6 Varieties Of Maacher Jhol With Vegetables
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Think Bengal and you might just think of fish immediately, because the connection is eternal in the minds of everyone who knows anything about the cuisine. You might think it’s actually a stereotype, and sure, there’s a lot more to Bengali cuisine than just fish. But yes, fish does predominate our meals—as in, we have it for almost every possible meal, except on certain holy days when eating non-vegetarian food is a strict no-no for most.

There are innumerable varieties of fish consumed across the state of Bengal, and so, the number of fish preparations also vary. Maacher Jhol is the simplest of these preparations—the one Bengali kids like me grew up eating loads of. But here’s the thing about that simple Maacher Jhol: There are many varieties of this simple fish curry, mostly thanks to the kinds of vegetables added to it. Known as Torkari or Sabji Diye Maacher Jhol, the dish is given seasonal flavours by the addition of many vegetables. Here are some of the most common varieties of Maacher Jhol with vegetables, and why they are so special.

Potato-Tomato: The All-Year-Through Option

Potatoes and tomatoes are not only available all year through, but also make for the most common Maacher Jhol ingredients. Ask anyone and you’d know that Bengalis love potatoes. The humble veggie goes into everything from our posto or poppy seed dishes to Kolkata biryani. Just like in the case of the popular Bengali biryani version, the addition of potatoes makes this Maacher Jhol more filling.

Cauliflower-Peas: The Winter Specials

Winter is the season when there’s an abundance of cauliflower and peas in the market. So, it’s natural that during the winter season, these veggies get added to the staple Maacher Jhol. The cauliflower is usually coated in salt and turmeric, fried lightly, then added to the curry. The peas are usually added with the onions. Occasionally, potatoes are also added to this seasonal Maacher Jhol.

Papaya-Raw Banana: In Sickness & In Health

Bengalis love to eat, yes, but the flipside is that overindulgence in food also leads to the occasional stomach upset. But do we stop eating our favourite Maacher Jhol when we do fall sick? Of course not! Instead, we cook up the simple fish stew with minimal spices, and with the addition of two vegetables that actually aid digestion and recovery: Papaya and Raw Bananas. The simply cooked curry is not just food for the sick, but also food for the soul.

Drumsticks: The Summery Celebration

You might only be catching up with the benefits of eating Moringa flowers and the fruit—better known as drumsticks in the Indian subcontinent—but Bengalis have been adding it to Maacher Jhol since forever, especially during spring and summer months. The young pods are chopped into segments and fried with the spices in the curry. The result is the addition of a fibre-rich source of nutrition, transforming the Maacher Jhol into a summery celebration.

Kamala Or Orange: For A Citrus Flavour

This Maacher Jhol recipe isn’t just famous for the addition of oranges, which are in season during winters, but also because the unique, citrussy taste it offers up. Kamala Maacher Jhol, usually prepared with Katla fish, is a hidden gem among Bengalis—made immensely popular when its making was showcased in the 2017 Bengali film, Maacher Jhol (the film is a must-watch for anyone who loves movies centred around food). The trick with this one is to add the orange juice and cleaned slices of the fruit at the very end of the recipe, so that the dish doesn’t turn bitter.

Pointed & Ridge: The Gourd Special

Pointed gourd, known as parwal or potol, and ridge gourd, known as tori or jhinge, are two of the most understated vegetables in the Indian subcontinent. Usually, simple sabjis or vegetable curries are made with these veggies, but trust Bengalis to elevate them to another level by adding them to Maacher Jhol. The pointed gourd is usually fried separately and then added to the curry, but the ridge gourd—which cooks more quickly—is added bang in the middle of the preparation. A celebration of understated vegetables, this Maacher Jhol variety is quite the simplest of preparation, but immensely delicious.