I think the only reason so many of us are averse to cooking dried fish or dried prawns at home is the fact that it smells. Of course it does. Dried out with salt in the hot sun, the shrivelled, scaly, and sometimes thorny fish isn’t a thing of beauty, but if you’re an adventurous cook like me, you really shouldn’t be afraid of transforming bold flavours into something scrumptious.
Dried bombil comes cheap in our Mumbai markets. A quick meal option for the less privileged, it benefits from a bit of frying in ghee, and its fishy flavour works its magic into red chilli and onion-tomato gravies alike. I admit, cleaning it can be a fussy job, hell I complained about it all through last week when I was testing this recipe, but once it’s cooked, it’s a delight to mop up with rotis.
To make this recipe, you’ll have to find one medium-sized kairi. Using a larger kairi will result in a more sour dish, but we’re looking for a well balanced sour-fishy-spicy flavour here. Halving the dried fish lengthwise into two before chopping it results in a more even taste. It also doubles up as a super chutney that sits very well with dal chawal and some greens making your meal more wholesome.
Dried Bombil With Raw Mango
Different from the onion-tomato chutney made with dried bombil, this sour and spicy dried bombil preparation with raw mango tastes delicious by itself, as well as with rotis.
Raw mango 1, medium-sized
Dried Fish 10-15, washed, heads chopped off, slit lengthwise into half and chopped further into 1.5 inch pieces
Ghee 3 tbsp
For The Masala
Kashmiri dried red chillies 7
Sugar 1 tsp
Cumin seeds 1 tsp, toasted
Garlic 6-7 cloves
Salt 1/2 tsp
Black pepper 1 tsp
Soak the dried chillies in warm water for an hour to soften them, then proceed to grind the chillies with the rest of the ingredients. Gradually add enough water to the paste to just combine the spices and chillies.
Boil the mango till it is soft enough for a fork/knife to pierce through it without any resistance. Take the mango out, discard the seed and puree the soft flesh along with the masala, starting with half the puree, then adjust to taste. I didn’t end up using the entire mango’s flesh, but you may like it more sour.
In a kadai, heat 2 tbsp of ghee and stir-fry the dried fish over medium heat for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of ghee in the same kadai and add the masala. Fry the masala for 2-3 minutes over medium heat, stirring it till fragrant, occasionally moistening it with a bit of water as you go so it doesn’t dry out and start burning.
Add the fish to the pan and give it a good stir, then cover and cook it for 5 minutes, or till the fish is done. Taste and take it off the heat.
Don’t salt this fish as it’ll be salty by itself, so you want to watch how much salt you add.