Every family has that one meal that reminds them of home. It’s usually simple and uncomplicated, the meal that you remember eating on a weeknight after a long day of school and homework. For me, that dish is bhaat, daal, and macher jhol. Rice, lentils, and fish curry.
My family hails from West Bengal in India and we’re obsessed with fish. Growing up, we moved from the United Arab Emirates, to France, to Indonesia, to Texas and Bombay, but fish was always a staple with our dinner. The best part about living in different countries is that we would get to try different types of local fish (pomphret, carp, Indonesian gurami, Bengali hilsa), but always cooked as a simple macher jhol with Bengali spices. The ultimate comfort food that made our home feel like home, no matter where in the world we were.
I miss my mom’s fish curry every day. My recipe will never be as good as hers, but at least it satisfies my cravings for a little taste of home on cold Chicago nights. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Pieces of salmon, cut in squares, marinaded in turmeric and salt
Kalo jeere (black cumin) – the most important spice for Bengali cuisine!
Salmon simmering in the light curry of onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and turmeric
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 salmon fillet, cut in 4-5 squares
1/4 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp ginger paste
Salt, to taste
2 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)
1/2 tsp kalo jeere (black cumin)
1/2 tomato, diced (can be substituted with 1/2 tsp tomato ketchup or paste)
Marinade the salmon pieces in 1 and a half tsp of haldi and season generously with salt.
Heat oil on a non-stick pan – use your best judgment, but I usually add a little extra than I normally would. A little bit of extra oil makes curries more delicious! Once the oil is heated, pour the kalo jeere and let fry for 15 seconds. Add in the onions, garlic, and ginger and fry this mixture together for a minute or till the onions are slightly brown. Add in salt, tomatoes (or ketchup) and the remaining haldi. Stir for a minute on low to medium heat.
Increase the heat to high and gently drop in the salmon pieces. Fry the salmon on each side for a minute. Pour half a cup of water into the mixture and let the salmon simmer in this mixture for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the mixture to let the salmon continue cooking until ready to serve. Do not overcook! The salmon will cook very quickly, especially if they’re cut into small squares, so just keep an eye on the fish and remove from heat so that they’re as soft and succulent as possible.
Serve with a plate of hot rice and make sure to mix it with the curry to enjoy the true flavor of ‘macher jhol’.