Bengalis love fish, that’s no secret, and why not? With access to so many freshwater varieties and the well known health benefits of fish, they would be crazy not to capitalize on this meat. Over the decades, Bengali people have developed some appetizing and delectable fish dishes which would make anyone drool. Some of the most popular fish in Bengal are hilsa, rohu and catla. That’s where our dish today – Catla Kalia, comes into play. Catla is an amazingly abundant, freshwater fish that is pocket friendly. It is also quite healthy, it’s high in protein and has low saturated fats; to cap it all off it’s really tasty too!
Taste is really important here, because this recipe is all about flavour. Catla kalia is a really well loved Bengali dish. It can be made at home for lunch or dinner but is also famous as a dish served during weddings. It is the type of dish that melds a lot of different flavours together well – spicy, sweet and tangy. Let’s take a closer look at the history of this dish.
Catla Kalia – A History
Not many people are aware of this fact, but Kalia is a dish which has Mughal origins. Qaliya and Qorma – both came from Persia and eventually made their way to India with the Mughals. Qaliya had a thinner gravy than a qorma which used yogurt in the sauce. Onions formed the base of the qaliya gravy and water or milk was used in place of yogurt.
Because of the nawabs that ruled in Bengal, the locals eventually got wind of the dish. They took the original qaliya, added spices, chillies and a ton of local ingredients and made an unrecognisable yet flavourful rendition of the dish – kalia, as we know it today.
Kalia today incorporates many different spices; sometimes raisins are added for sweetness and some people choose to add potatoes. Yogurt is also now used to create the sauce along with the onions. Overall, catla kalia is an incredible dish to say the least.
Every Bengali home probably has their own version of catla kalia because it’s so popular. The most important ingredient though, is the catla itself. This dish is either made or broken by the quality, size and freshness of your fish. Luckily, Licious Catla is extraordinarily fresh, and goes from boat to home in just 24 hours.
Catla Kalia is a rich red fish curry, with many ingredients but easy steps which you are probably already familiar with. This recipe doesn’t take very long but tastes as though it did. Keep reading for the full recipe breakdown. If you feel that the amount of chilli used in this recipe is too hot for you to handle, please feel free to reduce the quantity.
Once soaked, make your chilli paste by blending the chilli paste ingredients mentioned above.
Heat your oil in a wok on a medium-high flame and fry your marinated fish until golden brown.
Once fried, set your fish aside, lower the flame and use the oil in the wok to begin your curry.
Add in all your whole spices and let this cook for a minute.
Turn your heat up to medium again and add the onion paste to your wok.
Once your onion paste has browned you can put in the chilli paste and cook it for a few minutes.
When ready, add in the cumin and turmeric powder and allow all your spices to cook until the raw smell goes away.
Next in goes the yogurt. Make sure to keep stirring this mix for at least 3-4 minutes to make sure that it does not curdle.
Once you are happy with your spice mix, put in your chopped tomatoes and cook until it comes on oil. Remember to stir occasionally to prevent your spices from sticking.
When the oil has begun to separate then pour in a little water and allow this entire mix to come to a boil.
Then the sugar and salt go in. Now cover your wok and cook everything for roughly 5 more minutes.
Lower your flame for the last time, add in your katla fillets and cook your kalia for 10 minutes. If you feel that more seasoning is required then adjust it accordingly.
Catla kalia is usually served with simple steamed rice. If you do feel like you want to add in extra flavour and texture like potatoes and raisins, then this is how to do it. You will need to coat your potatoes in turmeric powder and pre-fry them. These potatoes will then go in with the catla towards the end.
For the raisins and a sweeter taste, you can do one or both of these things. Make a raisin paste - around 1 tablespoon, in your grinder. This paste should be added with the tomatoes. If you prefer, you can add in whole raisins by themselves with the tomatoes. Some people do both, it just depends on how sweet you want your kalia to be because remember, you will have added a tablespoon of sugar as well. While this dish does have a lot of steps, the flavour is really worth it.
So, if you're looking for a dish to make for a special occasion that has heaps of flavour and everyone will love, this is certainly the dish for you. Give it a go, and let us know in the comments how it turned out.