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My Fish Head Biryani – Muri-Ghonto!!

Today I wrote a 1-picture post, as I don’t know how to beautify this wonderfully tasty fish and rice dish for a picture. It’s no secret that I am a rustic food lover and photographer, and care absolutely no damn for props to beautify a dish. This post is an ode to my belief, and hence I restrict myself to just one, but a real picture of how this special dish should look and be served.

Now, it’s a no onion and garlic recipe, like many other Bengali dishes. Bengal doesn’t growBut that’s not all, I have many more believes that I wanna count on, in this post. Wastage being one of the primary ones, I would want to know out of curiosity; what do u do with fish heads? Before Masterchef Australia glorified this rustic cut, what did you do with it? Discard it? Or just about make a stock with it? Or cooked it, to be left on the plate uneaten? This ancient cut somehow always meets this fate in this cosmopolitan era of eating-what-appeals-to-the-eye concept. But we bongs are pagan enough to love our fish quite that much to not waste out any edible part. And the tasty fish heads are a priced component of our food. We make a dhansak styled dal with fish heads, or make mixed vegetable styled chchori. But my most favourite way to use these little nuggets of deliciousness is to make Muri-Ghanto; which can be loosely translated into a fish head biryani. This messy curry-rice is a one pot meal, with the right amount of spicyness and flavour! For me, it deems the position of being the showstopper dish on the table very easily, and I love to serve it to my experimental guests too.

onions or garlic, and hence it’s hardly used in any authentic curries from our region. So we derive flavour from rather unusual ingredients and spices. Today’s dish uses 1 such ingredient, Gobindo Bhog Chal, a specific rice variety. These small kernels of rice pack quite a punch when it comes to flavour, and we use this variety of rice in everything ranging from baby food to the holy meal- Bhog. Though this is one of the most important ingredients of the dish, it’s not available quite easily awy from bengal. And hence, it can be substituted with basmati rice, but the flavour of the dish will vary.

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Gobindo Bhog Chal

Ingredients

  • Head of an Indian Carp- Rohu
  • Salt and turmeric to taste
  • 2 tbsp Mustard oil
  • ¼ tsp whole cumin
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • ½ an inch long cinnamon stick
  • ½ cup fresh tomato puree
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp red chilly powder
  • 1 potato cubed
  • ½ tsp grated ginger
  • 2 fistful of Washed and soaked gobindo bhog rice
  • Water
  • ½ tsp ghee (optional)

Method

Wash and dry the fish head well. Then coat it with salt and turmeric to marinate for an hour. You can even leave it overnight or stash the fish head smeared in turmeric in the freezer to be had few days later. Turmeric is a great thing to add to marinades, due to its antiseptic properties.

Heat a tbsp. of mustard oil in a non-stick pan. Upon smoking, add the head pieces and fry on medium heat till it changes colour to deep brown all over. Keep it aside once done.

In the remaining oil, add the cubed potatoes and fry till golden. The non stick pan should not ask for more oil, but if need be, do add some to ensure unbroken chunks of potatoes. Once done, keep it aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil, add the whole spices- whole cumin, cinnamon, red chillies and bay leaf to temper. Once aromatic, add the tomato paste mixed with the dry spice powders of turmeric, red chilly, cumin and coriander; and cook till it is fragrant and leaves out oil from the masala mix.

Now add the rice and fry it in the masala for a few minutes. The rice should turn a glorious golden, and start being quite fragrant. Once there, tip in the potatoes, and after a quick mix in the masala, add the fish heads. Sauté all the flavourful elements in the wok well, till the pieces are well coated in the masala mix.

Add water to the wok, till everything is submerged in the water, and still an inch more. The rice and potatoes will cook and soak up the water. Salt the dish well now, and let it simmer covered till the rice is cooked.

Traditionally, this dish is made a tag bit runny and eaten mixed with rice. If you want to do that, then salt the dish generously.

Once the water comes to your desired consistency, and the rice is cooked well, grate the ginger on top and sprinkle on cinnamon powder. Mix well and let the ginger cook down for 2 minutes. Before removing from heat, splash the ghee and stir well. Its best eaten fresh, but keeps very well frozen or refrigerated in an airtight container.

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Muri-Ghanto on the right served here with plain dal and mishti alu sheddo (boiled sweet potatoes, onion slices spiced with mustard oil and seasoned).

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