Monday, 19 March 2018

Tel Koi / Koi or the climbing perch fish in a spicy gravy

I am  a serious case of writer's block these days.
After I uploaded these photographs, I have been trying to write something ... anything that can pass off as a decent post ... but no luck.
I kept coming here and going back without writing a single word.
And so, after struggling for the past few weeks, I decided to make a post today ... come what may.
Write or no write.

Ever since I saw this ad on facebook about a fish shop that sells fresh fish all the way from far away Kolkata and Odisha, I have been waiting  for some free space in my freezer.
And finally, after my stock of Rui, Tyangra and some fresh water prawns was successfully depleted, I called this shop to know what they had for the day.
When I heard they had Koi, visions of my Thamma's Tel Koi danced before my eyes.
And the beautiful, unique flavour of the Koi in my mouth.

I don't remember this fish ever being cooked by Ma but sometimes I did get to eat it when we were at Dadu's place. I do not even remember if they were from our pond or bought from the local market.
But I do remember that Thamma made something real awesome with them.
And especially that gravy .... rich, yellow and spicy .... perfect with a morsel of boiled rice. And a bite of kancha lonka / raw green chilli after a mouthful.

I was happy I would get to eat fresh Koi sitting here ... so far away from home.
Koi is one fish that has to be bought live.
You are not supposed to buy, forget eat, dead Koi.
So when I stepped into the shop and saw two big tubs filled with water and some Koi and Magur swimming around in each of them, I did not know how to react.
Because I had never bought or dealt with Koi earlier.

It is a strong fish and does not give in easily.
And the thought of holding a bag of wriggling Koi and carry them back home was enough for me to give up and turn track.
My vegetarian husband was equally new to this barbaric side of Bengalis and took refuge in the car, mumbling something about parking problems.
A sudden brainwave saved me from being witness to the whole process .... I asked them to prepare the fish and hold it for me while I go finish some errands.

So it was good one hour later that saw me back home with my loot.
And I set about to make the Tel Koi.
A call home resulted in confused recipes .... Ma has never cooked it and Jethima was confused between her recipe and Thamma's.
I got the gist and decided to stick to a light simple gravy with just a few main things.

Jethima, knowing that I am not a fan of Jeere / Cumin powder, did insist on using it in this gravy.
I did ... but it was roasted jeere guro ....  so I have no idea if this gravy is authentic.
But it did turn out well.

Need :

Koi / Climbing perch fish - 6 pieces
( cleaned and marinated with turmeric powder + salt )
Curd - ½ cup, beaten smooth
Kalo Jeere / Nigella seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin / Jeera powder - 1 tsp
Coriander / Dhania powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder / Lonka guro - 1 tbsp
Grated ginger - 1 tsp
Fresh green chillies - 4, slit
Mustard oil - 2 tbsp + 2 tbsp + tbsp + 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Water - as needed

How to :

Heat 2 tbsp of the mustard oil in an iron kadahi.

Lightly fry the Koi pieces and keep aside.

Make a thin mix of the cumin + coriander + haldi + red chilli powders and some water.

Add 2 tbsp oil ot the kadahi.

Add the nigella seeds and a few green chillies.

Add the grated ginger and then immediately the powders mix and cook well on low heat till oil starts to leave the sides.

Now add the beaten curd and some water and mix well.

Add salt and bring to a boil.

Add the fish pieces and cover.

Simmer for 5 minutes.

Spread the last of the raw mustard oil and some more green chillies.

Remove from heat and serve hot.

This goes only and only with steaming hot boiled rice.
The pungency of raw mustard oil combined with the flavour of green chillies and curd makes this gravy truly lip smacking.