Macher jhal, jhol, kalia, kosha, paturi...... everything you will get in a Bengali kitchen..... Macher jhol is perhaps a light curry, macher jhal refers to a curry using mustard paste.... kalia is a really spicy treat using lots of spices and onion and kosha is a dry curry using very less water, paturi steamed in banana leaves. Well, I have not really done any research on it but delivered what I grew up hearing.
Bhetki or Seabass or Barramundi is actually a preferred fish of Bengalis of West Bengal origin. So, at our home bhetki or barramundi was not so much in making. Bengalis from East Bengal prefer different varieties of catfish, carps, hilsa, small fish. Bhetki fillets were brought occasionally at our home when mom made fish fries. It was not a regular affair because bhetki fillets were usually made from big ones and they were expensive at all times. We as kids were not deprived of anything we loved, but in moderation. In comparison, are our kids learning to value money??.... this issue bothers me a lot.
Fish curry is not a complex thing to do. If you love it, it cannot be a failure. Since we get very fresh and moderately sized seabass/bhetki/barramundi here, I get it quite often. Though not in my favourite list earlier, I am gradually developing a taste for it. Mustard paste is an integral part of Bengali cooking. In this dish, I have used a little coconut paste too that we do not usually use in jhal, but more in paturi.... This recipe requires frying of the fish, but I did not. They were so fresh and soft and you will not regret doing so I assure. In the process, much less oil was used. Let us prepare Bhetki Macher Jhal/Barramundi/Seabass in mustard paste.
Seabass/Bhetki/Barramundi : 1[700-1kg cut into roundels]
Mustard Seed[black] : 1tbsp
Coconut[shredded] : 2tsp
Garlic Paste : 1/2tsp[optional]
Green Chilli : 5-6[adjust as per your taste]
Nigella Seeds[kalijeera] : 3pinches
Turmeric Powder : 1tsp
Salt : As required
Lemon Juice : 1-2tbsp
Oil[authentically Mustard] : 2tbsp
Wash the fish pieces thoroughly. Reserve the head for using later. Marinate the fish with lemon juice, salt and turmeric powder for 1/2 an hour to 1hr.
Prepare a paste with washed black mustard seeds, green chillies, shredded coconut adding little salt and water. Pour into a bowl, add the garlic paste and rest of the turmeric if required.
Heat oil in a wok. Temper with nigella seeds. As you get the aroma, add the spice paste, lower the heat and saute for a minute. Add 1 big cup water.
As the curry comes to boil, add the fish pieces gently discarding the marinade. Cover cook for 2 minutes. Open cover, turn over the fish pieces. Let cook covered for another minute. Its done.
Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with slitted green chillies. Enjoy with steamed rice, fresh and hot.
Please note always add salt while doing this paste to avoid it turning bitter. You can substitute the black mustard with the yellow one to mellow down the heat.