About this blog: A tried and tested easy recipe of Calcutta Style Fish Fry and a few stories of eating fish fries around the globe.
You can not go to Kolkata and not eat Fish Fry. The breadcrumb coated deep fried Calcutta Bhetki fish fillet is a thing of pride and nostalgia for the city and her humans. Be it a special family occasion or a little celebration or a big fat Bengali wedding reception, Fish Fry is the way of life in this part of the world!
While the usual mustard oil and green chilies infused Bengali fish curries form the unique part of the authentic Bengali cuisine, how this rather Anglophile version of fried fish made a permanent place in our food culture is pretty intriguing.
Later in my travels, I have found a close cousin of Kolkata fish fry in Ethiopia. They call that “Nile River Cotulet” and serve it fresh with a side of mayo (or was it Tartar sauce?). Staying true to the iconic portion size of Africa, one Nile Fish Cotulet can feed two or three Bengali at one go. But that was quite an European influence on Ethiopian cuisine which is otherwise dominated by Enjera and likes.
The regular fish fry they serve in other parts of the world, including other states of India demands a fresh fish steak marinated with spices and herbs and grilled or shallow fried. Think Rawa Fried king fish of Goa! Think the Chettinad Fish Fry of Tamil Nadu. The grilled prawns of China Town, Bangkok.
When I posted a video of S taking the first bite off the first Fish Fry we ever
created cooked at home, someone wrote on Instagram, “Oh, that crunch!” That was sort of the moment of truth for me. I am writing this blog post and remembering the fish fry we cooked and all that comes to my mind is the beautiful aroma of green chilies and coriander leaves oozing out of the bread crumbles. Guess, its the unique and magical assimilation of flavors that renders Fish Fry the time-tested success and favoritism among mortal humans.
Though we have grown up hearing the legends of “Petuk” dada who would eat ten or more Fish fries in one evening at a wedding party. I mean I have fasted the whole day in anticipation of cooking four fish fries and eating them all but had to stop after 2.5. I wonder how and when that Dada finished 10 of the fish fry fishes at one go! That would have been quite the show!
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For hunting the best fish fry in Kolkata, you should put your trust on the iconic decades century old cabin restaurants. I particularly love the fish fry they serve at Mitra cafe, Allen’s Kitchen (Prawn cutlet here is even better), Dilkhusha and Panna in Behala. Though the last one is not a cabin restaurant! Of course you may choose to wander along the old narrow dingy lanes of Decker’s street and stop by Chittoda’s Suruchi and have one of the best meal of this lifetime!
Ingredients for cooking Kolkata Style Bhetki Macher Fish Fry
Fish fillet: 4 pieces (70 gm each)
(Bhetki is could be substituted with sea-bass if at all you cant arrange for one)
How to fillet the fish?
In Kolkata, the fish seller will be a pro at handling fish filleting. If you are getting a whole Bhetki (Sea-bass) you can try out your knife. Any youtube video and a sharp knife are all you need. Ensure you feel the central bone while filleting the fish. Get rid of the skin as well.
I used half of a 2 KG fish. The tail part was used to make fillet, rest of the fish was used to make Paturi and Kaliya. I got a couple of fillet which I further halved. That was my desired thickness.
Green chillies: A handful
Coriander leaves: A handful
Black pepper: 1 TBSP
Salt to taste
Onion: 1 mid sized
Garlic pods: 10
Lemon juice: 1 piece
Breadcrumbs: 3 cups (600 gm)
Egg: 3/4 pieces for egg dip
Kasundi (mustard sauce) for serving
Procedure for making Fish Fry!
- Marinade the fish fillet for half an hour with salt and lemon juice
- Make a fine paste of onions, garlic, green chilies (mine were ripe hence red in color).
- Finely chop coriander leaves
- Crush some dry roasted black pepper
- Make a paste with the ingredients mentioned above (barring point number 1). We would call this Green paste, okay?
- Assemble the paste that will be the second marinade on the fish fillet. This should be of thick consistency.
- Marinade the fish fillet with the prepared green paste. Keep this aside for half an hour. Meanwhile prepare the crust.
- Beat 3 eggs and add some water to it. Sprinkle some salt.
- Spread the breadcrumb on a flat surface/large plate. Add a pinch of salt to this.
- Add the fish fillet to the bread crumb. Ensure the green paste sticks to the fillet.
- Dip the fillet in the beaten egg. Apply second coat of breadcrumb.
- Using a knife, press the sides of the fillet and give them desired shape. Traditional Kolkata Bhetki fish fry have a diamond shape. Think rhombus from the high school geometry book.
- Heat oil. I used vegetable oil. This dish needs to be deep fried so go generous with the oil.
- Once the oil is hot enough, slide in the fish fillet. They are coated with breadcrumbs. They need to be fried for 3/4 minutes on each side. Be careful to heat the oil before you slide in the fish fillets. Otherwise, the fry would not attain the desired crunch!
- Serve Fish fry with a side of salad and a few spoons of Kasundi (mustard sauce). Dijon mustard can come a close second if you think finding Kasundi is a challenge!
Kolkata Fish Fry is sacred! You got to serve and devour it hot!
Pro tip: Save the fish fry fillet in air tight container if you are planning to consume them at a later date.
If you have loved this recipe do try the following:
- Daab Chingri: Prawns cooked inside Green coconut shell.
- Pabda Macher Teljhal
- Macher Dimer Paturi
- Bengali style light Mutton Curry with Cumin and Potato halves!
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