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21 December, 2013

Lebu pata diye Salmon Tottora (Salmon in Tomato Gravy)

Comments : 3 Posted in : Main Courses & Sides on by : Ratna

Salmon  Tottora  with  lime  leaf.


She  had  never  cooked  salmon  Tottora.  In  fact  she  had  never  cooked  salmon  in  her  life.  Ilish,  Rui,  Katla,  Chitol,  Phansa,  Chingri   were  the  ones  she  was  familiar  with.  She  cooked   jhal,  jhol,  kalia,  paturi,  awmbol   and  of  course  tottora.  Dida’s   white  sari  always  had  a  red  color  in  the  border,  indicating  that  my  Dadu  was  still  living .

Every  summer,  as  soon  as  the  school  holidays  begun,  we  used  to  visit  our  Dadu  and  Dida.  The  days  would  be  lazy,  revolving  between  eat  and  play.  The  highlight , of  course  would  be  the  evening,  when  my  Dadu  would  tell us  stories.  He  would  sit  on  the  corner  of  his  bed  surrrounded  by  his  grandchildren.  It used  to  be  very  hot,  even  after  sunset   and  the  big  window  next  to  his  bed  was  left    open  to  let    some  fresh  air  in.  How  many  times  did  we  hear  the  story  of  this  man  in  his  village,  who  was  travelling  on  a  big  steam  boat.  In  one  of  the  port  of  calls,  you  could  disembark  to  have  supper  in  one  of  the  small  eateries.  Fish  curry  and  rice  used  to  be  what  our  friend   had  ordered.  By  the time  he  was  half  done  his  food,  however,  it  was  time  for  the  steam  boat  to  leave.  I  can  still  remember  the  tension  we  all  had,  can  he  still  make  it  back  to  the  boat  or  not.  The  boat  was  sounding  its  foghorn,  at  this  time  Dadu  would  put  his  right  palm  sideways  to  his  mouth,  his  two  cheeks   blown  out  full  to  make  a  “Vu  Vu”,  sound  to  mimick  the  foghorn.  The  left  arm  wrapped    around   the  youngest  grandchild  who  sat  on  his  lap.  Then  he  would  suddenly  stop  the  story,  as  if  he  could  visualise   something  in  his  mind’s  eye.  “Dadu,  tarpor   ki   holo?”  Granpa,  what  happened  then,  we  said  in  unision.  Could  he  or  could  he  not,  our  friend,  was  he  able  to  make  it  back  to  the  steamboat ?  Not  that  we  did  not  know  the  end  of  the  story,  but  everytime   felt  like  first  time,  such  was  his  ability  to  mesmerise   his  listeners.



We  never  asked  what  he  thought  then.  We  were  too  young  to  let  somebody  else’s  pain , come  between  our  pleasure.  Dadu  and  his  brothers with  their  families  lived    as  a  joint  family   together,  in  their  house,  which  sat  on  a  good  few  acres   of  land.  The  land  was  dotted  with  mango,  jackfruit,  pomegranate,  coconut   and  other  fruit  trees.  The  star  was  the  lime   tree  though.  They  were  the  most  fragrant  limes  ” Gondhoraaj  lebu”   he  said  with  pride,  emphasizing  the  ‘a’  in  Raaj,  ‘the  King  of  fragrance’,  as  it  would  translate  in  English.   It  wasn’t  only  the  fruits  that  were  scented  but  also  the  leaves .    Pinching   the  corner  of  the  leaf,  would  leave  the  heady  scent  on  the  fingers   for  a  long  time.

The  country  was  then  divided,  and  they  were  forced  to  leave  their  house  forever,  in  moments  notice.  They  walked  for  days  together,  with  a  small bag  in  one  hand,  carrying  all  their  possession  now  and  the  other  hand  tucked  tightly to  the  fingers  of  his  young  son.  They  were  refugees   in  the  newly  divided  country.   Just  think  for  a  moment.  Try.   Not  only  they  had  no idea  of  where  they  were  going,  what  would  they  do  for  a  living,  they  did  not  know  what  happened  to  all  the  cows  that  they  left  behind.  Did  the  newborn  calf  make  it?  What  happened  to  the  beautiful  garden?  The  fruit  trees  bent  with  the  weight  of  the  fruits.  Most  importantly  what  happened  to  the  prized  lime  tree?


Nobody  knows,  for  when  these  questions  came  to  my  mind,  there  were  nobody  left  to  give  the  answers.  Dadu  and  Dida  were  long  gone.  They  will  always  live  in  my  memory  though  and  in  this  recipe.  From  when  I  pluck  the  leaves  from  my  limetree   to  when  the  Tottora   hits  my  palate,  I  so  vividly  recollect  the  story. The  lime   leaves  bring  an  ever  so  slight  citrusy taste,  balancing  the  sweetness  of  the  tomatoes  and  the  heat  of  the  chillies,  just  like  an  experienced  juggler.


This  is  my  go-to  fish  dish.  Packed  with  heart  healthy  oils,  you   never   need  to  feel   guilty,  even  if   you  feel   like   overeating.



Salmon:  I  bought  Fillet  from  Costco, about  2.2  lbs. .  Cut  into  one  and  half  inches  square.

Onions:  Two  large.  Finely  chopped.

Tomatoes:  Two  large.  Cut  in  small  pieces.

Turmeric  Powder:  Two  tsps

Chilli  Powder:  I  used  two  tsps.  Use  your  discretion.

Salt:  To  taste.

Mustard  oil:  Two  tsps

Lime  leaves:  Five  or  six.

Canola  oil:  One  and  half  tbsps.

Green  Chillis:  Two  (optional)

Tomato  Ketchup;  One tbsps


Add  the  turmeric  powder  and  one  tsps  salt  to  the  cut  fish  and  set  aside.

Take  the  canola  oil  in  a  wok  over  medium  heat.  When  hot  throw  in  the  onions.  Saute  till  very  light  brown  colour. About  five  minutes.  Add  the  fish.  The  fish  should  be  fried  lightly  on  both  sides. Around  seven  to  eight   minutes  total . Just  untill  it  starts  to  change  colour.  Add  the  tomatoes and  chilli  powder.  Cook  till  the  tomatoes  are  mushy  and  the  spices  seem  to  separate  from  oil.  Or  things  are  drying  up  in  the  wok.  Add  one  and  half  cups  of  water  and  the  tomato  ketcup.  When  starting  to  boil  add   salt,  according  to  your  taste .  Cover  and  cook  till  the  fish  is  done  and  all  the  tomatoes  and  spices  have  come  together.

Turn  the  gas  off.  Add  the  lime  leaves  and  green  chillis.  Drizzle  the  mustard  oil,  serve  hot  with  Basmati  rice.

Inside Scoop:

Ilish,  Rui,  Katla,  Phansa,  Chitol,  Chingri:  Name  of  different  river  fishes  commonly  found  in  Bengal.

Jhal,  Jhol,  Kalia,  Paturi,  Awmbol,  Tottora:  Diffrent  ways  of  cooking  fish.

Dadu:  Granpa

Dida:  Granma

Frozen  lime  leaves  are  available  from  Asian  food  store.  The  packet  that  I  have  is  a  product  of  Thailand. I  resort  to  plucking  leaves  from  my  baby  lime  plant  only  if  I’m  out  of  the  frozen  ones.  If  you’re   lucky  and  living  in  a  tropical  paradise,  go  ahead,  get  it  fresh  from  your  yard!

Be  very  gentle  turning  the  fish.

Apologies  for  the  quality  of  some  of  the  BW  pictures.

By  Ratna


3 thoughts on : Lebu pata diye Salmon Tottora (Salmon in Tomato Gravy)

  • ammi
    November 11, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    Homesick and making this tonight!

  • Nandi
    June 3, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    I stumbled upon your blog today. I loved the tottora recipe but more than that I loved the write up about your dadu and dida. I reminded me of my own dadu dida and brought tears to my eyes.

    • Ratna
      June 4, 2017 at 2:09 am

      You made my day. Thanks.

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