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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Maccha Ambila

Maccha ambila can be broadly described as fish cooked in a light sweet-tangy gravy. The tang could come from anything ranging from 'ambula' (sun-dried raw mango), tamarind, tomatoes to even curd being used in a few versions. There are too many versions of this recipe to pin-point the original one if at all there is one. I had not come it during my growing up years in the Western part of Odisha. Ofcourse, there was the delightful kanjee or ambila which was a kind of light vegetarian soup. Maybe it was created by some fish worshiping person who took his muse to another level by combining it with the tang of the 'ambila'. It is reminiscent of the Bengali 'Tawk' which my parlour lady had told me about but I feel the spicing is different for both the recipes.

It is during moments like this that I feel a wave of resentment towards the Odia ladies of yore who were so busy cooking up 'chaa tiana, naa bhaja' ( roughly translated into six curries and nine fries ) for the male members of the house that they never found the time nor the inclination to chronicle their vast gastronomic experiences. But then these ladies would lovingly ply the plates of the male members and the kids with second or even third helpings, only to eat a bowl of 'basi pakhala' (stale rice soaked in water) with some 'kandia-lanka paga' and some raw onions. Personal ambition was not their forte. Things would have been different had it been so.  Maybe it is kind of touchy, but then it reflects on the status of women in Odisha. Personally I feel that things have changed but only on a superficial level. However this is hardly the platform to lament on social issues. "Its a food blog for God's sake", I have to keep reminding myself.

Coming back to the recipe, it has hardly been documented just like the vast Odia cuisine. So I decide to give myself a free reign. Kind of liberating, isn't it ? No set rules to be adhered to. But then I do have the spiraling tomato prices on my mind which is why I decide to skip this foreign import. We call it 'bilati baigana' for a reason, don't we ??

Read on for my version -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 3 pieces of Rohu fish 
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 inch ginger
  • 1 dry red chili
  • 1/3 tsp cumin
  • a pinch of fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard paste
  • 2 nos of ambula (dry mango)
  • 1/3 cup curd
  • 2 tbsp jaggery (one can also use sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/3 tsp chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • 4-5 tsp oil

For tempering -

  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 2 pinch mustard seeds
  • 6-7 fenugreek seeds
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp oil

Preparation - Add a pinch of turmeric and a bit of salt to the fish. Marinate for 10 mins.

Take the garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and dry red chili in a grinder. Make into a paste. Add the onion (diced) to the same grinder and buzz for 1 sec to get a coarse paste.

Soak the ambula in 1/2 cup hot water for 20 mins. Dissolve the mustard paste in 1 cup water.

Lightly beat the curd to break the lumps. Add a little water to it.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the marinated fish and fry on both sides till lightly browned.

Remove and keep aside.

Add the onion and masala paste to the same wok and fry till the raw smell goes off. Add the strained mustard to the wok. Add salt, turmeric and red chili powder. Bring to a light boil.

Slowly add the curd with constant stirring. Once it gets to a boil, add the soaked mango along with the water used for soaking it. Sprinkle the jaggery and allow it to dissolve.

Add the fish pieces to the grvay and cook on medium flame till you get the desired consistency. It will take about 5-6 mins.

Heat oil for tempering. Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. Follow with the asafoetida and curry leaves. Fry the leaves for 4-5 seconds. Pour the tempering over the fish gravy, mix in and remove from flame.

Serve at room temperature. Tastes best with white rice.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sweta. Simply wonderful. Will make tomorrow... Wonderful writing


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