Today while browsing an old album, I came across this picture of a prized wedding fish on its way to the bride to be’s family . It was a part of the Gai Holud ceremony.I can still almost taste the delicious lunch that followed the ceremony. Oh dear Fish.
Growing up in a lose knit Bengali family, weddings were a cause of major celebrations, for me it meant: Phamily and Phood , especially Pheesh (Bong babu’s way of pronouncing things, pun intended) ! It meant waking up to the robust smell of fish slices being friend in sharp mustard oil. Fried fish is definitely not a breakfast food, now even for us bongs. The early preparation was perhaps the cooks way of ensuring that the food is done in time for lunch. You see, we bongs have a huge appetite for food, especially on festive gatherings like wedding.
Actually the food or more importantly the fish fetish has a lot bigger role to play during weddings than just being the family favorite dish. In traditional Bengali wedding’s the bride walks in to her new home with a live fish in hand. As the folklore goes, it signifies harmony and healthy children.
Nowadays people make is easier on the new bride by making her carry a dead fish but, that’s only if you allow the bending of rituals and traditions. I generally don’t , and perhaps it’s not me speaking but my grandmother’s spirit who is peeping at my post from the heaven above is making me write it. She was so focused on these traditions, right from the symbolism of these rituals to how these fishes should be cooked and served in a correct order, that I now feel it’s my personal responsibility to see that the traditional lineage continues. Afterall they come with a promise of good fortune and prosperity. Greedy me!
Who can deny.
Now that we are in the topic of traditions, presenting a traditional dish of Fish in Mustard sauce or Sorse Maach. I have tried to be as authentic as possible, but feel free reason out what proportions will actually make for the best Sorse Maach, which suits your family's taste buds.
Fish in Bengali Mustard Sauce or Sorse Mach
Fish pieces/fillets around 4-5 pieces
Yellow mustard seeds (soaked for a few hours in water) 4-5 tbsp
Green chilies as per taste
Ginger paste 1 ½ tsp
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Salt and sugar to taste
Mustard oil 2-3 tbsp (Plus 1 tbsp more for drizzling) (you can substitute with other oils if you want)
Cilantro for garnish
Clean the fish pieces and rub the turmeric and salt over it. Keep it aside for 15 minutes.
Now grind the soaked mustard seeds with a few green chilies in mortar and pestle, or a mixer to a smooth and creamy paste.
In a deep bottomed pan, heat the mustard oil and fry the fish pieces till they are golden brown in color. Keep the fish pieces aside. Now temper the oil with ginger paste and a little salt. Now add the mustard paste and fry on low heat. Add the whole green chilies along with salt and sugar. Adjust according to taste. Add the fish pieces along with half a cup of water and let it cook for few more minutes. The consistency is creamy and thick, not runny. So adjust the liquid accordingly.
Once done, garnish with cilantro and drizzle fresh mustard oil on top.
Serve the fish in mustard sauce over bed of rice.