Fish stands pretty close to lamb in my books when it comes to my favourite curry. When I was 14, I began tutoring a little girl on my road twice a week and her Mother would always make sure I always ate before I left. They were Bangladeshi so fish was a regular part of their menu. It was here that I fell in love with fish curries, something rarely cooked at my Mother’s home. Where before I had only ever heard of tilapia, cod and salmon, here there were so many different types of fishes! Different sizes, different textures, so many different tastes!
I purchased this particular fish, called ‘Pabda’ from a Bangladeshi shop in a frozen block. I was intrigued by it, but also slightly intimidated by the fact that it had it’s head on. Eeeeeeeek! In a mixture of disgust and fear (strange since I myself had willingly purchased this), I pushed the Pabda to the back of my freezer, in denial that one day I’ll have to deal with this scary little headed fish. Of course, I could just choose to cook and eat it with it’s head on, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that. It’s the eyes – they freak me out!
Eventually, a friend of mine popped over for dinner not too may days ago and I had initially planned the humble Pakistani daal chaawal for dinner, something I felt fine for a regular meal but not something to serve my food-loving friend for dinner. So out came the frozen block of Pabda fish. Unwillingly, I beheaded it and cleaned out it’s innards. Alhamdulillah, the experience wasn’t as gory and gross as I had imagined it to be , i.e. I didn’t puke and now I have the comforting knowledge that no matter what fish life throws at me, I’ll be able to de-head it, cook it and make a fantastic dinner out of it.
‘Bhuna’ refers to a cooking technique in which the water is dried out on high heat and entails vigorous stirring and shaking of the pan. If you’ve ever cooked fish, then you’ll know vigorous stirring will only lead to a mush, which is fine if you’re going for a Fish Keema, but in most other cases isn’t what we want. Hence the ‘ around the ‘Bhuna’ in the title. Instead, I’ve bhunn-ed the onions and tomatoes till they have little water remaining in them, but still maintain their shape to add some texture to the curry, then carefully added the Pabda and allowed it to steam gently till cooked.
This dish went down very well with my friend and I alongside some tadka daal and a zesty salad. Pabda fish has a very delicate and soft texture unlike many other fishes I have had before. The flesh peels away from the bone so easily that fishing for bones (get the pun? Lol) isn’t a problem at all! Goes best with plain white basmati rice but I can imagine it would go quite well with a crispy naan – yum!
Enjoy, with love x