26 Jan Fish with spinach and potatoes -the soupy way, traditional Assamese style
It’s time I guess that I introduce some receipes brought and born out of my own culture(Assamese cooking) before my friends, relations bury me for not having mentioned even a single receipe conceived out of my roots, the culture that I belong too..and before they diabolically start ignoring my blog for not making a conscious effort of perpetuating
the cultural cusine through my posts.
And why not, there are hoards of amazing recips from my culture, a distinct style, a discerning aroma, specific spices(the paach phoran) and myriads of lip smacking poultry recipes..
Traditionally non vegeterian by culture, there are myriad recipes that includes all kinds of meat ranging from fish (river water fish),chicken, mutton, pegion(sorry guys, but that’s my favourite actually and is quite a delicacy back home, but not very accessible now, except in restaurants), duck, pork, deer(although extinct now,but vivid memory of my uncles bringing deer meat home once back from their hunting expedition, as hunting back then was a passion synonomous of the zamindari culture, my grandfather being the zamindar ie the landlord of the town )), dove, prawns, even tortoise(not popular now though, although i remember relishing it at my granny”s home as a kid)..Amongst these , fish, chicken, mutton ,duck and pork are the most popular..And there are numerous amazing ways to cook them with varied herbs, spices and other accompiments.I will post these recipes as and when i can but for now let’s start with the most simplest of all, which is the fish cooked in a gravy of spinach and potatoes.Considering that assamese cuisine is more bland compared with the other parts ofthe country and devoid of the masalas, this one is a regular in most households on any given day..
For the lesser known, it is more of a soupy style so to say ( we call it “jhol” though ,meaning the thin gravy or otherwise” massor jhool””). Now fish gravy is made generally of spincah, or cauliflower or just tomatoes.It also has other forms of preparation with different types of leafy greens specific to the soil of Assam only..These are the more classic styles and i begin with the massor jhool with spinach..
Mustard oil and paach phoron: these are what makes the cultural difference to the dish.
Here, although simple in its form, the addition of the classic spice “paach phoron” is the twist..Paach phoron means the five temperings( paach means 5 and phoran connotes tempering), there are five spices mixed together which goes into a receipe..This is classic and belongs exclusively to the bengali and assamese style of coking..No where else in the world will you see or hear about “paach phoron”.The five spices mixed are cumin (jeera)seeds, nigella(kalonji/kaljeera) seeds, fennel(saunf) seeds, mustard(sarso) seeds and fenugreek(methi) seeds.
Another important pointer is the fact that all assamese and bengali fish receipes are based on river water fish, so while trying out this receipe, do not commit the blunder of supplementing the river water fish with sea fish or anything else.The taste will be entirely different. If you do not have access to river water fish, you could just try the gravy which is almost like a soup with healthy ingredients of the spinach.It would be like a spinach brew..But this receipe has to be prepared only with river water fish like Rohu /Catla/Chitol.
For tourists and travellers who would want to visit Assam perhaps to witness pure scenic beauty ,the mesmerizing splendour of the mountains , the rivers and streams, the grandeour and adventure of the Kaziranga National Park ,
which is a UNESCO world heritage site(www.kaziranga.co.in) ,
paying obeisance to Maa Kamakhya at the Kamakhya temple,witness tantriknism; relishing authentic assamese cuisine would also be an important part in the list of to- do things. And the best places to savour Assamese cuisine in the capital city of Guwahati would be the very famous restaurant “Delicacy”(my personal favourite , and i never miss a meal at this place whenever i am in the city), which has featured many a times on NDTV good times( Highway on my plate), and “Paradise”.There are others also like “Myhong” ( which serves more of North Eastern Cuisine )and “Khorikaa”, but you cannot miss the wide range of preparation at “Delicacy” for sure..The excuisite menu has a whole lot of receipes like chicken with raw papaya, Duck with lentils, Chicken in sesame seeds, Pegion in black pepper, Pork with bamboo shoots, Duck with gourd, Fish in mustard, Fish with differnt types of herbs, Fish head with puffed rice or lentils,and many more which can be found nowhere else outside the State.The food is awesome and authentically Assamese .In short they serve assamese food at its original best..And for the vegan guys, yessss..they do serve vegetarian dishes as well, so no worries…
River water Fish(Rohu or Catla)- 4-5 pieces
Spinach leaves-half a bunch(chopped)
Potatoes-1 cup chopped( or boiled)
Onions- 1 small sliced lengthwise
Garlic pods-chopped 6-7
paach phoron- 1 tsp
turmeric powder-1/2 tsp
coriander powder-1 tsp
salt- as per taste
cumin powder(optional)-1 tsp
mustard oil- 2 tbsp
Green Chillis- 2 slit lengthwise
Juice of half a lime
For the fish, marinate it with turmeric powder, salt and keep aside for 15 mins..Deep fry in hot mustard oil and keep aside until the gravy starts boiling.
Drop additional mustard oil in the pan which was used to fry the fishes, and wait till its piping hot..For the right taste, the oil needs to be hot.Drop paach phoron and garlic ..add green chilli slit into two halves..Now add sliced onion and fry for some time.Add turmeric powder, cumin and coriander powder and fry well. Now add the potatoes(i used boiled potatoes to save time) and fry for some time..Pour some water if required or if the masala sticks to the bottom. Add the chopped spinach leaves and fry for 2 minutes or so..Dont over fry them coz the leves are not supposed to be fried and cooked, just stirfried..Now add two cups of water and salt and let the gravy boil.. Since this is like a soupy gravy you need to put a large quantity of water..Cover with a lid and let it boil till bubbles come up..When the water has absorbed the flavour of the spinach and potatoes mixed in it, put the pieces of fried fishes into the gravy, cover the lid and put it on low flame for about 5-6 minutes until the flavour of the fish goes out and mixes with the gravy and you get a fishy taste to the gravy..Once boiled, the water will reduce a bit and its done..Sqeeze half a lime juice before switching off the gas .
A soupy texture and a tangy taste with the addition of lime, this is an absolute delight to be savoured with plain steam rice ..A household daily routine, this dish very simple in technique yet has very strong nutrients needed for your body.The sweetness of the river water fish and spinach, an apt combination with all the vital vitamins will leave you wanting for more .
And for the vegan folks, just try the soup /brew whatever you
might like to call it as, it will be as satiating as the preparation with the
fish. This could be just a new invented spinach and potato soup receipe for you…