At the moment I’m cooking faster than can I process the pictures and write it all up. So I’ve got a backlog of recipes from the past week.
Here’s a classical Bengali fish dish that we often have at my mum’s. It’s called “mas biran”, which basically means fried fish. The dish is actually a starter in Bengali cuisine. I’ve made it here as a main dish though as it’s more than adequate to be one. The fish is one of my all time favourites. It’s a freshwater fish that has a very distinct flavour that I only know in this particular kind of fish. It’s called “Khoi or Koi” in Bengali. In Khmer it’s called “Trey Krung”. The downside of this fish is that it has a lot of bones. But that’s not a problem for us coming from Bangladesh as we eat with our right hand and can pick the bones individually with our fingers.
I’ve been scouring the internet for hours now looking for the English name but without success. Also when I bought the fish it looked like this:
With no scales, the head and the tail missing, I couldn’t tell what kind of fish this was. I’m not an expert but after spending almost a year in Bangladesh before I came here, I do recognize many of the fishes I bought and ate there. And I’ve seen some of the same fish here in Cambodia. Anyway, I recognized the fish from the taste.
In the UK you can get fish from Bangladesh in Bengali food shops. London’s East End is sprawling with them especially in Brick Lane or Whitechapel. I’ve seen this type of fish in Thai food shops in Berlin. So that would be another place to look. I will put up another picture of this fish before it’s been descaled so you can recognize it when you see it.
Oh, and I have changed the dish slightly!
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Fried Cambodian Fish Bengali Style
½ kilo/ 1 pound of small fish (size ⅔ length of my hand)
½ bulb of garlic crushed with my knife
5 Thai chillies (whole with stalk cut off)
2 tablespoons of fresh turmeric root pounded in a mortar and pestle (or 1 ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder)
3 kaffir lime leaves
½ teaspoon chilli flakes or chilli powder
½ teaspoon paprika powder
½ cup oil
⅓ mexican pepper cut into thin 1 inch strips and small sprinkle of fresh coriander to garnish
2 cups of plain jasmine rice (or other white rice)
Red Thai chillies & fresh turmeric root (washed that’s why they are shining)
Yellow parts are the Trey Krung/Koi roe (fish eggs)
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1. Descale the fish and remove the tail, fins and entrails (guts).
2. Wash thoroughly until it doesn’t feel slimy any more.
3. Rub 1-2 teaspoons of salt on all of the fish.
4. Heat up the oil in a pan and put in the garlic and 1 minute later lay the fish in.
5. Put the crushed turmeric and chillies into the pan. Make sure it’s on the oil not on the fish. The turmeric will colour the fish yellow.
6. Fry for about 3 minutes then add the lime leaves, paprika and chilli powder.
7. After another 3-4 minutes or until the fish starts to brown slightly, turn over carefully and fry the other side for 6 minutes.
8. The last couple of minutes cover the pan so that the steam builds and the inside of the fish is cooked well.
8. Turn of the heat and transfer the fish onto a serving tray, then sprinkle with the mexican chillies and fresh coriander.
Preparation time: 15 minutes (25 min. if you have to descale and take out the guts yourself)
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
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Really only the tomato and onion salad is needed as an accompaniment with the fish. The aubergine fry is optional but goes very well with it too. And the sauce is a connoisseurs extra:-)
Please see the next posts for the recipes of the sauce, salad and side dish!!
The fish is fried on medium heat.
In Bangladesh they fry the fuck out of the fish. This has 3 reasons. Firstly because of the lack of refrigeration and frying long preserves the fish for a day or 2 longer. Secondly because in Bangladesh (at least in the north where I come from) they don’t like a certain smell of fish to be present in the final dish and soaking in salt water (I’ve rubbed with salt-it’s quicker) and then frying in turmeric gets rid of this smell. Thirdly the fish after it’s been fried is then used in many fish curry dishes. Frying causes the fish not to fall apart in the dish.
When I talk about Bengali Cuisine I mean as in Bangladesh and particularly in the northern district Sylhet where I am from. Dishes vary in their nuances from family to family. So the Bengali recipes (unless otherwise stated) come from my family and any variances are my interpretations/experimentations of them. Doesn’t make them better, just a little different and probably often not even noticeable if you don’t grow up eating our food.
The dishes also change with the migrant Sylheti Bengali families living abroad due to different spices and vegetables being available.
Bengali can also mean the north east of India which includes Calcutta. But I will state this specifically if this is what I mean. Moreover the food varies quite a bit even when one travels from the north to the south of Bangladesh.
In Cambodia they deep fry or charcoal grill the fish till its almost black and actually looks errrmm….not appetizing. But the flesh inside is nice and soft and delicious!