Fish Head with Bottle Gourd
Not long ago, I would make a list of food that I wanted to have on my annual visit to home. I would then call up Maa and relay the contents of the list to her. Among them, there would always be the mention of a fish head preparation. I was staying in a vegetarian hostel in Mumbai then and while I had access to non-veg food from restaurants, fish head curry or maasor murighonto in Assamese could never be ordered. This dish, I think, is savoured only in the eastern and north-eastern part of the curry. I pity the rest of the country who has still not tasted this awesome dish.
There are a lot of ways to cook the fish head with. But fish has always been my weak point. I also made the mistake of thinking that Maa would continue to be the cook of the family and I could have my favourite fish head dish any time I wanted. Now, I have taught myself to cook my own favourite dishes, but with my own twists and short-cuts.
And talking of short-cuts, I never believed in them till I entered the kitchen. A full-time job, marriage and a baby later, my faith in kitchen short-cuts have seen many a meal through. All the leisurely slow-cooking, steaming and roasting have been taken over by a shrill, whistle blowing pressure cooker. Though I use it mainly to cook rice and dal, I call upon its use in cooking vegetables when I am in dire straits. Take that day, for example, when the baby just refused to let go of me. I despaired looking at the watch, dinner had to be cooked and there I was, held captive by tiny hands around my shoulders. I was planning to cook bottle gourd or lauki and my father-in-law had already chopped and kept the vegetable ready. I also aware of a small fish head lying in the fridge. So while singing a horribly off-tune lullaby to the baby, I made up my quick and easy fish head recipe. Let me share it with you. I am sure you have a better imagination than mine and maybe more time on hand to take this simple dish to another level.
Lau aru maasor murighonto, roughly translated into Bottle Gourd and Fish Head Mish-mash (eh?)
1 large fish head, preferably rohu or katla (I had a very small one)
3 bowls of bottle gourd, chopped
1 onion, sliced
1 ripe tomato, chopped
2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon each of turmeric powder, cumin powder and coriander powder
2 teaspoon refined oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Smear the fish head with a sprinkling of turmeric powder and salt and lightly fry in oil. Keep aside. Now, take a pressure cooker and tip in the chopped bottle gourd, chopped tomato and the fish head with half cup of water and a pinch of salt. Put the cooker up on the gas and wait till one whistle before lowering the heat. Keep on low heat for 3-4 minutes and take it off the gas. When the steam leaves the pressure cooker, open it and give the contents inside a good mash-up. Cover it and move on to prepare the second phase.
Take a wok or kadai, heat 2 teaspoon of oil and let the mustard and cumin seeds splutter. Then add the onions, chillies and ginger garlic paste and stir till the rawness disappears. Put in the turmeric powder, cumin powder and coriander powder and mix well. Now, tip in the mashed bottle gourd and fish head into the wok and stir well. Check for salt and pepper. Let the mixture simmer for 2 minutes and switch off the gas. There, nothing more to do, just serve alongside a steaming mound of rice and enjoy the meal!
You can do so much more with this recipe, for example:
- Add some coconut milk at the end and get that coastal fishy flavor,
- Add a dollop of ghee (clarified butter) before serving and let that be another experience in itself, or
- Cook the bottle gourd and fish head in the pressure cooker with some channa dal (Bengal Gram Dal) soaked an hour beforehand.
The possibilities are endless. So, work up your imagination and work up an appetite as well, for you are sure to go for second helpings of this dish, trust me!