Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Chaal Diye Muror Ghonto - Fish Pilaf

Chaal Diye Muror Ghonto
In Bengali, muro means fish head and ghonto is a melange of different ingredients. Adding rice and potatoes is one way to cook fish heads in the Bengali style. Muror Ghonto can also be made with a variety of vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage or bottle squash. It can also be combined with mung dal and served as a lentil course. 

Most Bengalis love fish. Filleted fish is only used to make breaded fried fish. In most Bengali households, the entire fish, bone-in and including the head and tail, is consumed. In fact, fish head is considered to be the tastiest part of the fish. In my experience, the heads of rui or katla (both of which belong in the carp family) are the tastiest. I've tried using salmon head and love its flavour, but the bones are very sharp and takes expertise to remove in order to avoid injury to the throat. Today I was in the Asian market and picked up a package of grouper head. Unfortunately, rui & katla are not as readily available.

Hubby won't touch fish head because of a fear of its bones, but enjoys the rest of this pulao. For him, I included a few pieces of fish, devoid of bones. Make sure to marinate the fish head in a lot of garlic paste to get rid of the fishy odour. Even though it's getting very cold outside, the doors and windows were opened wide while this was cooking. 

A combination of mustard and olive oil has been used to cook this dish, but any vegetable oil will do. 

1 big fish head, cut into large pieces & marinated in next 4 ingredients for 10 minutes
1/4 cup mustard or vegetable oil
2 tsp. garlic paste
1/4 tsp. turmeric
salt to taste

1 cup basmati rice, washed until water runs clear & drained in a sieve
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut in big chunks
1 large onion, cubed
4 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
2 sticks cinnamon
2 black or 4 green cardamoms
2 bay leaves
3-4 dried red chilies
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1/2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. Kashmiri mirch/paprika/chili powder
2 tsp. ginger paste
4 cups water, left to simmer
4 greens chilies
1 tsp. ghee

  1. Place ginger paste, cumin, coriander & chili powders along with 1/4 tsp. salt in a ramekin, mix with 1/4 cup water and set aside. 
  2. In a separate ramekin, mix garam masala powder with 2 Tbsp. water and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet and fry the fish head pieces, reserving the residual mustard oil in which they were marinated.
  4. When the pieces of fish head turn golden brown, remove from skillet and set aside.
  5. Fry the potatoes until golden brown, remove from skillet and set aside.
  6. Pour the reserved mustard oil and remaining olive oil into the skillet over high heat.
  7. Add cinnamon sticks, cardamoms, bay leaves, dried chilies and cumin seeds and stir-fry until the cumin seeds sputter.
  8. Stir-fry onions until golden brown and add the ginger paste mixture.
  9. Stir-fry onions and spice mixture until oil resurfaces.
  10. Add rice to the skillet and stir-fry, making sure rice is coated thoroughly with spices, for at least 5 minutes.
  11. Season liberally with salt to taste and add fish head pieces and potatoes.
  12. Pour simmering water over contents of skillet and stir gently.
  13. Bring to a boil over high heat and allow to boil for 10 minutes.
  14. Cover skillet, lower heat to low and simmer until all the water is absorbed by the rice and oil resurfaces around the edges of the skillet.
  15. Drop green chilies into skillet, garnish with ghee and remove from heat.
Serve as a main course with a vegetable and lentil dish.

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