Fish and Vegetable Stew (Jhol)

Serves     4


1 to 1½ pounds cod fillets or steaks, or fillets of another firm-fleshed fish
1½ to 2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons turmeric
3 to 4 tablespoons mustard oil (can mix ¼ teaspoon dried mustard into ¼ cup vegetable oil)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Bengali Five-Spice Mixture (panch phoron, see separate recipe)
1 teaspoon minced ginger, or ginger mashed to a paste
½ cup diced tomato
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup cubed Asian eggplant
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne
3 cups water
4 or 5 green chiles, stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
½ cup chopped coriander leaves


Pat fish dry and cut into serving size pieces. Set on a large plate. Mix together 1 teaspoon each of the salt and turmeric, then sprinkle onto the fish and toss gently to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the mustard oil in a wok or large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and panfry until just touched with brown (you will probably have to cook in several batches, adding extra oil for each batch), then lift out and set aside on another plate.

Add the vegetable oil and place the pan back over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the Bengali spice mixture and stir-fry briefly, then add the ginger and tomatoes and stir-fry about 1 minute, until the tomato starts to break down. Add the potato and eggplant and stir-fry for several minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the ground coriander, cumin, cayenne and the remaining ½ teaspoon turmeric, then add the water, cover and bring to a rapid simmer.

Slide in the fish and the chiles, lower the heat, and simmer until the chiles and vegetables are tender, another 5 minutes or so. Taste for seasoning and stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon salt if needed. Garnish with coriander leaves.


Notes and Instructions

This is a fish and vegetable stew (jhol means simmered or cooked in water) commonly served at the main noon meal in many households. Cod, halibut, tilapia or even salmon would all be good choices for this dish, any fish that will hold together when pan-fried.

Source: Mangoes and Curry Leaves