with a little water
- Plain flour/Maida – 1/2 a cup (optional)
- Breadcrumbs – as needed
- Mustard oil – for deep frying
- For the first marination, rub the fish fillets with lemon juice, salt and pepper, and keep aside for 15 mins.
- Next, make a paste of the onion, garlic, ginger, green chilies and coriander.
- Rub the marination all over the fish fillets and keep aside for 30 mins, preferably covered, in the fridge.
- Meanwhile, heat a deep-bottomed pan with the mustard oil, beat the eggs with a tbsp of water, and ready the flour and breadcrumbs by spreading them on flat plates.
- While the oil is heating, dredge each marinated fillet in some flour, then dip in the egg mixture, and finally, coat with breadcrumbs. Repeat process, and ensure the fish fillets are all covered well.
- Turn down the heat, and slide the fillets into the oil one by one. Keeping the oil medium-hot, fry the fillets on either side until evenly browned, and crisp.
- Place on paper towels and drain excess oil, before serving.
- Serve with sliced onions, lemon wedges and some Kashundi (Bengali mustard).