A bowl of various vegetables and fish, prepared with a diverse mix of spices.
Our country has a rich repertoire of culinary treasures and one just needs to be open enough to explore and experience them. Point in case is West Bengal which has some of the most exciting fish cuisines. Welcome, Chhyachra, a hot motley that utilises five mundane veggies including pumpkins, jackfruit seeds and sweet potatoes to ensure diverse nutrition and unique taste in this heavy platter. The Pui Shaak or Malabar spinach and pieces of fried Rohu or Katla fish head are the star ingredients of Chhyachra around which everything else is beautifully assembled and patiently cooked. A decent quantity and variety of spices going into the Chhyachra at various stages ensure the taste is as compelling.
Chhyachra And Various Indian Fish Varieties Used In It
Chhyachra also called pui chorchori is a highly cherished fish item of Bengal, which means a mishmash of many things, and incorporates a fish head. The dish is one of the many Bengali panch mishali tarkari which means a medley of 5 things. In the case of Chhyachra, panch mishali is achieved with sweet potatoes, potatoes, brinjals, pumpkins and spinach. The dish is generally made with fresh fish heads and the whole dish has a slimy texture and palatable grassy flavour.
The fish varieties that go into making Chhyachra are Hilsa and Rohu or Carpo fish. It's good to know the nutritional components of these varieties. Starting with Rohu or Carpo fish that is found in North India and Assam. Rohu is enriched with a lot of proteins, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, B, and C. The second one, Hilsa, is not just popular in India, but also the national fish of Bangladesh and is relished throughout South Asia. It is an extremely fatty fish with high proteins, iron and vitamins. The sad part is that Hilsa is on the brink of extinction due to overfishing, so it should be sustainably consumed.
1. 300 gm Katla, rohu or hilsa fish head
2. 60 gm mustard oil
3. 120 gm onions
4. 2 pcs dried red chillies
5. 2 pcs bay leaves
6. ½ tsp panch phoron (Bengali five spice)
7. 750 gm Malabar spinach
8. 2 gm salt
9. 150 gm potatoes
10. 75 gm ripe jackfruit seeds, sun-dried
11. 240 gm sweet potatoes
12. 400 gm pumpkin
13. 220 gm brinjal
14. 18 gm salt
15. 5 gm turmeric
16. 4 gm cumin powder
17. ¼ tsp red chilli powder
18. 6 gm green chillies
19. 25 gm sugar
20. 8 gm ghee
1. Wash and cut the fish head into a few pieces and marinate them with salt and turmeric.
2. Cut the stalks of the Malabar spinach from the leaves and wash both separately and thoroughly to remove traces of mud.
3. Remove the fibrous tissues from the stalk, and cut the stalks about 3 cm long.
4. Cut brinjals, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and potatoes into small uniform-sized dice to ensure even cooking.
5. Then steam the pui leaves with a teaspoon of salt in a deep pan until they are wilted. Set them aside.
6. Meanwhile, deep fry the coated fish pieces with mustard oil until they turn golden and set them aside. Also, remove the outer covering of jackfruit seeds and cut them into halves, lengthwise.
7. Then fry the sliced onions in the same oil until brown and set aside.
8. Add more oil to the wok, and temper with dried red chillies, bay leaves and panch phoron.
9. Add the potatoes and fry until golden. To this add spinach stalk and jackfruit seeds and cook for about 4 minutes on low heat.
10. Then add sweet potatoes and pumpkins to it. Cover and cook until the vegetables soften. Add salt, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder to this mix well and cook until the raw smell dissipates.
11. Then add brinjals and cover until brinjals turn brown and wilt. Then add 25 gm sugar, stir a little and add steam-cooked spinach leaves, squeezing water out of them.
12. Add fried fish heads into it, mix, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach water and more if the need is, stir everything well and break the fish heads while stirring.
13. Once everything looks mushy and is well-cooked, add ghee and turn off the heat.
The Panch phoron used in Chhyachra includes five spices which are fennel, fenugreek, nigella and mustard seeds and a typical Bengali spice, called radhuni. In the absence of radhuni, cumin seeds can be used. The jackfruit seeds are an interesting addition that gives the nutty and sweet taste to Chhyachra.