Shutki or Hutki is nothing but dry fish and Shira or Jhul stands for runny gravy. While Sylhetis from all over the world swear by Shutki and Shidol, I go one step ahead and can literally survive on these two for a lifetime. Such is my love and I suppose this is what they call ‘eternal love’. I take utmost pride to repeat it time and again that I am a Sylheti by birth, from heart and from soul. Nothing on earth gives me as much satisfaction as learning more and more about my roots and pass on the same to others, in my own little way, as much as I can.
Sylhetis are Bengalis who have there origin and roots in Sylhet (now in Bangladesh) and have some interesting elements in our cuisine that is different from Bengalis who have their origin in Bengal. Whatever we eat, we always come back to our very own Shutki and Shidol at the end of the day. I already have some very popular Sylheti dishes on my blog – Mukhi Shutki, Chingri Shutki, Shidol Chutney, Mishti Kumro diye Shidol and also a classic Manipuri preparation which is called Hawai Asangbi Eromba. All these dishes are earthly, rustic and outcomes of ‘love’. You just don’t eat Shutki or Shidol for the sake of eating, you eat them only when you love eating them and once you love them, you love them forever.
There is a rule of thumb applied in every dish that you prepare with Shutki (dry fish) or Shidol (dry fermented fish) and that is minimum use of spices. There should not be any such thing present that dominates the smell. Remember, the smell of dry fish can be awful for many, but for those who love eating dry fish, smell is the key. There is a huge difference between how it smells when it is raw and how it smells after cooking. To balance the pungent raw smell we use onion and garlic and thus the cooked dish carries a soul satisfying aroma. Soul Satisfying? Really? Yes, atleast for us who love Shutki and Shidol.
Shutki Shira can be made in various ways. The idea is to cook dry fish with vegetables and in a runny gravy. People also make it with absolutely no oil. My version includes oil though. To make Shutki Shira I use both Shutki and Shidol. While Shidol gets melted in the gravy and enhances the flavour, Shutki and vegetables mingles together to be the main ingredients of the curry. Also, I have used potato, beans and cauliflower for this dish. You can use vegetables of your choice, although, fresh seasonal vegetables do wonder. Also, instead of dry bombay duck, you can take dry prawns or any Shutki of your choice.
This is how I make my Shutki Shira.
- 50 gm loitta / lotka shutki (dry bombay duck)
- 6 shidol (dry fermented fish)
- 1 potato, cut into small dices
- 1.5 cup chopped beans
- 1.5 cup chopped cauliflower
- 1 big sized onion, chopped
- 12 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 6 green chilli, slitted
- 1 tea-spoon turmeric powder (1/2 + 1/2)
- 1 tea-spoon red chilli powder (skip or adjust according to tolerance)
- 4 table-spoon mustard oil (1 + 1 + 2)
- as required warm water
- salt, according to taste
- Chop the shutki into almost 1 inch pieces and soak in water for 5-10 minutes. Discard the water and lightly fry them in one table-spoon oil. Remove and keep aside.
- Again, heat 1 table-spoon oil in a pan and add all the chopped vegetables. Sprinkle 1/2 tea-spoon turmeric powder and little salt. Mix well and cover. Over low to medium flame, cook until vegetables are 50% done. Remove and keep aside.
- Now, heat the remaining oil and add garlic and onion. Sauté until onion is translucent.
- Add tomato, remaining turmeric powder and red chilli powder. Stir until tomato becomes mushy.
- Add shidol and salt and stir until shidol becomes mushy. Please note that if your shidol contains salt already, add extra salt accordingly.
- Add vegetables and give a quick mix.
- Add warm water so much so that it should cover the vegetables. If you want a more runny gravy, add some more water.
- Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
- Open the lid and add shutki. Cover and cook over medium flame for another 5-7 minutes or until vegetables and shutki are well done. Turn off the flame.
- Your Shutki Shira is ready to be served now.
Serve this hot with piping hot rice and enjoy a complete Sylheti meal. Do drop me a comment giving your feedback about this recipe. You can also tag me on Instagram using the handle @when_a_bong_cooks.