Monday, March 14, 2011

Maacher Muro Diye Mugger Daal

We are not a family of werewolves. We are Bengalis. A community which is known to eat fish in all its forms and with all its parts. Including the coveted head.

Maacher Muro
with Mugger Daal is a big fish head (usually Rohu or Katla) cooked with yellow mung dal. Its a wedding and special occasion tradition.

My father taught me how to work my way into a fish head. The process is meticulous and requires some patience. The eyes and the brain of the fish are the most sought after. They say those are the best parts of the fish head, good for eyesight and the brain. That explains all the Bongs out there with exponentially celestial cerebral equity. Its the fish head, I tell you!

This recipe is my Mother’s of course, and I have re-created it in my kitchen out of greed. That insatiable desire to dunk my hand into a bowl of dal and fish out (pun definitely not intended) a big piece of the head.

IMG_1484 Just as the Muro Diye Mugger Daal is here, brimming with flavors and the taste like that from an outside world, I am reminded of a little story my Father always loves to narrate. How he never got a chance to eat the Maacher Muro in his wedding feast. Reason? He was too shy to break into the big fish head when my Mum’s relatives laid out the feast for the new groom. And some benign lady apparently in some kind of hurry, thought it was wise not to embarrass the notun bor with a fish head and took the big Rohu muro away while my Father looked at it longingly. This happened exactly 36 years ago, but the vividness with which he re-tells this incident is still fresh and funny!

Ingredients for Maacher Muro Diye Mugger Daal are:

For the fish head:

1 big fish head (Rohu or Katla) cut into half, cleaned and washed
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Quarter cup mustard oil

IMG_1470 IMG_1472 IMG_1475 Smear the head with the turmeric and salt. Heat the oil until smoking and fry the fish head – about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep.

For the dal:

1 cup yellow mung dal
2 tablespoons ginger paste
4-5 green chilies, slit lengthwise
1 teaspoon heaped red chili powder
1 teaspoon heaped turmeric powder
3-4 bay leaves
2-3 black cardamoms
2-3 green cardamoms
1 stick of cinnamon
5-6 cloves
3-4 tablespoons desi ghee


In a pressure pan, dry roast the dal till golden brown. Do this on low-medium heat and babysit the dal so that it doesn’t burn. Remove and keep aside.IMG_1479

IMG_1480 In the same pan, heat the ghee and add the bay, cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves and the green chilies. Sauté for a couple of minutes and add the dry-roasted dal.

IMG_1481 Mix the dal well with the whole spices and the ghee. Add the ginger paste, turmeric and red chili powder.

IMG_1482 On medium heat, mix together all the ingredients. Add the fried fish head and mix again. Let this cook for about 3-4 minutes till the fish head starts disintegrating into the dal and spices.

IMG_1483 Use your spatula to give the fish head a helping hand. Add two – three cups of water and simmer. Season with sugar and salt.

Cook the dal till done, but not mushy. I would say about 15-20 minutes, covered all the time. If you see the water drying up too soon, add some more.

IMG_1485 This dal will not be runny and have a thick consistency, more so because of the fish head added to it. The head would have now broken down quite a bit and you will see it mixed well with the dal and spices. Do a taste test and add sugar and salt if needed.

IMG_1490 The Maacher Muro Diye Mugger Daal usually starts a lot of meals. Serve it with rice, crispy alu bhaja, and a wedge of Gondho Lebu and you will have a meal fit for a queen or a king! Follow it up with this or this. A meal like this usually ends with a bowl of chilled Payesh.