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Showing posts with label sukhua. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sukhua. Show all posts

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Sukhua : Raising a stink in more ways than one

Relishing my bowl of Pakhala with a little Sukhau bhaja on the side, I grew up with scant knowledge of the universal nature of fish preservation. Aided by our own prejudices, Sukhua had turned into a forbidden word in many Odia homes. Cooking it on the sly was out of the question with the distinctive odor guaranteed to raise a stink with the neighbors. In fact, one's identity was entwined with the kind of preserved fish one ate. While our Balasore neighbors were known for their 'Íllishi sukhua', we were known to stock the 'Niya sukhua' or smoked fish that was procured from our native. In my mother's maternal home, winters were the time to stock up on Silamundi Sukhua from their favorite vendor. Over the decades, preferences shifted towards the fresh fish readily available in the markets, and the vendors selling 'Sukhua' gradually dwindled in numbers. And in the fast-paced life that we lead, most of us never questioned this abundance of fresh fish nor did we weigh the merits of fish preservation. This attitude has piggybacked on rising affluence and the notion that it gave one the privilege to waste food. 

Fish preservation itself dates back to ancient times. One of the oldest proof of fish preservation, which is quite difficult to pinpoint since the waste is thrown back into the sea or fed to animals, was discovered at Norje Sunnansund, an Early Mesolithic settlement site. The archaeological site of Norje Sunnansund is dated around 9,600 – 8,600 years before the present and is located in south-eastern Sweden. With climate playing a major role in the preservation techniques deployed across geographies, these Nordic folks resorted to preservation by wrapping up the fish and burying it underground to allow it to undergo a slow process of fermentation. 

Elsewhere, fishing communities inhabiting along the coastline would resort to salting and air drying their catch. Researchers have also found that the three main preparation techniques that prevail in today’s fishing communities, regardless of their geographic location –ventral gutting and dorsal cut (bony fish), and filleted straps of meat (sharks)– and that fish-body size influences which method is applied, were applicable in ancient times too. Not much has changed except for the use of hazardous preservatives, a deplorable practice that has seeped into commercial fish preservation. So, it is important to make sure where your stock of dried fish comes from.

A good sun-dried or smoked fish retains most of the protein content. It is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants. A good source of protein, 100 grams of dry fish is made up of about 80 -85 percent of protein, and contains only about 300 calories. Sea fish especially has been a unique source of minerals like iodine, zinc, copper, selenium, and calcium. In the future, and in face of depleting marine reserves, striking a balance between dry fish supply and human nutritional needs is vital to support the health and well-being of the increasing human population. However, improving the hygiene levels and processes employed in fish drying is very much required if we have to eradicate the stigma associated with the consumption of dried fish. Especially since it is such a 'hands-on' ingredient when fresh ingredients are scarce or priced out of reach. I have been using it frequently during the lockdowns and found it to be one of the easiest ways to add the 'oomph' factor to our everyday meals.

Sharing an easy and delicious dried shrimp recipe - 

Piaja Sandha Chingudi Sukhua

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups chopped onion flower stalks
  • 1 cup chopped baby potatoes
  • 2-3 tbsp tiny sundried shrimps
  • 2 dry red chilis
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp turmeric


Soak the dried shrimps in water for half an hour. Drain and wash 2-3 times to get rid of sand and any dirt sticking to it. Squeeze out as much water as you can.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the shrimp and fry on low flame till crisp, remove and keep aside.

Add the broken red chili and mustard seeds to the remaining oil. Add the chopped baby potatoes and cook for a few minutes before adding the onion flower stalks. Add salt and turmeric.

Cover and cook till the stalks soften up and the potatoes are cooked.

Finally, toss in the fried shrimps. Sauté for a minute before removing from the flame.

Serve with hot rice and dal.

Note - This dish tastes best in the winters when the potatoes are freshly harvested and the onion flower stalks are still tender. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Janhi-Chingudi Sukhua Tarkari (Ridge gourd-shrimp curry)

It is no secret that I love mixing veg and no-veg ingredients in my recipes. Maybe it has got something to do with my Odia roots. But I suspect that laziness plays a good part in it. Since cooking veg and non-veg separately calls for more effort and simply skipping one just does not sound/feel right, one has to choose the middle path of mixing and matching the ingredients from both core groups. I keep trying out recipes from different parts of the state/country. Poee chingudi, chingudi dalma,chicken saagwala,  maccha mahura, maccha chencheda, sukhua-bilati baigana poda, the list is a long one.

This recipe however is indigenous to Western Odisha. Most village folks prefer to add fresh shrimp caught straight from the neighborhood pond/river. But when the water dries up during the summers, the sun dried/smoked version of shrimp makes for a good substitute.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 3 cups ridge gourd (cubed)
  • 1 cup dried shrimp
  • 1 medium sized onion (roughly chopped)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp pancha phutana
  • 1-2 dry red chili
  • 2 tsp big mustard seeds
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and soak the dry shrimp for 1/2 hour.

Grind the mustard seeds, garlic pods and 1 red chili into a fine paste. Dissolve it in 2/3 cup water.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the broken chili and pancha phutana. Once it gets spluttering, add
the onion. Fry till translucent.

Add the shrimp and fry for 2 minutes before adding the ridge gourd cubes to it. Fry for 2-3 minutes.

Add the water in which mustard paste has been dissolved, taking care to discard the solid bits that have settled in the bottom of the cup.

Add salt and turmeric. Cover with a lid and cook on medium flame till the ridge gourd is done. Increase the flame a bit if there is a lot of water remaining. This curry should have a semi dry consistency.

Remove from the wok.

Serve with white rice.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sukhua-Bilati Baigana ( Tomato ) Tarkari

Cooking Time Required: 15-20 mins
Cost of Preparation: 10-15 Rupees

  • 3-4 nos Sukhua (dried/smoked fish)
  • 2 nos medium sized tomato
  • 2 tsp cooking oil
  • salt ( to taste)
  • 1/6 tsp turmeric
  • 2 green chilli 
  • 5 garlic pods
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds 
  • 1/5 tsp pancha-phutana 

Preparation: Grind the mustard seeds with half of the garlic pods into a fine paste.

Cut the potato into chunks.

Soak the fish for 1-2 hours. Drain away the water.

Cooking: Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok. Add pancha-phutana followed by crushed garlic pods
and green chillis ( broken into 2-3 pieces ).

Add the soaked fish, crush and fry lightly for 2 mins.

Follow with the chopped tomato. Fry for 3-4 mins.

Add the mustard-garlic paste along with salt, turmeric and a cup of water. Cover with a lid and cook for 8-10 mins.

Serve hot with white rice.

NOTE: Instead of using the salad variety of tomatos, use the desi ( country grown )
ones. The latter have a sour taste in addition to the sweetness which enhances the
flavour of the curry.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Poee Chingudi Tarkari (Malabar Spinach-prawn curry)

Cooking Time Required : 15-20 mins
Cost of Preparation: 25-30 rupees

Ingredients: Poee/Malabar Spinach ( 1 bunch ), Arbi/saru (1 medium, cut into small pieces), pumpkin ( 1/2 cup, cut into small pieces), onion ( 1 small ), dry/fresh shrimps, red chilli (2 nos), garlic (2-3 pods), mustard seeds (1/2 tsp), pancha phutana ( 1/6 tsp), turmeric powder (1/4 tsp), salt to taste, oil for cooking.

Preparation: Wash and clean the poee leaves. Cut into small pieces. Keep aside.Cut the onion into fine pieces.

Wash & clean the shrimp.Keep aside.

Grind the garlic pods and mustard seeds into a fine paste.

Cooking: Heat a wok, add 1 tsp oil and the shrimps. Fry for 4-5 mins. Remove from pan and keep aside.

Add 2 tsp of oil to the wok. Add pancha phutana along with the red chillis. Add the onion and fry till golden.

Add the arbi and pumpkin pieces. Fry for 2-3 mins followed by the poee. Fry till the water almost evaporates. Add mustard paste, fried shrimps & salt along with 1 cup water.

Boil for 5 mins till water evaporates.Remove from fire and serve with white rice & dal.

Note: I have used dried shrimps in this preparation. One can skip the arbi & pumpkin if one is not too fond of mixing veggies and leafies.


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