Chitol Machher Muithya: A Bengali Luxury Stew

Fishes are essential component of Bengali culinary tradition and no event or celebration is complete without a fish curry. The most luxury among these fish curries is Chitol Machher Muithya which is an authentic West Bengal fish curry dish prepared with chital fish nuggets cooked in spicy onion and tomato gravy. It is hugely popular in Bangladesh also.  Any authentic Bengali restaurant’s menu card is incomplete without this exotic Bengali fish curry.

Resembling an ancient coin, Chitol Machher Muithya is an exemplary old Bengali recipe of fish which has been conserved by the people of Bengal and carried forward to generations. Chitol Machher Muithya, the name itself gives some idea about the recipe.  Chitol Mach means ‘clown knife fish’ and muithya means ‘fist’.  In this recipe, the boneless Chitol Mach is minced and balls is made using the hands and fingers before being slightly boiled, fried, and cooked in the hot tomato-onion sauce.

Now, let us jump into the preparation and see how this heavenly cuisine is prepared.

Ingredients :

For the muithya-

    500 gms chitol machher/ clown knife fish

    1 1/2 tbsp Garlic Paste

    1 tbsp Ginger Paste

    1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder

    1 tsp coriander powder

    1 tsp Cumin Powder

    1/2 heaped tsp garam masala 

    1  medium sized boiled potato

    Salt To Taste

    oil for deep frying

For the gravy-

    1  Medium-Sized Onion

    1 tbsp Garlic Paste

    1 tbsp Ginger Paste

    1 tomato

    2  potatoes

    1 bayleaf

    3  green cardamom

    4  cloves

    1/2 inch cinnamon

    4 green chilies

    1  Dried Red Chili

    1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

    1 1/2 tsp kashmiri red chili powder

    1 tbsp Ghee

    1/2 tsp bengali garam masala

    1/2 tsp Sugar

    3 tbsp Mustard Oil

    Salt To Taste

Procedure to prepare Chitol Machher Muithya:

    Flatten out the chital mach in half and then using a spoon with a sharp edge, scoop out the flesh (It takes time to do this) and take out as much flesh as possible (The bones remain stuck to the skin)

    Add all the ingredients as listed above for the muithya (except the oil) and mix it thoroughly with your hands

    Keep a saucepan with boiling water ready next to you, put some salt and a couple of tsp of oil in it

     Use your hands and make small fish balls and dunk them in the boiling water.

    The fish balls need to be boiled only for a few minutes, just as they start to float up, take them out with a strainer (If you overcook the balls, the muithas become hard and chewy) 

    Once all the muithas are boiled, ready a kadai for deep frying them

    When the oil is hot, slowly slide the boiled fish balls in the hot oil and keep control over the heat, we want golden colour, not brown 

    Once fried, keep all the fried muithyas aside

    For the gravy, cut the potatoes into cubes, make  paste of one onion, make  paste of one tomato and keep aside 

    In a kadhai or a wok, take 3 tbsp of mustard oil and let it heat

     When it starts to smoke, add dried bay leaf, dried red chilli, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves and as they start to colour, add the onion paste and start frying 

    Reduce the temperature to medium and keep frying for a couple of more minutes  

    Add the ginger and garlic paste and fry for a few minutes

     As the raw smell starts to go, add the tomato paste and mix thoroughly, fry for a minute or two and add the cubes of potatoes  

    Add salt, turmeric powder and Kashmiri red chili powder, fry for a couple of minutes and sprinkle water if the masala is sticking to the bottom 

    Add a cup of warm water, give it a stir and then cover and cook the potatoes for 10-15 minutes 

    In between, you will have to remove the lid and stir to check that nothing is sticking to the bottom, if it does, then add a little bit more water and let the potatoes cook 

    Once the potatoes have softened up, add 2 cups of water, sugar, salt and some split green chilies 

    Let the gravy boil and then add the muithyas to the gravy

     Add ghee and garam masala and adjust the seasoning if needed 

    Now reduce the heat and let the gravy simmer

    After five minutes of simmering in the gravy, switch off the heat 

    You curry is ready to be served 

Some dishes are considered Bengal special and Chitol Machher Muithya check every requirement to get into this list. So, if you like to eat fish, do try this Bengali Fish Curry cooked with fishballs, stewed in a sinful onion- tomato gravy and perfumed with green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.