Bombay Duck, also known as “Bombil” among the locals of Mumbai, is actually a fish and caught in the waters of the Arabian Sea. The Bombil fish is a species that is found along the coasts of Goa, Karnataka and in some parts of Bay of Bengal, but most primarily off the coast of Mumbai, hence the moniker. It is used to prepare lip-smacking local recipes. The unique feature about this fish is that its flesh is very soft and delicate, unlike the flesh of fish like salmon, mackerel, etc. that can be eaten in a fillet form. Bombil meat can be fried or used in curries. Either way, it is absolutely delicious!
Today we are sharing a traditional Maharashtrian recipe with you that comes directly from the family kitchen of our intern Ruta. Her mother, Sujata Karmarkar, makes a Special Crispy Bombil Fry that is absolute heavenly!
Before we share the recipe with you, here are some tips for buying Bombil:
- Bombil or Bombay Ducks are available in almost every fish market of Mumbai. Ensuring the quality of the Bombils before buying them is very important. The freshness of this fish is determined by the colour of its flesh. Make sure that the flesh has a pearly white colour, not red and the flesh should be firm and not flaky. You should also make sure that the Bombils do not have a rotten smell.
- The availability of Bombils depends upon the season. You may not find this fish in the markets during the monsoon season.
- One plate (locally called vaata) has about 7-8 Bombils. The cost of each plate ranges from ₹75-100. Bargaining is recommended.
- The flesh of the Bombil fish is a little slimy. Therefore, to make this super-delicious recipe, Sujata strongly recommends everyone to compress the fish before coating it with masala. The process will be described in detail down below in the method section.
Ingredients for Bombil Fry:
1 plate of medium-sized Bombils, butterflied (slit sideways)
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2-1 teaspoon Chilli powder (depending on your taste)
3/4 teaspoon Dry Mango powder
1 teaspoon Fish Fry masala
Oil for frying
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon Green Masala
How to make the green masala:
1 cup Coriander
1 inch Ginger
8-10 Garlic Cloves
Put everything in the mixer and make a paste out of it.
(Ratio of rice flour to semolina is 1:1.5)
1 muslin cloth for wrapping the fish
Start the process of compressing the fish by placing the pieces in a muslin cloth. Remember to place the sliced section of the fish on the cloth, and not the other way round. After you have finished wrapping the fish pieces, place a flat board (you can use a vegetable cutting board) on the cloth and keep a heavy weight on it. This process helps the cloth to absorb all the wetness and slime of the fish, leaving you with flat dry pieces of fish. Keep the weight on for about 20-30 minutes. After you have completed this process, remove the Bombils from the cloth and place them in a plate.
It’s time for all the spices to go in. Now add the turmeric, chilli powder, dry mango powder, fish fry masala, green masala and salt, and mix it all well. Make sure that every piece is coated well with the masala.
After this is done, prepare your semolina and rice flour coating, and dunk the fish pieces in the dry flour. In the meantime, you can heat your pans, add oil for shallow frying, and keep them ready. Once all the Bombils have been coated well, place them on the heated pan, and keep a medium flame. Once they are crispy and golden brown on one side, flip it on the other side. After 5 minutes, turn off the gas.
Serve it hot with some amazing homemade dry salad, and your Bombil fry is ready to be devoured! (A 21+ year old add on for this dish is a chilled beer to accompany the Bombil fry.)
Things to remember:
- Bombil is a delicate fish, and therefore does not take much time to cook. Keep a close eye on the fish, and when you think the flesh has turned white, and the skin is crispy enough, turn off the gas. Over-frying could end up burning the fish.
- This fish fry requires a decent amount of oil to be poured around the fish at regular intervals in order to make the skin crispy. For all those who are on a diet, you have the option to pour less oil. But remember, the skin may not turn out to be as crispy and golden-brown as you’d wished it!
- After the process of compressing the fish has been completed and the pieces have been removed from the muslin cloth, it is advisable to throw the cloth away since it might stink later.