Shanti would sit just outside the porch and call out for Aai in her shrill voice that can be heard from a mile after keeping aside her big basket of fish. Her timing is always perfect..... 9 am sharp, Sunday mornings. The old bamboo basket is now falling apart and permanently stinks fish. Shanti has been selling fish for many years now. She is a dark busty woman with paan stained teeth. Padma, Aai's domestic help would also follow Aai to the porch. Buying fish every Sunday was more of a ritual. Shanti would carefully remove the leaves from top of the basket and pull out the best one for Aai. But it is Padma who would give the final approval after checking the gills. Then they all nod in agreement before the fish is weighed and cut.
Aai's house had a big aangan,a courtyard in the middle of the house. The fish is cleaned there, even now. While Padma cleans it, there are more than one onlookers. One of them being Meeoon - Aai's cat, my sister M and few crows perched on the roof. The cleaning regime is completed admist constant chatter, purring of Meeoon and cawing of the crows. After through cleaning the pieces are marinated with a generous amount of haldi and salt and kept away securely from the prying eyes, especially Meeoon.
Aai eye balls the amount of garlic, ginger and onion and hands it to Padma. And its perfect every time. The masala for the fish curry is prepared the old school way using a seelbata (a mortal and pestle made of stone). Padma's bangles make a nice jingle as she grinds the masala.
The smoky and nutty smell of hot mustard oil fills the kitchen as Aai carefully drops the fish into the hot oil. And you don't need a sensitive nose to know that the maach is already in the oil. Even before the first batch is out of the kadhai, little M is already there waiting for her share with a small shiny steel plate. Aai smiles and carefully places a crisp hot piece on M's plate with a warning "hot". And as for Meeoon, she is curled comfortably on the kitchen doormat hoping that she gets a little more than the left over bones.
Preparation Time - 60 minutes
Serves - 4
Rohu Fish - 750 gms ( You can also prepare this with Catla or Tilapia)
Potato - 2 small
For the masala
Onion - 1 medium
Tomato - 1 small
Ginger - 1 inch
Garlic - 4-5 pods
Cinnamon - 1 inch
Cardamom - 2
Bayleaf - 1
Cumin Powder - 1/2 tsp
Corriander Powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/3 tsp
Turmeric - 1/3 tsp
Cayenne Pepper/ Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil for cooking
Method of Preparation
1. Wash the fish pieces and pat dry. Add 1 tsp of turmeric and 1/2 tsp salt to the fish. Marinate and keep aside.
2. Chop the onion, ginger and garlic roughly and make a smooth paste using a food processer/ blender.
3. Cut tomato into small pieces and keep aside.
4. Cut the potatoes skin on into medium side wedges.
5. Pour some mustard oil (you can use any vegetable oil instead) and heat it to smoking point. Slowly add the fish pieces one by one and shallow fry them in batches.
6. When the fish is done add the potatoes and shallow fry them in the same oil and keep aside.
7. If enough oil is still left in the kadhai (else add some more oil) add whole garam masala to it, ie cinnamon, cardamom and bayleaf.
8. Next add the onion ginger garlic paste to the oil. Stir and fry the masala till the masala is cooked and there is no raw smell. Add chopped tomato, turmeric, cumin powder,corriander powder, chili powder and salt. Cook for few more minutes till the masala starts leaving oil at the sides. Cover and let the curry simmer on medium heat till potatoes get soft.
9. Remove from heat and add chopped coriander leaves on top to garnish.
Serve with rice.
9. Add 2 cups water to the masala to make a gravy. Cover and bring it to a boil.
10. Add potato wedges and fish to it. Now add the garam masala powder.