Wednesday, September 30, 2015

fish curry in a tomato gravy | tamatar wali machhli

fish in tomato gravy

Tomatoes lend a wonderful flavour to fish steaks when simmered for some time. I usually like fish with bones and skin for my curries as the skin and bones bring all the flavours of fish alive. I wouldn't ever use fish fillet for curries unless I am serving it to fussy guests. But trust me this simple tomato fish curry would floor some of those fussy eaters too.


A tomato based fish curry, as simple as it can be. I mean no overpowering spices, very nominal cooking oil used and very few steps to make the curry. A mild whiff of nigella seeds and a tangy taste of tomatoes complimented well by a bit of garlic is somewhat describes this curry totally, of course the red chilli balances the act. And that's about it. No other flavours spoiling the tomato fun.

Most of my Indian style fish curries are inspired by Bengali fish curries and this is one of them. I started eating fish influenced by some Bengali friends and I owe it to them the way I can handle my fish. And note that this tomato fish curry has to be cooked in mustard oil, else you will get something else, you may like it but not you will miss some magic that mustard oil lends to this curry.

(2 servings)

2 large fish steaks about 120-150 gm each
2 tsp besan (chickpea flour)
generous pinch of salt and turmeric to smear the fish steaks
400 gm tomatoes (desi tart and sweet variety please)
3 cloves of garlic
1 green chilli broken
1/2 tsp red chilly powder
1.5 tbsp mustard oil
1/4 tsp kalonji or nigella seeds
handful of chopped coriander greens
salt to taste

tamatar wali machhli


Smear the salt and turmeric over the fish steaks and dredge very lightly over a very thin layer of chickpea flour.

Heat mustard oil in a cast iron pan and shallow fry the prepared fish steaks.

In the meanwhile chop the tomatoes roughly and make a paste along with garlic cloves. Keep aside.

In the remaining oil after shallow frying the fish steaks, add the nigella seeds and green chilli pieces. Wait till nigella seeds get fragrant and pour the tomato paste over it. Add salt, red chilly powder, half of the coriander greens (preferably the stem parts) and let it come to a soft boil.

Slide the fried fish steaks in the simmering tomato gravy, add a little hot water if you want the curry thinner and simmer for about 5-6 minutes.

Adjust seasoning, add a little sugar ( I needed 1/4 tsp) if the tomatoes are too tart.

fish in tomato gravy

Serve hot with plain boiled rice, garnished with the remaining coriander greens.

Rustic, simple, clean flavours that make everyday food so much more desirable. You can serve some vegetable stir fry with this meal of some raw salads too. We had a lavish fish meal with these fish cakes along with this tomato fish curry.

Here is another tomato based fish curry where I have used Bombil or Bombay duck. One more tomato based fish curry is a bit complex with some spices used and a little rich too. You can see I love using tomatoes in my fish curry, but this one is the simplest of all tomato fish curries I make.

Do let me know whenever you try this. It will be good to mention that this curry tastes great with just some lightly fried boiled potatoes or even paneer. Or use the besan ki katli or patode to make this curry. So there are many vegetarian versions too.

Monday, September 21, 2015

i:ba cafe and restaurant in Varanasi | a taste of Japan in the city of Gods

I was going through the old pictures of Banaras I have clicked over the years and stumbled upon a bunch of pictures of this quaint Japanese cafe and restaurant from our visit two years back. Yes, I had planned to share a review but something or the other kept me occupied and this experience could never be shared.

Better late than never. This cafe is called i:ba and has a rustic zen to it's decor. We were actually taken in for a surprise when we entered at lunch time that day. We were the only guests in the restaurant and settled down quickly, claming all the space to ourselves. One look at the menu and we understood they have a fairly good Japanese spread but they do serve some pasta and chow mien fare as well, they even has some Indian meals back then. Not sure whether they have changed the menu in the last 2 years since we were there.

The decor definitely appealed to us. Comfortable couches and low tables mostly but a few dining tables too so one can choose what suits better.

Rustic Indian murals, woodwork and some cane baskets etc paired really well with a calming blue sky painted along the roofing. Well air conditioned and well kept I must add, though I felt the servers could be more presentable.

We had gone there with a good mind to try Japanese food in Banaras. Had heard about the owner who is a Japanese and had married a local girl to settle down in the city. Such stories of romance between foreigners and locals is not new for the city but it is always great to witness if it brings something good to the city too. I would want the society to be more open to new ideas and changes but we can do with a cafe where we can get to eat some Japanese food for now.

It would be even better if they get fish suited for sushi and sashimi too and if they get to serve all types of meats some day.

We could get an idea that the menu was designed to cater to the city folks more than the tourists. I feel more youngsters and students go there for experimentation and may be for a quite date. The pricing can pinch a student's pocket in the city though, but they can always decide to eat just one filling dish and not eat many courses.

The menu is printed in a very basic manner, making the dishes understandable for a person who is eating Japanese food for the first time. I appreciate this effort.

We ordered Pan fried gyoza, Miso soup, Curry Udon, Mutton Yakiniku don and a set Japanese meal platter. For the two of us this was quite a lot of food but we wanted to taste as much as we could.

I liked the use of local vegetables in every dish we tasted. There is not much option to get fresh variety of mushrooms, imported greens and sea food in the city and I don't mind local ingredients being used for the food.

i:ba uses good quality Wakame, dried Shitake and Miso paste etc to bring flavour I could see. Miso soup was spot on, perfect.

They import many Japanese ingredients and the taste of miso paste and pickles (on the side) was impeccable but the use of local vegetables lends a taste that gives it a local twist even if it is not intentional. I must add that the taste of local vegetables grown in the Gangetic plains is different from anywhere else and we do notice the change of taste even when compared to Delhi.

The use of mutton and chicken only in the non vegetarian dishes is understandable as serving Beef or Pork in the city wouldn't be possible. Not sure if it is allowed but most people wouldn't go to places where these meats are served as much I understand.

I am glad there is a Japanese restaurant in the city which is a great respite from the chaats and street food for a traveler. There are many more gems in the city that I have been planning to write about. A nice bakery called English bread that serves wonderful Bagels apart from other breads and pastries, another Lebanese cafe that someone runs in his courtyard and many tea shops and cafes that cater to the foreign travelers more than the desi ones, but worth a visit to understand how so many people keep coming back to Banaras.

It is not just the spirituality, there is something more to the culture and lifestyle that attracts travelers from all around the globe.

How to reach i:ba Cafe?

Take a rickshaw from anywhere in the city towards Shivala and ask the rickshaw guy to take you to Agarwal Radio if coming from Nagwa or Bhelupur. The narrow lane just before Agarwal Radio is where you have to take a turn to your left, keep looking at your left and you will see i:ba cafe after a few meters.
If coming from Vijaya cinema (towards Shivala) you have to keep looking towards your right to find this cafe just before you reach Shivala tiraha.
Remember Agarwal Radio is an old shop and your landmark. People are generally helpful and will tell directions if you are lost.

Note that i:ba cafe is market on Google too.