As I always say, I love fish, just like many other Bengalis. We utilize actually the whole of it – from head to tail and even the eggs and other edible parts. Coming to me, more than fish, I love the fish head. But, it was never like this when I was a kid. I was literally scared of eating the head part as I used to think golay kata lagbe (the bones may stuck on my throat). Maa used to say “macher matha kha, buddhi barbe” (eating fish head will enhance your intellect). Not sure about the intelligence – but slowly and gradually I became a pro in eating fish head 🙂 Happy Maa, happy me.
When we talk about fish head, the most popular dish that comes to mind is Muri Ghonto. But, there are other equally popular and tasty dishes get prepared everyday in Bong kitchens – and one of them is Macher Matha diye Dal (fish head cooked in lentils). People usually, while cooking this dish, use bhaja moong dal (fried yellow lentil), but I love it more with cholar dal (split chickpeas). Cooked by not too many people, this recipe was my Pishimoni’s speciality and even Maa cooks it so well.
That day, when I bought a big sized Katla Fish from the market, I again prepared Katla Kalia and kept the head for further use. It was a big fish with a big head and that made me even more tempted. Though the Kalia tasted great, my mind was all into the head part and the very next day I prepared Macher Matha diye Cholar Dal. Here’s the step-by-step recipe for you all.
- 1 big sized fish head (slitted from middle) and the tail (any fish – Rohu, Katla, etc.)
- 1 cup (approx 200 gms) Bengali cholar dal
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 5 green chillies, slitted
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise
- 2 dried red chillies
- 1/2 tea-spoon fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 tea-spoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 tea-spoon cumin seeds
- 1 table-spoon ginger-garlic paste
- 1/2 tea-spoon red chilli powder
- 1.5 tea-spoon turmeric powder (1 + 1/2)
- 1 tea-spoon cumin powder
- 1/2 tea-spoon garam masala powder
- 4 table-spoon mustard oil (2 + 2)
- 1/2 tea-spoon sugar
- salt (according to taste)
- Soak the cholar dal overnight. Next day, pressure cook the dal with required water and salt for 6 whistles. When the pressure cools down, remove and keep aside.
- Rub the fish head and tail with red chilli powder, salt and 1 tea-spoon turmeric powder.
- Heat 2 table-spoon oil in a pan and fry the fish properly. Remove and keep aside.
- For tempering, heat the remaining oil and add bay leaves, dried red chillies, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and star anise. Allow the spices to splutter.
- Now, add chopped onion and green chillies. Sautè until the onion turns light golden.
- Add ginger-garlic paste, cumin powder and 1/2 tea-spoon turmeric powder and stir on medium flame for 1 minute.
- Now, add tomato and stir until it becomes mushy.
- Add the boiled split chickpeas along with the water and mix well. Bring it to boil.
- Check for the salt. If required, add more.
- Now, add the fish head and tail and cover the lid.
- Lower the flame and cook for 15 minutes.
- Since the head and tail is already fried, it won’t take more time to get cooked. Just make sure the consistency of the preparation is thick. It should not be runny.
- Sprinkle sugar and garam masala powder and mix well.
- Turn off the flame and cover the lid. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Your Macher Matha diye Cholar Dal is ready to be served now.
Serve this with hot steamed rice to relish this rich Bengali preparation. People (like my Baba) also love to have it with roti/chapatti – I never tried though. Have it in your own way and this dish will never leave you disappointed.
Do let me know in comments about how you like this dish. You can also tag me on Instagram by using the handle @when_a_bong_cooks.