- 250 g machh'er matha (fish head)
- 100 g moog dal
- 25 g mustard oil
- 2 pcs dried red chillies
- 1 pc bay leaves
- 2 pcs cardamom
- 2 pcs cloves
- 1 pc cinnamon
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 12 g onions
- 15 g tomato
- 12 g ginger paste
- 3 g cumin powder
- 1 tsp total turmeric
- ¼ tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
- 3 pcs green chillies
- 575 g total water
- 12 g total salt
- 20 g sugar
- 8 g ghee
- 1 pinch gorom moshla
In the hierarchy of dals, this dal with fish head occupies the highest pedestal in Bengali cuisine. If you are trying to impress your guests, this is the dal to make. That is why this dal finds place in wedding lunches, first rice ceremonies, or anytime you invite guests over for an afternoon feast. To make this dal you need the freshest fish head you can find, and guess what is the best way to ensure the fish head is fresh? You buy a live fish! You could use any large freshwater fish head for this, but the Bengali favourite is the head of a large katla fish—a delicious freshwater carp. This is commonly served with a bhaja (any fried dish) such as beguni (video link below) or jhuri alu bhaja (video link below). If you are buying good quality fresh fish and not eating the head, you are missing out.
- Marinate the cleaned fish head with salt and turmeric.Set aside.
- Heat a thick bottomed korai or wok and dry roast the moog dal while continuously stirring on medium heat. We want the dal to be evenly pinkish brown.
- Transfer to a pot and wash with cold water to stop cooking further.
- Wash the roasted dal, then drain the water. Add 5 grams of salt and 500 gram water and set it to boil, partially covered with a lid until the dal is cooked but still holds shape. The dal should not break because it is going to cook again with the fish head.
- Heat mustard oil in a pan and fry the fish head on low heat until well browned on all sides. Set aside the fried fish head on a plate.
- In a bowl weigh out the turmeric, cumin, kashmiri red chilli powder, and ginger paste. Make a slurry with a couple of tablespoons of water.
- Dice onion very fine and set aside.
- Coarsely dice tomatoes.
- Heat mustard oil in korai, and temper with dried red chillies, bay leaves, whole cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and cumin.
- Add the diced onion and fry until golden (about five minutes).
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they soften.
- Add the spice slurry and fry until the raw smell of spices goes away.
- Add 2 slit green chillies and fry.
- Add the fried fish head. Braise with the spices.
- Add the boiled moog dal and 275 grams of hot water. Add salt (3 grams) and all the sugar.
- Cover and simmer on low heat for 2 minutes.
- Take out 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the top of the dal. Mix this thoroughly with a quarter teaspoon of atta (whole wheat flour) in a bowl. Add this back to the korai. This atta will help thicken the dal and prevent the water and the dal from completely separating when stored.
- Simmer until the dal thicken lightly—about 2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Finish with one slit green chilli, ghee and a pinch of Bengali garam moshla. Give it one final stir, cover tightly with a lid and rest for 15 minutes before serving.
- Serve in the beginning of the meal (after bitters or greens) with boiled rice. Serve a bhaja like beguni or jhuri alu bhaja as a side.
- Knife or bnoti
- Chopping board
- Pot or saucepan
- Korai or wok
- Khunti or spatula
- Gas stove
- Electric kettle (optional)