Being a Bong, it is almost criminal not to be able to relish fish. Now, relishing to eat something and being able to make the delicacy are two completely independent phenomena. Today, I proudly proclaim that I was able to make something that at least smelt fish-y ;).
It all began when I was accompanying a Bengali friend of mine in her car. She remembered suddenly that she needed to get some stuff from the local Indian grocery store. I had never been to this one before, and in there as soon as the lid was raised from the freezer and I spotted frozen fish, I leaped with joy! Never mind that I still cannot make an omelet without spilling some egg out... "fish-fish par likkha hai khaane waale ka naam". And these tiny ones definitely had Sudipta written all over them.
I enthusiastically brought home a whole packet full of tiny fish called Kechki, and put it in the freezer. Every week on the Sunday, I would stare at the packet and shudder in horror about how I was going to manage that. Promptly, it would be covered by other 'mixed' vegetables and frozen parathas. But then I suddenly had a flash of genius: why not ask the person who makes that fish regularly?! And so it began.
First, I called and showed up at her house. As usual, I was shrieked at for crossing into the living room with shoes on (by God... how exactly do the girls manage to take off and wear shoes again and again?). So I shot my first question, "In less than or equal to 4 easy steps, tell me how to make that fish I bought that day". She is a PhD student. So she sat down on her sofa lost in deep thought about how to translate things into 4 easy steps for expert cooks like me. She began, "Okay, so first fry the fish, and in the meantime cut onions and potatoes...". I just HAD to interrupt; "Whoa whoa whoa... hold on a second! Cut potatoes?!". It took me some time to explain to her that I had given up on that idea since the first disaster involving exploding potatoes in the kitchen. Errm... if you're curious, I'll tell you folks about that one some other time. So then she very patiently explained to me that fish needed to be defrosted first before frying, that I could not add guacamoles to the oil before the onions (and no they are really not an ingredient in the recipe at all), that ginger-garlic paste cannot suffice for coriander paste, etc. Finally, she readily agreed to be on call for any further questions I may have during the actual cooking process at home.
Some of the sample questions I asked her, one question per phone call:
- "So, how much turmeric do I add to 1 full glass of fish?"
- "Should 3 tablespoons of salt be enough for that?"
- "Tell me, am I supposed to take the gills and bladders out from these inch-long fish or can they be fried as well?"
- "The rice I put in the pressure cooker has already made 5 whistles... should I take it off now?"
- "Why are these fried onions turning so blackish brown now? Ohh... I should definitely add the fish now? Sure, sure... will do"
Now, I firmly believe in the principle that if something cannot be cooked (from scratch to the plate) in 30 minutes, it is not worth eating. So the lady very patiently explained everything for that whole half hour and then I finally added the fish to the rice and had a morsel or two. You need to thank the Gods, no matter what, especially if the Gods have threatened to not invite you when they cook. So I called her up. "Ooh, guess what? Now I can add to my resume that I have cooked fish once! In fact, if you have life insurance coverage, you should come down here and taste some!". She was very tactful in her reply. She said, "Well, tempting as it sounds, I want to attend school tomorrow and therefore I'll pass this offer". Immediately, the disclaimer followed from her end: "Heh heh he.. just joking, I bet it is nice". All I could say in reply was, "I'd advise you not to put too much money in that bet".
Well, there you go! So now I've officially cooked fish, and yes it did smell like fish. I assure you I was the only one who ate it: my roomies did not venture anywhere nearby. But, here's what the statistics say: 100% of the people who ate it said this was the best thing to have happened since sliced bread. :D
P.S. - This isn't the promised 'juicy' post (although the fish was really juicy!). Hold on for that one... its coming! :D