Achari Fish Handi
It just occurred to me that I barely cooked fish this season for some unknown reasons. Where I am residing currently, only fresh water fish is available…smaller in size and contains a lot of bones…which is a big problem for me as I prefer boneless fish. So this is one of the “known” reasons for not cooking enough fish but frankly the main reason is that there is a newly opened small restaurant in our vicinity which serves amazing grilled fish so I took the easier path and got charcoal grilled fish from there. Mmm ssoooo good. Mostly in the province of Punjab they serve fried fish and that too in winter season only. Again reasons unknown. I’m not a fan of fried foods and try to avoid it as much as possible but when there is Fish Fillet Burger I’m a bit flexible (perks of doing yoga 7 days a year!)
Some people don’t cook fish as it smells “fishy”. Oh well Hello.. It is FISH, it has its own distinctive smell and it is not unpleasant rather it is like ocean breeze. How can a creature that has spent its whole life swimming and bathing would smell bad? That is the main purpose of regular bathing schedule so you don’t smell funky. If it smells bad it means it isn’t fresh. Always make sure you buy fresh fish from a well reputed place and check the following:
- Smell: Yes, do smell the fish. It should have that trademark smell like ocean and not foul.
- Eyes: Eyes should be clear with a slight bulge. Cloudy, dull and sunken eyes mean it isn’t fresh.
- Flesh: It should be firm, shiny and well attached to the bones and skin. Touch and press the flesh gently. It should bounce back.
- Color: See if there is any discoloration. Aging fish has brown and yellow edges with spongy texture.
- Gills: Gills should be firm and well attached to the fish. Have a peek to see if it is red/pink and wet inside to be sure of the freshness. Slimy and dry gills mean it isn’t fresh.
- Ask: Feel free to ask the vendor candidly about the fresh lot and catch of the day.
Anyway if you still have an issue with the smell sprinkle some salt or squeeze some lemon juice over fish and wash it after 15-20 minutes. If you are a South Asian you must be familiar with the myth that taking milk after eating fish will give you vitiligo. Religiously, nutritionally and medically it isn’t true.
I bought and cooked frozen fish fillet this year (mostly) but there is a drawback.. It release a lot of water once thawed which makes it soggy when you fry it and tends to break during the process so you gotta be very careful. I only chose frozen fish over fresh only to save myself from the trouble of picking bones. I don’t cook fish stew or fish gravy but now I am tempted to give it a go. So coming to today’s recipe.. Since weather is changing I wasn’t in the mood of frying.. It takes time and patience which I was running short of.. I wanted something quick and full of flavor and thought about achar masala. No need to fry and brown onions because onions give a slight sweetness to the dish which you don’t need in any achari dish. You need some balanced sour and tangy flavors. Think you can go wrong with it? I don’t think so. Like most of our desi dishes the proportion of ingredients is suggestive and you can adjust spice and sourness as you prefer. Mix some spices in the pan with tomato puree, add fish, cook for a while and it is done within 20-25 minutes.
Achari Fish Handi
A flavorful dish that takes under 25 minutes from start to finish. Tangy tomato puree combined with basic achar spices are sure to tantalize your tastebuds.
- 1/3 cup cooking oil
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 3/4 tsp onion seeds (kalonji in Urdu)
- 1/3 cup tomato puree
- 1 tsp white cumin seeds (zeera)
- 1/3 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds (rai dana)
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds (sounf)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp tumeric powder
- 1 kg boneless white fish, cut in chunks washed and dried
- 5-6 medium whole green chillies
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
Heat oil in a wok over medium flame. Add garlic paste and fry for few seconds till it releases its aroma. Add ginger paste and fry for few seconds.
Add in onion seeds, stir for few seconds and pourin tomato puree. Mix well.
When puree is heated add in white cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds. Stir well and cook for few seconds.
Add in salt, red chilli powder, coriander powder and tumeric powder. Mix all masala well. If it looks too dry add in a couple of tablespoons of water.
Put fish chunks in the wok, stir to coat well with masala. Let it cook for a about 3-4 minutes, stirring twice or thrice during cooking. Be careful not to break fish pieces.
Add in about 1/3 - 1/2 cup of water, cover and cook for two minutes.
Add in whole green chillies and lemon juice, stir briefly and put the lid back on. Bring the flame down to lower and let it simmer for about 4-5 minutes.
Remove from form heat but do not take the lid off for about two minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander and mint, serve with naan/roti or rice.