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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