Tuesday 24 April 2012

Pabdar Jhal

Ask me what is Ompok Pabo & I'll proudly tell you that it is the scientific name for Pabda. A species of fish that is commonly called Pabo catfish in English. Thank you for not asking this in the morning. When Mani was sharing her Pabda Maachher Jhal recipe with me. Enlightenment dawned ten minutes ago. Before I started writing this post. Sounding knowledgeable never smelt this fishy, err, good :)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          'Ma, pabda maach ke english e ki boley?' 'Janina baba!' We always knew pabda fish as pabda; all our maach walas called it by the same name, irrespective of geography; & it tasted as heavenly in Jamshedpur as it did in Jhargram. So why this sudden fascination for English names? As if that will make the  pabda taste any different or make the Hindi-speaking fishmongers understand what one is asking for! Just cut the cr...fish & let's get started. 
                                                                                                      For the uninitiated, Pabda is a one-bone, freshwater fish that is the Bongman's delight. And the woman's too. As the rest of the world is catching up with us, Pabda is gaining global acceptance. It's no surprise if you find pabda in Tesco & Morrison. Pick it, de-gut it, cook it, relish it! Here's how. Make a jhal with a difference. Give the mustard sauce a miss, sprinkle some kalonji instead. You are never at sea with fish dishes. All innovations lead to satiety.
                                                                                                 Ingredients: [Measures for 5 fish]
1. Whole pabda fish (any number you want!)
2. 1 medium onion- grated
3. 1/2 tsp kalonji/kaala zeera
4. 1 tsp vinegar
5. 1 tsp turmeric
6. Red chilli powder as preferred
7. 1-1 1/2 cup water
8. Salt to taste
9. Mustard oil to cook 

1. Apply salt & turmeric to the raw fish & keep aside for 10 mins to neutralise the fishy smell.
2. Wash clean & saute the pabda in hot oil and keep aside.
3. Allow kalonji to crackle in hot oil. Add the grated onion & fry well. 
4. Add the fried pabda, red chilli powder, a pinch of turmeric, salt & water and & let fish cook in the gravy.
5. When fish is done & gravy thickens, add vinegar, let simmer for 2 mins & remove from flame.  

1. Pabda is a soft fish. It doesn't take long to cook.
2. The vinegar keeps the fish from breaking apart from adding zing to its taste.
3. This dish ought to look reddish to do justice to its name. You may use Kashmiri mirch for effect & give the red chilli powder a miss so that the dish looks red but is not hot!
                                                                                                          Serve hot with steaming rice and let the pabda feel rewarded :)

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