SHORPUTI JHAL (SILVER BARB FISH CURRY)


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Shorputi Jhal (Silver Barb fish) is a rustic Bengali style fish curry flavored with nigella seeds and some typical Indian spices. Don't have Shorputi? No worries, replace sliver barb with any fish of your choice, and enjoy!

Maach (fish) and Bengalis are inseparable and if you are a Bong too, you are no stranger to this eternal bond of love. And, if you are not, give this recipe a try to better understand why we swear by our daily diet of fish. Since fish is so prolific in a Bengali diet, there are different ways of cooking it. Bhaja (fried), Jhol (stewed), Jhaal (curried), and Bhapa (steamed fish) are some popular methods of cooking fish to name a few. 

WHAT IS MACHER JHAL?

Maacher Jhal is quintessential Bengali comfort food that can be The literal meaning of Jhal is hot and spicy. Maacher Jhal is, therefore, fish cooked in a spicy sauce. The recipe has a dominance of green chilies (both whole and slit) which pretty much justifies the name.
 
Maacher Jhal is prepared with almost all types of fish. However, generally, small-sized fish is preferred for this method of cooking. Here, I have used Shorputi or Silver Barb fish to make my favorite Maacher Jhal. You may replace this fish with any of your favorite fish.
 
Having grown up in Kolkata, fish has always been my staple food. I love eating fish in every form, but Maacher Jhal has that special kick that never fails to tantalize my tastebuds. Often too much use of spices tends to mask the naturally sweet flavor of small fishes. The beauty of Maacher Jhal lies in the fact that the simplicity of the dish preserves the natural taste of the fish. 
 
Making Maacher Jhal is easy-peasy. You don't need to cook the fish for hours or use a ton of ingredients. Simply fry the fish and dunk it in the delectable melange of spices and freshly chopped green chilies. Finish off with a drizzle of mustard oil for that extra kick, and enjoy with steaming hot rice. And, that my dear friends, is what heaven looks like to a Bengali!

ABOUT THIS RECIPE

This recipe is an everyday recipe for a Bengali household. One of the easiest ways to cook fish, this recipe is ready in a mere 15 minutes. The exquisite aroma of nigella seeds and green chilies coupled with mustard oil makes almost any fish palatable. This no-fuss recipe calls for just a few ingredients, and no onion, ginger, or garlic is required.
 
So, if you are in a hurry or expecting some guests on short notice, this recipe fits the bill perfectly. The simplicity of the dish may baffle you but trust me on this; the result will turn out great. 
 

INGREDIENTS

Fish - You may use any fish of your choice. Small whole fish, fish steaks, or fillets all work well. Here I have used Silber barb fish.
 
Spices and condiments - Turmeric powder, chili powder, cumin powder, nigella seeds, and salt.
 
Green chilies and chopped cilantro.
 
Mustard oil for cooking.

HOW TO MAKE IT?

In almost every Bengali fish recipe, the first step is to marinate the fish. Marinating is as simple as it can get. Just clean and pat dry the whole fish (in case of smaller fishes) or fish steaks and smear them with salt and turmeric powder. Keep aside until you are ready to fry them.
 
The next step is to fry the fish. Heat mustard oil in a wok. The extent to which you would fry the fish is a matter of personal choice. Some people like to fry the fish a little longer until the edges turn crispy, while others prefer to fry them lightly. I prefer to fry the fish for a little longer until it turns a bright golden.
 
Next, it is time to make the masala mix. In a small bowl, combine turmeric powder, chili powder, cumin powder, and salt. 
 
Temper the leftover oil (after frying fish) with nigella seeds and slit green chilies. When the seeds crackle, add the masala mix that you prepared. Saute for a few minutes until the oil separates from the masala. 
 
Add warm water and let it simmer. Adjust the salt if required. When the gravy starts to bubble, add the fried fish. Let it cook for a few more minutes. Add some chopped cilantro(optional) and whole or slit green chilies. Drizzle with some mustard oil and turn off the gas.
 
Allow a standing time of 5-7 minutes before serving.

VARIATIONS

Maacher Jhal is a blanket recipe that can be made with different kinds of fish and in different ways. The version that I have shared here is the simplest. If you have time in hand or you are preparing it for guests or you want to make it a little more interesting, here are some variations that you may try:
 
You may add some mustard paste with the masala mix and proceed as usual. To prepare the mustard paste soak mustard seeds (black or yellow as per your preference) for about 10-15 minutes. Grind it to a smooth paste with green chilies and some salt. 

You may add some chopped onion to this recipe for adding some body to the fish curry. Fry the onions just after tempering the oil with nigella seeds. When the onions turn a light golden, go ahead and add the masala mix. The rest of the recipe will remain unchanged.

You may add some ginger paste for an extra kick.
 
You may add some chopped tomato or tomato paste with the masala mix.
 
You may add a combination of tomato and ginger paste too.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does mustard oil taste like?

Mustard oil has a unique pungent taste that is characteristic of the mustard family, Brassicaceae. For example, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip, radish, horseradish, or wasabi all belong to the same family.

What is the difference between Maacher Jhol and Maacher Jhal?

Maacher Jhol and Maacher Jhal are the two most popular ways in which fish is cooked in Bengal. While Jhol is more like a stew, thinner in consistency, and often cooked with other vegetables like potatoes, cauliflowers, tomatoes, etc., Jhal is fish cooked in spicy sauce. It is dense in texture and almost never uses any vegetable.

What are nigella seeds?

Nigella seeds are also referred to as onion seeds. They have an oregano-like quality, with a slight bitterness, and a warm, toasted-onion flavor. They are quite popular in Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. They are used in almost everything like pastries, pilafs, curries, vegetarian dishes, and pickles.

Can nigella seeds be eaten raw?

Yes, you may add them whole to salads, sauces, and even soups before serving. They may be used as a replacement for sesame seeds without the sweet element. You may also add them to your bread dough for a warm, crusty flavor.

What other fish can I use for this recipe?

You may use almost all types of fish for this recipe. Generally small fish is best suited. You may also use boneless fillets of freshwater fish if you prefer. Tilapia, rockfish, and cod fillets will work well with this recipe. Cut the fillet into 2-3 inch pieces and follow the recipe.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

Maacher Jhal tastes best when served with steamed white rice.

STORING SUGGESTIONS

Although advised to be consumed on the same day of cooking, you may store leftover Maacher Jhal in an airtight container in a refrigerator and consume it within 2 days. The sharpness of spices tends to fade away with time. When ready to eat, heat the Maacher Jhol and drizzle with some fresh mustard oil for freshness.

SHORPUTI JHAL (SILVER BARB FISH CURRY)

SHORPUTI JHAL (SILVER BARB FISH CURRY)

Yield: 4
Author: The GradChef
Prep time: 5 MinCook time: 20 Mininactive time: 7 MinTotal time: 32 Min
Shorputi Jhal (Silver Barb fish) is a rustic Bengali style fish curry flavored with nigella seeds and some typical Indian spices. Don't have Shorputi? No worries, replace sliver barb with any fish of your choice, and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 4-5 Shorputi whole fish (steak for bigger fish)
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp nigella seeds
  • 2-3 green chilies
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil (plus more for drizzling)
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Clean and pat dry the whole fish or fish steaks and smear them with salt and turmeric powder. Keep aside until you are ready to fry them.
  2. In a small bowl, combine turmeric powder, chili powder, cumin powder, and salt.
  3. Heat mustard oil in a wok. When the oil is hot carefully fry the fish until it turns a bright golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
  4. Temper the leftover oil with nigella seeds and slit green chilies. When the seeds crackle, add the masala mix that you prepared. Saute for a few minutes until the oil separates from the masala.
  5. Add warm water and let it simmer. Adjust the salt if required. When the gravy starts to bubble, add the fried fish. Let it cook for a few more minutes. Add some chopped cilantro(optional) and whole or slit green chilies. Drizzle with some mustard oil and turn off the gas.
  6. Allow a standing time of 5-7 minutes before serving.

Notes:

  • Replace with any freshwater fish or fish fillet available to you.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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Comments

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