20 large cutlets
- 1.5 kg fish fillet (12 cm x 6½ cm, and 5mm-thick)
For the marinade
- 80 g onions
- 10 g coriander leaves
- 10 g parsley
- 50 g green chillies
- 10 g garlic
- 10 g ginger
- 25 g salt
- 2 g Bengali gorom moshla
- ½ tsp MSG
- 5 g sugar
- 4 g pepper
- 2 tsp lime
- 2 eggs
- 50 g maida
For the breading
- white semai
- 6 eggs
- black pepper
A fish fry or diamond fry in Calcutta is a crumb-coated fillet of bhetki—something that would be called a fish cutlet elsewhere. Fish fry is served by cabin-style restaurants, small take-away shops, street food vendors, as well as in catered events such as weddings.
Calcutta has no dearth of good fish fries. Some of the ones we love include Badshah (Jadavpur), Mitra Cafe (Sobhabazar), etc. For this recipe, we wanted to recreate our favourite fish fry, which comes from a shop named Apanjan (আপনজন) in Kalighat. Apanjan's large fish fries are even bigger than the size we ended up using.
We received a lot of technical inputs from jethu (Saptarshi's uncle) Sujit Chakraborty—who besides being a great cook, has been running a catering business for the last 30 years.
Over the course of testing this recipe, we visited several markets in Calcutta. If you want bhetki fillets the best place to go to is Fish Range, New Market. The shop we purchased our fillets from was called A.K.G. & Co. The owner, Atanu Gurey, was patient and helpful, and his staff adept at creating perfect, uniform rectangles of fish exactly to our size specification. We have shown the whole process of filleting the whole bhetki both for documentation, and for anyone who may be interested in learning to do it themselves.
Following jethu's suggestion we kept our marinade simple, using only green chillies, coriander and flat-leaf or Italian parsley. We also tried adding mint, but preferred the version without better. You are, however, free to play around with the flavours as long as you keep the ratio of the marinade to the fish constant.
Marinate fish fillet
- Lay the fish fillet on a tray and wipe them with an absorbent cotton cloth or paper towels until completely dry. Leave the tray uncovered in the fridge for a few hours to let it dry further.
- Prepare a marinade by grinding together onion, coriander leaves with roots, flat leaf parsley, green chillies, garlic, ginger, salt, Bengali garam moshla, MSG, sugar, black pepper, and lime juice.
- Smear the marinade uniformly over the fillet. Turn the fillet and coat the other side well.
- Let the fish marinate for 20–30 minutes in the refrigerator.
- After 30 minutes add beaten eggs, and plain flour (maida) and mix well. Be gentle.
Breading the fillet
- Prepare the breading station. The instructions are for right handed folks. If you are left handed, reverse. Fill a large tray with lots of breadcrumb and season with salt. Place this tray to your right. Crack 4–6 eggs in a tray big enough to fit the fillet. Place this tray to your left. Add one pinch of salt for every egg and whisk. Leave this for 15 minutes so that the eggs darken in colour and become loose and watery. You will need less eggs that way. Place a wooden block to your left for shaping the formed cutlets.
- With your left (wet) hand, take a fillet with a good coating of the marinade and place it on the breadcrumbs. Using your right (dry) hand cover the fillet with breadcrumbs and press gently to cover. This is the first crumb layer. For a crunchier and thicker coating we are going to coat it twice.
- With your right (dry) hand place the fillet in the egg wash. With your left (wet) hand turn over to coat the other side and pick it up. This has to be done quickly. Let all of the excess egg drip off. If you don't drain the egg well the second crumb layer will become too thick.
- Place the egg coated fillet back on the breadcrumb tray. Using your right (dry) hand cover the fillet with crumbs again. Using your right hand place it on the shaping board.
- Use a flat metal bench scraper or a cleaver to push against each side of the fillet to form clean straight edges and sharp corners. Finally press on the whole cutlet from the top to flatten it. Place the finished cutlet on a clean tray. If making a large batch work with a few fillet at a time. Keep both the extra fillet and the formed cutlets in the fridge.
Frying and serving
- Heat a neutral vegetable oil (we prefer peanut or groundnut oil) until quite hot—about 190ºC. Drop the cutlet gently into the oil, away from you (to prevent oil from splashing on you).
- Fry on medium high heat until golden brown. Retrive the fried cutlet from the oil using a pair of tongs or a perforated spoon and store in a jhuri or wire basket to prevent the steam from turning the cutlet soggy.
- Serve hot with a side of cabin salad (juliennes of carrots, beetroot, cucumber and onions), kashundi (Bengali mustard) and optionally potato chips (wedges).
- Large trays or plates
- Absorbent cloth or paper towel
- Knife or bnoti
- Chopping board
- Large mixing bowl
- Bench scraper or a flat metal plate or a cleaver
- Wok or korai
- Jhnajhri or perforated spoon
- Jhuri or wicker basket or colander
- Grinder or food processor