If the unexamined life was not worth living, was the unlived life worth examining ? – Paul Kalanithi, When breath comes Air
There are some lines which you read once in a great prose or a book or a write up and then there are some lines like above which comes, hits you, haunts you and you keep on dissecting it. Again and again. How do you interpret this?
I never had a fish fry like this. My first Kolkata style fish fry was at Chandannagore (where else). Deep fried to a golden brown colour or blackish brown, heavy thick and it seemed a delicacy at that point of time. Little did I understand then, that essence of the Fish fry lies in the fish and the fine art of a thin coating which most of the times is compromised with a heavy batter of bread crumb around. One of the best places where one can get Kolkata Style Fish Fry in Chandannagore is Bolai da’s shop near the Chandannagore Church. Bolai da believed in transparency so he never had ready made fish fries. He had a bowl of fillets finely cut, paper thin (let’s not forget that he was running a business), once the order was placed, the fillets were passed on a bowl which had egg whites and other secret ingredients. After tossing, the fillets were taken out and dumped into a heap of bread crumbs. Flipping the fillets with the breadcrumbs for several times and then defining the edges to give a shape of a rectangle would mean the FIsh fry making process has reached the last stage. I would watch the entire process with wonder. It was almost lke a potter giving final shape to his beautiful pot.
Most of the roadside stalls would have the ready to fry rectangular blocks and once ordered they will be deep fried.
What are the fishes used for a Kolkata style Fish Fry?
Bhekti is the king and rules the scene here. Although Bhola bhekti is also used some times and Basa most of the times and offered in disguise as Bhekti.
This Fish fry has a twist to it when compared to Kolkata style fish fry
Instead of the normal one, Madhushree used the crazy cheese which was sent by talented Chef and owner of erstwhile Bodega Urvika Kanoi (one of the best restaurants to open in Kolkata in the recent times and close untimely also). So this is like a double whammy. One bite is a representation of the entire range of texture. This cheese is little adult in taste (tastes can be also be adult, I knew recently). So when Madhushree made this for the son – it was with Amul cheese slices.
Kolkata style Fish fry is one of the automatic choices in a line up of the Great Deep fried evening snack in Kolkata, the others being Alur chop, beguni, chicken Pakoda, cutlet to name a few. Will it be very far away that Kolkata style Fish Fry gets compromised, reinvented or worst case, taken through a round of molecular gastronomy touch? Only time will tell.
As the Bengali New year approaches and most of the restaurants are gearing up for a great spread all across, in the bhaja bhuji section, if there is Beguni or the deep fried egg plant fritters for niramish (vegetarian) people, then there is Fish Fry which epitomises as Kolkata food.This poila boishakh, we have a few of our friends and family coming over for lunch. There will be a few kids too. Hence it is important that we decide on a menu for poila boishakh which will also be child friendly. Without a doubt, begun bhaja and fish fry will be part of the menu. Both of these are popular choices amongst one and all. For dal, we will do some shobji diye bhaja muger dal. Shukto is a must for a lunch menu. For the non vegetarians, there will be Ilish machher paturi and kumro chingri from the kitchen of Rabindranath Tagore’s house and pure vegetarians will get a taste of niramish paturi and phulkopir roast. Will end with papad, aamer ombol and bhapa aamer doi. This Poila Boishakh, if not the above, why not try this fish fry which I am sure will be a crowd pleaser?
When it comes to kitchen hygiene, Madhushree borders on being obsessive. She is however obsessive about not having even one crawling insect in the kitchen. Especially now with 2 kids at home, maintaining kitchen hygiene has become mandatory. Crawling insects, primarily cockroaches are a nuisance. Very often Tugga (the son) eats half way through some food and leaves it on the kitchen counter to be eaten later. Hence it is of utmost importance that the kitchen is cockroach free. There cannot be a possibility of a cockroach crawling or hidden, over his food and then Tugga or anyone at home suffering from food poisoning. The househelps know that if ever any cockroach is even seen anywhere near the kitchen, it needs to be terminated. Hence Lal Hit is always a part of our monthly/quarterly grocery.
The way we insist on hygiene issues at various roadside joints and restaurants, we must pay equal imporatnce to these house pests, especially at a time when there is poila boishakh around the corner and every household has guests. Afterall we don’t want our guests to fall sick over some food. Why not make Lal Hit a part of our grocery list for poila boishakh preparations?
Have a happy and safe poila boishakh.
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Kolkata style Fish Fry
- 12 nos Beckti fillet cut into 3 by 2 inches and as less thickness as possible The size of the fillet will also depend on the size of the fish. It is important to keep the fillet as thin as possible.
- 2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1 no Maggi chicken cube or any other seasoning if you have or else just add salt as required
- 1 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
- 1 tbsp onion juice
- 1/2 cup cheese spread or any other cheese **
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 2 nos Eggs
- 1 cup plain flour
- salt as required
- oil for deep frying
- Make sure that the fillet of fish are completely dry after being washed.
- Then make a mix of ginger garlic paste, chicken cube, lemon juice, onion juice and salt (if required) and then rub it on the fillet and leave it for fifteen to twenty minutes.
- Then take 6 of the fillets on a plate and smear cheese spread over them, a generous layer. If you are using cheese slice, then cut the cheese slice in the size of the fillet and place it on the fillets.
- Then with the other 6 fillets, cover them. So now you have 6 fish fillet sandwiches.
- Then beat the eggs in a little flattened large bowl, where the fillet can be dipped.
- Spread the flour on a plate and also spread the breadcrumbs on another plate.
- Sprinkle a little bit of salt in the breadcrumbs too.
- Now take each sandwich and first dust them with the flour, dip in the egg and finally coat with the breadcrumbs. Basically, right after taking it out from the egg, place it on the breadcrumbs. Use your hand to cover the fillet sandwich with the breadcrumbs making sure the even the edges and the sides are well coated.
- Then place them neatly on a separate plate.
- Heat oil in a frying pan and when the oil is hot, carefully slide the fish fillet sandwiches into the frying pan. Now keep the temperature at a medium and if its burns up fast, you have to lower the heat.
- It takes about 5 to 6 minutes for the fish to cook. Actually the amount of time taken for the fish to cook all the way through the inside also depends on the thickness of the sandwich.
- When the fillet is a dark golden brown, take it out with a slotted spoon and place of a kitchen towel so that the excess grease is soaked out.
- Then serve the fillet with some kashundi (ideally) or with any other favourable dip.