Indian Salmon/Gurjali Mach/Rawas Machli cooked with mustard paste n green chili, carrot n green beans wrapped in French love-fish en papillote
Here is the thing, when you wanna prepare fish en papillote, make little or medium pouch or parcels, out of parchment paper or baking paper/aluminum foil, place the fish inside the parcel before you seal in, you make the fish sit on a bed of vegetables kept on the paper, choose something that goes with that particular fish you are cooking, you add herbs or spices or any sauce, season it, then you fold the paper overlapping each fold with the prior fold so that parcel becomes sealed and steam can’t escape from it, then you place it in the oven and the fish gets cooked in its own steam inside that paper bag- that is what at the heart of cooking fish en papillote.
The flavor of the Gurjali fish reminds me of Elish/Hilsa a bit, especially the big sized ones, the flavor of a small fish is different than a matured n big one. For this recipe I chose a small to medium size, otherwise I need to make a big parcel n it won’t fit my oven. Gurjali fish is known as Rawas/Ravas/Ramus/Gurjali/Ranwa across India, often it is known as the Indian Salmon. It is beautiful to look at, though there are no play of colors on its body but shades of grey, looking at the head of a gurjali reminds me of the shark, the low sitting lower part of the jaw in the head brings the picture of shark in my mind.
In a Bengali kitchen the technique of steaming the fish is popular along with frying and making a spicy stew with fish. The method of steaming is called ‘Bhapa’ in Bengali culinary terms, which is the same thing happening in a papillote, the fish is getting steamed in a paper bag. In a Bengali kitchen the steaming takes place inside a metal bowl, sometimes the fish is warped along with spices n oil in banana leaves, then placed carefully inside a steamer. It produces incredible taste often times.
Now there are many unwritten rules when it comes to combining fishes with spices in a Bengali kitchen, each fish is combined with a particular set of spices n herbs n vegetables, there is no common set of sauce or spices that is used for every fish, as every fish has a different flavor, it is treated differently-it produces a sophisticated array of flavor spectrum. But that doesn’t mean a fish is prepared the same way across Bengal, many subtle to strong variations exist even within a popular recipe, an unwritten war exists in the mind of people arguing whose combination is best-that is the fun.
I like the combination of nigella seeds/kalonji/black cumin/kalo jeere/onion seeds n green chilies n mustard paste with the flavor of the gurjali fish. They take up the flavor of the fish to a new level, the mustard gives a kick of pungency n heat, the green chilies give away their amazing savory flavor and the nigella seeds give away their smooth mellow flavor, it’s delicious. I made a bed of carrot ribbons n green beans n few slices of ginger on which the fish sat while being steamed inside the parcel n it was all in harmony. I know you want to give it a try, so it is time for the recipe.
Pre-heat the oven to 190 Celsius/375 Fahrenheit/Gas mark 5
You need a parchment or baking paper, cut a 2ft/2ft square, fold the paper in half, draw the biggest half heart shape on one half, then open it n it will become a heart shape, cut it out, smear some mustard oil on top the paper where the fish will sit.
Bring the parcel to the dining table where everyone is sitting, this is the moment, cut open the parcel n let the steam hit everybody with the aroma of the fish...watch their faces n then dig in. Bon Appétit.