Quick and Easy Bhapa Maach (Bengali-Style Steamed Fish)

I’m sure you’re familiar with Bengali cuisine and the love for fish that Bengalis have. Since, the blog is called Bong Appetite, I thought about making a start with a Bengali recipe. And what can be a better start than the appetising bhapa maach (steamed fish).

Before we begin our gastronomical trip, let me give you an introduction to Bengali cuisine. Bengali cuisine is native to the Bengal region of course, including Bangladesh, West Bengal, Tripura, and Barak Valley of Assam. The flavours are subtle, yet sometimes fiery. It has been influenced by a lot of cultures like the Turkic rulers of the 13th century, Mughals, British and even Jews.

Nearly everyone from the Bengali community eats fish or meat but that doesn’t mean Bengali cuisine lacks variety in vegetarian food. You’ll find an assortment of delicious Bengali dishes, right from steamed fish and fish curry to shukto and aloo posto.

Even the ingredients used in Bengali cuisine are one of a kind. There’s kalonji (onion seeds), radhuni (wild celery seeds) and panch phoron (mustard, fenugreek, onion seeds, fennel and cumin seeds) widely used in various Bengali dishes. Mustard, in particular, is used in all its forms. Mustard paste and oil are used in most fish preparations including bhapa maach.

So, let’s get back to the recipe. Bhapa maach mostly descends from the East Bengal style of cooking, using fuel efficient methods like steaming. It lends a lip-smacking flavour to the fish and enables the ingredients to penetrate well into the fish. The recipe is quite simple. It is generally prepared with Hilsa fish but I have used Rohu for this recipe, which works well too.

Here goes the recipe.

Ingredients

  • Fish (Rohu or Hilsa) – 2-4 pieces
  • Yoghurt – ½ cup
  • Mustard paste – 2tbsp
  • Salt as required
  • Turmeric powder – 2tsp
  • Green chillies – 2-3
  • Mustard oil – 2tbsp

Procedure:

1) Wash the fish pieces properly. It’s better to use the belly area of the fish with extra fat for this recipe.

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2) Marinate the fish with yoghurt, mustard paste, salt, and turmeric powder. Keep it aside for half an hour.

3) Take a stainless-steel tiffin box and add one tablespoon of mustard oil to it. Add the green chillies and the fish pieces with the marinade. Mix well and close the lid of the box.

4) Add a cup of water in a pressure cooker and place the tiffin box in the pressure cooker. Do not close the lid. Instead, place the lid upside-down and heat it over low flame.

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5) Allow the fish to cook for 10-15 minutes. Once done, switch off the flame and wait for the cooker to cool down.

6) Slowly, take out the tiffin box and open the lid. Pour a tablespoon of mustard oil on top and serve with steamed rice.

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Notes:

  • You can also cook it without the tiffin box. Heat the mustard oil in a pan and add all the ingredients of the tiffin box to the pan. Close the lid and cook for 10-15 minutes on low flame.
  • I have used low-fat yoghurt for the recipe. You can make the changes according to your preference.
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