Bengali fish fry and Kentucky bourbon
Fish fry continues to be part of Bengali “afternoon/low tea”. The type and style of fry depends really on the season and availability. Bigger pieces are typically fried lightly coated in turmeric and salt and served with a dash of lime. Smaller fish are dunked in a a spicy wheat flour or besan (can be substituted with garbanzo bean flour) batter before frying.
My father’s generation can perhaps tell the taste and texture difference between 30-50 different varieties of fish. Most of these varieties have now disappeared from the local markets. Now when I visit Kolkata, there is at least a once a week story about the good old days when fish were plentiful in the rivers.
To be honest, I like the ritual more than anything else. Family gathers at the table waiting for freshly fried fish to be served. My mother’s kitchen is only a few feet from the dinner table so we eagerly watch her as she heats up the mustard oil and fries for a good few minutes until the outside is fried crisp but the flesh is flaky. The pungent aroma of mustard oil mixed with the fresh fish oils is perhaps the best pick me up even on a muggy summer day.
I have developed a fondness for Kentucky bourbon and I think it goes really well with family and fried fish. And my family agrees one hundred percent.
The fish disappears rapidly leaving behind folks licking fingers. A few fish bones on the plate and aroma of fish and bourbon is all that is left behind.