Niramish literally translates to pure vegetarian in Bengali (amish= non-veg). Clearly however, there is nothing veg about a dish when you choose to cook it with fish. Except that the base gravy is still called ‘niramish’ because it does not contain onion or garlic. In fact, this particular version does not contain ginger either, and is also called jeere-moricher jhol.
Back home, Rohu and jhol are so synonymous with everyday cooking that it ceases to be a novelty anymore, especially when someone is unwell. The moment you confess to feeling feverish or having a funny feeling in your tummy, a bong mom will declare ‘Aajke shudhu paatla jhol aar bhaat’ (today you’re only having a thin curry and rice).
However, things change when you’ve been away from your home and family and mom especially. There are days when I crave for certain such simple things I always took for granted back home. Well it is simple for mom, not so much for me. Especially the time it takes to chop all those vegetables, am telling you a paste norma is much easier! Anyhow, I happened to buy fresh rohu fish recently and this is exactly what I had in mind when I was buying it. A mom-style patlaa jhol – and I don’t necessarily need an upset tummy for that.
- Rohu fish: 4-5 pieces
- Pointed gourd or parwal: 5 nos
- Eggplant: 1 medium
- Ridge gourd: 5 (optional)
- Raw Papaya: half of a medium sized papaya
- (one can add potatoes, string beans, flat beans or similar veggies)
- Cumin powder: 2 tsp
- Coriander powder: 2 tsp
- Black pepper powder: 2+1 tsp
- Green chilly: 1 no.
- Turmeric: 2 tsp
- Mustard oil for frying
- Rub fish pieces with turmeric and salt and fry in oil till brown and crisp.
- Cut all vegetables longitudinally into rectangular pieces. Rub them with salt and turmeric and fry them lightly.
- Make a thin paste of cumin powder, coriander powder and black pepper powder (freshly ground, reserve a tsp for later) and add it to the vegetables. Add sufficient water for the vegetables to simmer away for about 6-7 minutes.
- Once the veggies are cooked, add the green chilly and fried fish and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Let it rest for a while.
- Sprinkle the remaining ground black pepper before serving. Serve with a wedge of lime.
PS: You could also add a bay leaf or panchforan to this dish.
For vegetarians, you could simply skip the fish or replace it with bori (lentil dumplings) or even with besan pakodis similar to the ones we use in kadhi.