Game for fish

Game for fish
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First Published: Fri, Jun 11 2010. 09 20 PM IST

Mascot: Hilsa prices go up on the day East Bengal score a winning goal. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
Mascot: Hilsa prices go up on the day East Bengal score a winning goal. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
Updated: Fri, Jun 11 2010. 09 20 PM IST
Few things stir as much passion among the Bengali bhadralok as fish. Unless, of course, it’s football. Or an adda (spirited discussion) about the comparative merits of the Ganga and Padma hilsas, or the chances of Mohun Bagan ever avenging the 0-5 drubbing by East Bengal in 1975.
Mascot: Hilsa prices go up on the day East Bengal score a winning goal. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
Such weighty discussions usually end with battle-lines being drawn between the Ghotis and the Bangals, which, as it is, usually extends to every facet of Bengali life. For the uninitiated, the terms refers to Bengalis tracing their origins to the western and eastern banks of the Padma, respectively.
The Maidan rivalry between Kolkata’s two legendary teams, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, spills over to the kitchen. When ilish (hilsa), the king in Bengal’s fish basket, was appropriated as a mascot by the more fish-loving Bangals for their club, the Kingfisher East Bengal Football Club, as it is now formally called, the Ghotis promptly adopted the chingri (the generic term that encompasses prawns, shrimps and lobsters) as the food to celebrate every Mohun Bagan victory with.
P.K. Banerjee, former India captain and a Maidan veteran who has been associated with both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal for a long time, says hilsa’s association with East Bengal was probably born of the refugee’s nostalgia for the land he had left behind.
“East Bengal, or what is now Bangladesh, has more rivers than West Bengal, so Bangal cuisine is more fish-oriented. So when they came over, possibly out of nostalgia, they made the Padma ilish, arguably the best kind, the symbol of the club which meant so much to them,” he says.
It may be aeons before a Beckham or a Ronaldo dons the red and gold of East Bengal or the maroon and green of Mohun Bagan, but the “greatest show on earth”, coinciding with the arrival of the monsoon, provides the perfect excuse for biting into succulent ilish.
Rakhi Purnima Dasgupta of Kolkata’s Kewpie’s Kitchen shares a spicy, authentic Bangal recipe. And for the more sophisticated, who baulk at the prospect of negotiating the hilsa bones, she offers a classic Ghoti shrimp curry.
Ilish anaras (hilsa and pineapple curry)
Serves 6-8
Ingredients
1.25kg hilsa, cut into 6-8 pieces
1 pineapple (if using a fresh fruit, ensure it’s not too sweet), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup pineapple juice
8 tbsp mustard oil
2 medium onions, ground
1 tbsp garlic paste
K tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
4-5 tsp sugar
6 green chillies, slit
1 cup water
Salt to taste
Method
Heat half the mustard oil in a pan till it is smoking hot. Rub a little salt and turmeric on the fish and lightly fry. Set aside.
Add the rest of the oil. When it is hot, add the onion, ginger and garlic pastes and sauté. Add half a cup of water and cook till the paste is of a smooth consistency. Add the dry masalas and sauté till the oil separates. Add the pineapple juice and the remaining water and bring to a boil. If you’re using fresh fruit, add the chunks now, add sugar and cook till slightly done (if you’re using tinned pineapple, then wash off the brine and add the pieces only after adding the fish). Add the green chillies and cook till you get a thick, rich gravy.
Lau chingri (shrimps and bottle gourd curry)
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
1kg bottle gourd (should be young so that the seeds are not hardened), chopped into very small cubes
250g mid-sized shrimps
3-4 tbsp oil (any refined oil) or ghee
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste (optional)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
4-5 green chillies, slit
2 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnishing
Method
In a pan, heat half the oil. Rub the shelled and cleaned shrimps with a little turmeric and salt and fry them very lightly. Keep aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a separate pan and fry the onions. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and sauté well. Make a paste of all the dry masalas with a little water and add to the oil. When the masalas are cooked and the oil separates, add the chopped bottle gourd, chillies and salt. Cover and let it cook on medium heat till al dente. When done, add the fried shrimps and sugar. Cook till all the water dries and garnish with chopped coriander.
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First Published: Fri, Jun 11 2010. 09 20 PM IST