The title of the article may seem bit strange. You may directly go to the Ingredient chapter below and ignore the Preamble.
One evening in the autumn of 1986 ( not summer of 42), I landed up at CR Park ( Delhi) fish market and I was delighted to see a long Gada piece of Chitol machh (as usual, the peti portion was sold out by then).
I told my fish vendor , Naren ( now gone after losing all money in satta and gambling) to cut 500 gms of Gada of Chitol in to pieces of 1.5 inch X 1 inch X 1 inch rectangular pcs with skin on.
I heard one whispering self- statement " Ishhh!!! Chitol Machh-er baro-ta bajie dilo ".
I looked aside and saw a beautiful lady in greenish " Tanga-eel sari" who made the statement.
When I looked towards her, she made one hasty remarks " Ami kichhu bolini" ( Thakur ghar-e key....ami kala khaini syndrome. ).
I said "Please don't bother so much. Actually we could not graduate beyond " Chitol Machher Muitha", which has been passed down from generation to generation, as if the Gada of Chitol was destined to become Muitha and nothing else."
"How these pieces will be cooked?". There was no sarcasm in her question, but a distinct inquisitiveness".
" I am going to try the recipe which my mother used to cook, and I will not eat Muitha , given a choice vis-a vis this recipe" . I said.
" Please Bolun-na"
I narrated the recipe and she reversed her Muitha order on a small portion and rest to continue with muitha cut".
" Naren, 250 gm Dada-r ( me) moton kato...baki ta Muitha hob-e".
As usual I visited the fish market everyday, late evening mainly to advise, (over a cup of tea ) how to make more money without cheating the customers.
When I narrated the recipe , her eyes were widening...( see below the recipe).
Next few days when I used to arrive at fish market to have a cup of tea with them, Naren would say " dada, ek Mohila roz apnar khoj korchhen..ektu ta-taDi asben".
Finally I met her one saturday evening and she was waiting for me.
" Dada, ki darun recipe..Apni amake Muithya-r hat theke bachiye chhen. Sabai, amar sasuDi porjonto, Chitol Maccher Gada-r jhal khete chae.. 10 minute e ready ..."
In 1993 when she came to know , I was an engineer and not a Chef in some hotel, she was amazed ..." Aj kei amar Husband ke bolte hobe CR Park-er sei recipe-wala kono chef noe..ekjon engineer.... asun-na ek din amar BaDi...du jone mile khub ranna kara jab-e". But luckily it did not materialize....otherwise I would have been exposed in front of an excellent woman, who was by far a better cook than me.
It was a nice relationship, exchanging recipes & short cuts to cooking etc and lasted till 2001 , when I vanished for 8 years, to Korea , Malyasia, Vietnam, Kuwait etc.
The other day the fish vendors told me, she had left Delhi long back ....
I am happy that I helped her getting rid of the Muitha cooking, which is not worth the effort you make....
But again " Even if you bring the top Mihi-dana maker from Bardhaman to Calcutta, after eating it the comment will be " Darun Mihi-Dana, kintu Bardhaman-er Mihidana-r moton hoeni..." so no matter how you cook the Chitol-gada..the comment will be " Bhalo hoechhe...kintu Muitha-r
moton taste hoe ni"..
So this recipe is for people who appreciate the unique taste of Chitol gada" no matter how it is cooked.
- Chitol gada 8 piece, 40mm X 25 mm X 25 mm ( or any other size ). ( see Variation below)
- Red chili powder 3 level tsp ( Everst Tikha lal for people like me, for whom no chili is hot enough ( otherwise use less hot powder)
- Kalo Jeere 1 level tsp
- Mustard Oil 2 tbsp + 1 tsp.
- Green chili 4 whole with a slit
- Holud ( termaric powder) 1 heap tsp.
- Oil for frying fish ( the left over oil can be used under serial no 4 above.)
- Salt to taste
Marinate fish in 1 tsp Holud and 1 heap tsp salt for minimum 30 min. ( Holud and salt here is over and above what is given under ingredients above) .
Keep the fried fish aside
Soak the red chili powder, Holud in 50 ml water for minimum 15 minutes.
Take a Kadai and Add 2 tbsp or more of Mustard Oil from the leftover oil and heat.
Give Kalo jeere and green chili sombora ( seasoning) and add the slurry of red chili powder and Holud.
Stir vigorously under moderate flame and fry the mix until the oil comes out and the aroma of fried red chili and Kalo jeere comes out . ( The end of frying can also be determined by smelling until you sneeze. Dont sneeze into the KaDai unless you are cooking for near and dear ones. If you do sneeze into the kaDai inadvertently , please ensure that no one has seen you)
Immediately add 150 ml ( 1 cup) of water to prevent burning of the chili.
Bring to boil and add the fried fish and 1 tsp raw mustard oil and salt.
Dry out the water under moderate heat so that the oil comes out and very little water remains.
Eat with rice. ( I have a good mind to try it as a snack with drinks)
1. If you are using extra hot chili powder, keep one hanki handy while eating...( not for people like me for whom no chili is significantly hot.)
2. Ensure that the chili is not burnt when frying after giving Sombora...if you are in doubt, put little water to quench and continue dry out. If the chili powder paste burns out, discard the batch and start afresh.
1. You may use any other fish of your choice , Rui, Tangra, Pabda, salmon, tuna, Makarel, sardines etc.
2. Some of my friends have tried, in addition, bit of garlic ginger paste. But I will prefer the unique aroma of fried red chili + kalo jeere for this dish.
3. You can use any other oil, Olive oil will be great too.
Tips on Chitol-Gada
Contrary to popular belief, it is much easier to eat Chitol gada than Ilish, Rui Gada. The bones of Chitol gada is very well organized , so it is easy to locate and remove during eating.