Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Koi Maacher Jhaal - Climbing Perch in a Hot Sauce

Koi Maacher Jhaal
Maacher Jhaal comes in two varieties. There is Sorshe Batar Jhaal or fish in mustard sauce and there is Maacher Jhaal which simply means it is hot and spicy. This dish is of the second variety. It usually is made with only 5 ingredients: fish, nigella seeds, diced green chilies, turmeric powder and chili powder or Kashmiri mirch. Loving tomatoes as much as I do, a beefsteak tomato went into the mix.

Climbing Perch or Koi Maach, available in the Asian markets, are flash-frozen before being packaged for export from places like Vietnam. Flash-freezing is an accelerated process in which fish are individually frozen solid at extremely low temperatures immediately after being harvested. This allows fish to be caught, processed and frozen solid in hours rather than days. Flash-freezing prevents fish from getting freezer burn so that we, the consumers, are able to enjoy fish at its peak of perfection. Of course there is no comparison to fresh-caught fish from local Indian markets, but we are grateful that the varieties of fish we grew up with, are available to us at all!

This dish generally has a layer of oil (usually mustard oil) floating on the top, but I scaled it down to a mere 4 tablespoons.

1 lb. climbing perch, thawed & tossed with turmeric powder and salt to taste
4 Tbsp. mustard oil
1 tsp. kalo jeera/kalonji/nigella seeds
2 green chilies, sliced
4 green chilies, left whole
1 beefsteak tomato, diced
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
2 tsp. Kashmiri mirch/chili powder
1 cup simmering water
salt to taste

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat and brown fish on both sides.
  2. Remove fish from pan and set aside.
  3. Heat remaining oil and sputter nigella seeds, 2 sliced green chilies, turmeric powder and chili powder.
  4. Add tomatoes and stir-fry until oil resurfaces.
  5. Add simmering water and return fish to the pan.
  6. Once the sauce begins to bubble, turn fish over, lower heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
  7. Adjust salt to taste, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with whole green chilies.
Serve as a main dish over hot basmati rice.

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