It’s common knowledge that the average Indian is fond of spicy food. The Eats Cravings Report in 2019 showcased that one of the most popular requests for food orders was for it to be “extra spicy”. So, it’s no surprise that the Manipuris enjoy spicy food as well — albeit a little more than the average Indian. Their favourite spicy ingredient? Chillies, red or green, of any size. This Nga Atoiba Thongba recipe packs a lot of heat as well, not only with a lot of red chillies, but also with a special variety of chive called maroi napakpi.
A popular fish stew, laden with veggies and freshwater fish, Nga Atoiba Thongba is a popular dish in Manipuri cuisine. If you are prepping for a meaty Christmas menu, this dish is a perfect addition. This Christmas season, explore our range of special cuts of fresh meats & seafood and ready-to-cook treats from our X’Mas Specials such as Roasted Leg of Lamb, Whole Chicken with Skin, Goan Prawn Curry etc.
What is Nga Atoiba Thongba?
Nga Atoiba Thongba translates to ‘disintegrated fish curry’, which is exactly what it is. A variety of vegetables of your choice (typically potatoes, tomatoes and peas) are cooked in a spicy gravy after which fresh pieces of unmarinated fish are lightly tossed in, naturally breaking down the fish. This allows for the fish to soak up the flavours of the gravy beautifully. This dish is popular amidst the Meitei community in Manipur.
The key to making a flavourful gravy base is to use a variety of spices, as is the case in this basa fish recipe. Bay leaves are important as well as turmeric, (not Kashmiri) red chilli powder and maru maraang, a mixture of toasted, powdered cumin and coriander seeds. As mentioned earlier, chillies and maroi napakpi are also traditionally added to the dish; however, if you don’t enjoy spicy food or if you’re unable to source maroi napakpi, this step can be skipped.
In Manipur, the dish is made using freshwater fish, since the state is filled with lakes and rivers. But this recipe can use any fish, saltwater or freshwater, such as seer, tilapia and more. We use our cleaned boneless cubes of basa that you can use straight from the pack into the pan!
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1tspmaru maraang powder( that is: powdered toasted cumin and coriander seeds)
cilantro for garnishing.
Salt to taste
Chop up the onions, potato, tomatoes and chillies and pound the garlic, ginger and maroi napaakpi roots.
Now, heat the oil in a pan and gently toss in the hing. This will ensure the hing’s flavour to get infused in the oil. It also helps in neutralising the fishy smell in the dish. Fry it for a few seconds. And then add the bay leaf and fry it for another few seconds. Add the onions and fry them till they just start to soften. Now, toss in the potato and fry them till the onions soften properly.
You can now put in the pounded garlic, ginger and maroi napaakpi roots. Fry them for around 30 secs to 1 minute and then add the turmeric powder and red chili powder. By now the mixture will become sticky and will tend to stick to your pan. If you are not careful, the ingredients will burn. To avoid that, just keep adding a tablespoon of water to it from time to time.
Fry them for about a minute and then add in the tomatoes.
Another minute of frying and then add the green peas, fresh chillies and salt. Mix them well and fry for 30 secs.
Now, add the fish. Make sure that the ingredients are mixed really well before you add in the fish.
Work fast and lightly toss the fish with the ingredients before the fish gets cooked. Even though this dish is called ngaa atoiba or disintegrated fish (curry), you do not try to disintegrate it on purpose. It should come naturally as you handle it. One has to be always careful while handling the fish.
Now, add 1 and ½ cups of water and bring it to a boil. Once it starts boiling, put on the lid (it shouldn’t be a tight lid) and let it cook on high heat for about 8 minutes. You have to put on the lid to make sure that the ingredients get cooked properly. Now, take off the lid and let it cook for another 5-6 minutes.
Your Nga atoiba thongba or Manipuri fish stew is done. Garnish it with cilantro and serve it with plain rice.