Friday, September 19, 2014

Bhapa (Steam-Baked) Katla Maach (in the Oven and Pressure Cooker)

Just finished a real "rock-and-roll" dinner this Friday night. Reason? The star attraction of the menu was Bhapa Maach (Steam Baked Fish).

I learned this recipe a long time ago from a lady who was a fabulous cook herself. She taught me this recipe in her characteristic motherly way. I don't know where she is now because I lost touch, but I hope she knows how grateful I am for this! I have made this simple dish numerous times for family get-together and its an evergreen hit, every time.

Originally, this steamed fish recipe is used for making the delicate Hilsa fish (Bhapa Ilish) or the flavorful prawn (Bhapa Chingri). If you are using fresh water fishes such as Rui (Rohu/ Labeo rohita) or Katla , you need to saute the fish lightly in oil before steaming it.

I am sending this recipe for the upcoming event on Kolkata Food Bloggers, called "Durga Puja Bhuri Bhoj".

Here is the recipe:


Katla maach: 5-6 big pieces
Thick curd: 1 cup
Mustard paste (2 tsp black mustard seeds + 2 green chillies + 1 pinch salt, mixed and ground into a wet paste): 1/2 tablespoon
Poppy seed (posto) paste: 1 heaped teaspoon
Mustard oil: 3 teaspoons
Salt: to taste
Sugar: 1 and a half teaspoon
Chili powder: 1/4th teaspoon
Green chillies: 6-7
Mustard oil for frying the fish


1. Dust the fish pieces with turmeric powder and salt. Fry the fish in hot mustard oil. Make sure you do not deep fry the fish. The fish should just be fried lightly to get rid of the rawness.
2. Gather all the ingredients as shown in the picture. This includes, fried fish, thick curd (you can use curd made from toned milk if you prefer that), green chillies, mustard paste, poppy seed paste, sugar and salt.

3. Mix all the ingredients (except fried fish). You will get a thick batter. Add a teaspoon of mustard oil to this batter.

4. Now place the fish pieces in a dish and pour the batter over it. Add some slit green chillies.

For steaming the fish, you can use the pressure cooker or the oven. Both the methods are given below:

Using pressure cooker:

1.  First take a steel tiffin box or any steel vessel with tight-fitting lid. Place the fish pieces as well as the gravy in this vessel and close the lid tightly.
2. Add water in the pressure cooker and place the vessel or box inside the pressure cooker. The water should reach about half the sides of the box. Make sure that the water inside the pressure cooker is not too much.

3. Close the lid of the pressure cooker. Cook for two whistles.
4. Take off the gas but do not open the pressure cooker. 
5. Let the steam get released on its own. Open the pressure cooker and take out the box.

Using oven (OTG):

1. Take a heatproof dish that is flat in shape.
2. Place the fish pieces in the dish and pour the batter over it.
3. Before baking do not forget to add a teaspoon of mustard oil and a few slit green chillies.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F/176 degrees C for ten minutes.
5. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Place the dish on a tray containing boiling hot water. This is essential for building steam inside the oven. Make sure that the water does not spill over inside the dish.

6. Bake the fish for about 30 minutes at the same temperature. Keep the fish in the oven for five more minutes.
7. Remove the foil.

Finally drizzle a few drops of oil on the dish. Add 1-2 slit green chillies and garnish with coriander leaves.

Enjoy with hot steamed rice. Lots of good wishes for this festive season!

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