Saturday, 18 April 2015

BHETKI RANGPURI/BARRAMUNDI FISH FRY - INTRODUCING THE NUANCES OF BENGALI CUISINE TO THE WORLD



The rich cultural heritage which constitutes the state of West Bengal has paved way to immense treasures which manifest themselves in the Bengali Food, their love for Music, Dance, Theatre or Jaatra and off course movies. Any bengali no matter in which part of the world they are born will definately be acquainted with Rabindranath Tagore's poetrys and songs known as Rabindra Sangeeth, Freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his movement for India's struggle for independence, Durga Pujo the stupendous celebrations and festivities and offering of prayers to Goddess Durga in a week long revelry, Oscar winning Filmaker Satyajeet Ray's movies, Hilsa/IIish fish cooked in Mustard Sauce, Kasundi the pungent mustard sauce and Mishti/Sweets with main emphasis on Sandesh, Rosogolla and Mishti Doi the highlight of Bengal.

Bengali Cuisine imbibed its nuances from a major historical trend which touched this Eastern INDIAN State distinctively and continuously. It is interesting to note that whoever either ruled Bengal or made Bengal their home brought with them their own significant culinary traditions which was glibly absorbed by the people of Bengal and made their own. Bengali Cuisine is therefore the result of a long standing marriage of flavours from different cuisines. Two most important imprints in the Bengali gastronomy has been left behind by the earstwile Mughal Nawabs who were exiled in Bengal and brought with them their own Khansamas or chefs who weaved the flavours of Mughlai and Awadhi style of cooking into Bengali dishes. The second most important influence is that of the British and the Babu Culture which saw the Bawarchi's ( cooks ) change their cooking styles to suit the British palate, thus giving rise to different culinary heritage with pronounced flavour strands.


My introduction to this glorious cuisine was after a few months of my birth, when sitting on the lap of my maternal uncle I was given in a silver spoon to taste the first ever fragrant grains of rice scooped out of a creamy bowl of Payesh or Rice pudding on the occasion of my MUKHE BHAT also called Onnoprashon which is basically the first Rice Eating Ceremony. Payesh/Rice Pudding remained an integral part of my life thereafter with my grandma & Ma never failing to make the delectable bowls of Payesh to mark any important occasion in the family.

Although rich in taste , steeped in flavour with refined overtones of some marked spices, relish or oil used, Bengali Cuisine remained confined to the boundaries of this Eastern INDIAN State and could not reach the world palate until a few years back. Bengali Cuisine travelled to the United States of America, Europe or other parts of the world with the Bengali families who made Europe, America or other parts of the world their home and cooked Bengali food for their Non-Bengali friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Leave alone the world Bengali Cuisine hadn't transcended the boundaries of Bengal to different INDIAN States until restaurants like Oh Calcutta and Bhojohori Manna and now many more took the onus on them to introduce this delectable cuisine to others not familiar with it.

Today I will introduce you to this famous chain of restaurants called Bhojohori Manna which takes its name after an immensely popular Bengali song by the same name sung by a renowned INDIAN singer, Manna Dey. Started by a group of friends which included noted INDIAN Filmmaker Gautam Ghosh, as a small 16 seater snack counter opposite South Point School in Kolkata, Bhojohori Manni opened with the simple aim of providing snacks to the mothers who stood outside the South Point School campus, chatting for hours at a stretch when they came either to drop or collect their wards from school.

Today Bhojohori Manna has spread its wings to different parts of India and is a prominent name in Bengali Cuisine. What started as a humble snacks counter is today getting a much larger groups of diners familiar with the nicety of Bengali cuisine.So if you live in India or travel to explore India, you must pay a visit to this restaurant to savour authentic heirloom Bengali food.


The dish I am sharing here is called BHETKI RANGPURI which is basically BARRAMUNDI FISH FRY. The unique bengali touch of this dish comes from Kasundi , the pungent mustard sauce added to the batter which gives it a very distinct flavour. I have made this dish exactly following the recipe that they follow at Bhojo Hori Manna Restaurant. The only change was using gram flour/Besan instead of refined flour/maida. So till you find your opportunity to visit Bhojo Hori Manna you can easily make this dish in your kitchen. All the ingredients are easily available in the supermarkets or INDIAN or Bangladeshi stores. Only if you cannot get your hands on Kasundi you can make it at home following the recipe of Kasundi at the end of this post. I have explained each step with pictures so that you can easily recreate this dish without any doubt or problem. In case you have a query please leave it in the comments below or mail to me. Dear friends lets get cooking this signature dish from BHOJOHORI MANNA RESTAURANT

BHETKI RANGPURI/ BARRAMUNDI FISH FRY


RECIPE/PICTURES & OTHER REFERENCES:
TERRAIN SPOTTER
LIVE DOOR
FULTOO MAJA MAADI
WIKIPEDEIA
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=h-I-BUEvUsI

BHETKI RANGPURI/BARRAMUNDI FISH FRY RECIPE:

SERVES : 4
CUISINE : INDIAN/BENGALI
TYPE : STARTER/SNACK
TIME : 1 HOUR PREPARATION+30 MINUTES FRYING & COOKIN


INGREDIENTS:
1) Boneless Bhetki/ Barramundi/Asian Sea Bass/ Modha Fillet - 500gms

2) Ginger - 2inch

3) Garlic Pods - 4tbsp

4) Coriander leaves - 1 small bunch

5) Green Chillies - 2/3

6) Black Pepper Powder - 1tbsp

7) Chopped Fresh Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp

8) All purpose Flour was used in the original recipe but I have used Gram Flour. You can use either - 2tbsp

9) Kasundi / Bengali Mustard Relish - 3 tbsp ( Normally Kasundi is available in Indian or Bangladeshi stores but if you cannot find a bottle you can very easily make your own. This ingredient cannot be skipped nor replaced as this is the soul of the dish) .The Recipe to make Kasundi is given at the end of this post.

10) Eggs - 2

11) Salt to taste

12) Lime - 2

13) Oil - 350-400 ml

14) Bread Crumbs - 250-350 gms

GET COOKING WITH ME IN EASY STEPS:
1) Grind the Ginger, Garlic, Coriander leaves and Green Chillies into a fine paste.

2) Assemble all the ingredients together.


3) Clean the fillets. Sprinkle salt and the juice of half a lime. Massage the fillets. Refrigerate them for 15 mins. In the pictures you may see that I have used only two fillets for depiction purpose only. You may cut at least 5 - 6 fillets with 500 gm of fish. The thinner the fillets are the tastier the fish will taste as not only the marinade will penetrate the fillets easily but also reduce the cooking time.


4) In a bowl put the paste made in Step 1(Ginger,Garlic,Fresh Coriander,Green Chillies paste), Black Pepper Powder, All purpose or Gram Flour, Kasundi/Bengali Mustard Relish, Eggs, the Juice of the remaining lime, chopped fresh Coriander & Salt to Taste. Using a whisk, blend all the ingredients into a smooth mixture.



5) There should be no lumps and the mixture should be even.

6) After 15 minutes of being refrigerated, remove the Fillets and marinate them in the above mixture for at least half an hour.

7) Smear each fillet completely with the mixture and let it sit in the refrigerator soaking all the flavours from the aromatics, spices and herbs for at least 30 minutes.


8) After half an hour or whenever you are ready to fry the fish, remove from the refrigerator. Take a tray or a large dish where you can lavishly spread your bread crumb. Take the entire bread crumb and create a breadcrumb bead with it. Keep your wooden board or a chopping board close by.

9) Fork out one fillet from the luscious marinade and transfer it to the bed of bread crumbs. Using both your hands shower breadcrumbs on the fish fillet.

10) Using your entire Palm give the breadcrumbs on the fillet a firm press. Turn the fillet over and repeat the previous step.


11) Pick the breadcrumb coated fillet up and place it gently on the wooden board. Using the blunt side of a kitchen knife press against the side of the fillet while with your free hand press the upper side of the fillet simultaneously. Remember you should press firmly yet gently.

12) This is done to give the edges of the fillet an even shape and make the fillet look good.

13) Put the fillet back on the bed of breadcrumbs and repeat steps 9, 10&11.

14) By doing this we get the bread crumb coating on the fish fillet to the desired thickness. So you now have a crunchy delicious outer layer which you first bite into before reaching the flavourful fish within. Next place the bread crumb coated, perfectly shaped fish fillet on a plate and using the same steps get all of them ready.


15) Heat Oil in a flat bottom frying pan. Keep the fish fillets next to it on the work station,  ready to go in.

16) Delicately lift the fish fillet from the plate and with care plunge it into the oil for deep frying. Fry on medium heat so as not to burn the exterior while the fish within remains uncooked.

17) Turn over with care and let cook both the sides evenly. Cook till you get a lovely golden brown colour on both the sides. Since fish cooks very easily you need not worry if your fish fillet is completely done with the outer bread crumb coating turning brown. Still if you are skeptical use a knife to go through the thickest part of the fish fillet. If it comes out clean your fish is cooked perfectly or else cook a little bit longer. Put the fried fish on a kitchen towel or napkin so that all the excess oil is absorbed.

Serve piping hot with steamed or raw greens and use Kasundi/Bengali Mustard Relish as a dip to double the sharpness of the gorgeous flavours.

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INGREDIENTS:
1) Boneless Bhetki/ Barramundi/Asian Sea Bass/ Modha Fillet - 500gms

2) Ginger - 2inch

3) Garlic Pods - 4tbsp

4) Coriander leaves - 1 small bunch

5) Green Chillies - 2/3

6) Black Pepper Powder - 1tbsp

7) Chopped Fresh Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp

8) All purpose Flour was used in the original recipe but I have used Gram Flour. You can use either - 2tbsp

9) Kasundi / Bengali Mustard Relish - 3 tbsp ( Normally Kasundi is available in Indian or Bangladeshi stores but if you cannot find a bottle you can very easily make your own. This ingredient cannot be skipped nor replaced as this is the soul of the dish) .The Recipe to make Kasundi is given at the end of this post.

10) Eggs - 2

11) Salt to taste

12) Lime - 2

13) Oil - 350-400 ml

14) Bread Crumbs - 250-350 gms

GET COOKING WITH ME IN EASY STEPS:
1) Grind the Ginger, Garlic, Coriander leaves and Green Chillies into a fine paste.

2) Assemble all the ingredients together.

3) Clean the fillets. Sprinkle salt and the juice of half a lime. Massage the fillets. Refrigerate them for 15 mins. In the pictures you may see that I have used only two fillets for depiction purpose only. You may cut at least 5 - 6 fillets with 500 gm of fish. The thinner the fillets are the tastier the fish will taste as not only the marinade will penetrate the fillets easily but also reduce the cooking time.

4) In a bowl put the paste made in Step 1(Ginger,Garlic,Fresh Coriander,Green Chillies paste), Black Pepper Powder, All purpose or Gram Flour, Kasundi/Bengali Mustard Relish, Eggs, the Juice of the remaining lime, chopped fresh Coriander & Salt to Taste. Using a whisk, blend all the ingredients into a smooth mixture.

5) There should be no lumps and the mixture should be even.

6) After 15 minutes of being refrigerated, remove the Fillets and marinate them in the above mixture for at least half an hour.

7) Smear each fillet completely with the mixture and let it sit in the refrigerator soaking all the flavours from the aromatics, spices and herbs for at least 30 minutes.

8) After half an hour or whenever you are ready to fry the fish, remove from the refrigerator. Take a tray or a large dish where you can lavishly spread your bread crumb. Take the entire bread crumb and create a breadcrumb bead with it. Keep your wooden board or a chopping board close by.

9) Fork out one fillet from the luscious marinade and transfer it to the bed of bread crumbs. Using both your hands shower breadcrumbs on the fish fillet.

10) Using your entire Palm give the breadcrumbs on the fillet a firm press. Turn the fillet over and repeat the previous step.

11) Pick the breadcrumb coated fillet up and place it gently on the wooden board. Using the blunt side of a kitchen knife press against the side of the fillet while with your free hand press the upper side of the fillet simultaneously. Remember you should press firmly yet gently.

12) This is done to give the edges of the fillet an even shape and make the fillet look good.

13) Put the fillet back on the bed of breadcrumbs and repeat steps 9, 10&11.

14) By doing this we get the bread crumb coating on the fish fillet to the desired thickness. So you now have a crunchy delicious outer layer which you first bite into before reaching the flavourful fish within. Next place the bread crumb coated, perfectly shaped fish fillet on a plate and using the same steps get all of them ready.

15) Heat Oil in a flat bottom frying pan. Keep the fish fillets next to it on the work station,  ready to go in.

16) Delicately lift the fish fillet from the plate and with care plunge it into the oil for deep frying. Fry on medium heat so as not to burn the exterior while the fish within remains uncooked.

17) Turn over with care and let cook both the sides evenly. Cook till you get a lovely golden brown colour on both the sides. Since fish cooks very easily you need not worry if your fish fillet is completely done with the outer bread crumb coating turning brown. Still if you are skeptical use a knife to go through the thickest part of the fish fillet. If it comes out clean your fish is cooked perfectly or else cook a little bit longer. Put the fried fish on a kitchen towel or napkin so that all the excess oil is absorbed.

Serve piping hot with steamed or raw greens and use Kasundi/Bengali Mustard Relish as a dip to double the sharpness of the gorgeous flavours.

NOTES :
1) Do not keep the fish refrigerated in the batter for more than half an hour or 45 minutes as the lemon juice in the batter will tenderize the fish causing it to disintegrate and break while frying. If you want to prepare early and fry later then soak the fish in the batter minus the lemon juice. 15 -20 minutes before frying add the lemon juice to the soaked fish in the batter and refrigerate again , then fry.

2) Be careful and get the temperature of the oil right. It should not be smoky hot nor cold. You can put a few drops of batter into the oil. If they swim up very slowly, then your oil is not hot. If they swim up instantly, then your oil is very hot. Also keep regulating the heat when deep frying. Too much heat will burn the bread crumb coating leaving the fish inside uncooked. So take care to cook the fish inside properly and also get the breadcrumbs not to burn.

3) Do not use too big or too thick fillets of the fish. Too big and too thick fillets will take a long time both to soak the spicy juicy batter and also to cook.

CHECKLIST:
1) Bhetki / Barramundi fillet, 2) Eggs, 3) Oil, 4) Kadundi/Bengali Mustard Relish, 5) All Purpose Flour/ Gram Flour, 6) Bread Crumbs, 7) Black Pepper Powder, 8) Lime, 9) Salt, 10) Ginger, 11) Garlic, 12) Fresh Coriander leaves, 13) Green Chillies

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Kasundi/Bengali Mustard Relish Recipe (courtesy Chef Zubin D'Souza's recipes)
Ingredients:
1) Mustard seeds - 200 g/ 1 cup
2) Garlic cloves peeled - 20 g/ 4 tsp
3) Green mango peeled and diced –  100 g/ 1/2 cup
4) Mustard oil - 100 ml/ 1/2 cup
5) Fresh green chillies - 6
6) Salt to taste
Procedure:
Soak the mustard seeds in warm water for an hour. In a food processor grind together the drained mustard seeds,the garlic,the diced green mango,the chillies and the salt. Slowly trickle the oil in to form an emulsion. Remove when a thick paste has formed and check seasoning. This will keep well for several weeks under refrigeration.

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