Pabda Fish ‘Bhuna’ Curry

Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks

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!

Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks

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.

Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks

‘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.Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks

 

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

Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks

 

Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks

Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks
Pabda Fish 'Bhuna'
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
3 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
3 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks
Pabda Fish 'Bhuna'
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
3 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
3 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
  • 250 grams Pabda fish
  • 2 onions, sliced thin and long
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander powder
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric
  • 1 green chili, for garnish
  • fresh coriander, for garnish
  • oil, as needed
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. First, we take off the head of this fish. I didn't do too well with this! Cut the head of at an angle and clean out the innards using a sharp knife.
    Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks
  2. Rub the fish well in 1tsp salt and 1/2tsp turmeric and allow to marinate in a colander for a minimum of half an hour.
  3. Deep fry the fish for 1-2 minutes in very hot oil. Set aside
  4. In a skillet or pan big enough to fit all the fish in one layer, add 1/4 cup of oil, the sliced onions and minced garlic. Saute this till very lightly brown
    Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks
  5. Add the tomatoes and spices. Saute this on high heat till the tomatoes slightly mash and release some of their water
    Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks
  6. At this point, add the fish in a single layer. Using a spoon, take some of the onion and tomato masala and spread it over the fish. Turn the heat to low, cover and allow to simmer for 5 minutes
    Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks
  7. Garnish with chopped coriander and green chilli. Serve immediately.
    Pabda Fish Bhuna - Recipe by Fatima Cooks
Recipe Notes

If you want to keep the head on, then by all means do so. I just couldn't bring myself to leave the head on and eat it!

If you don't have Kashmiri red chilli, substitute with red chilli powder to taste

This recipe can easily be substituted to any other fish, bone-in or boneles

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