Bombil Fry is a shallow fry preparation of the fish that has attained an iconic stature in the seafood cuisine of Maharashtra- Bombil or Bombay Duck.
Despite being queer and ugly in its appearance the fish has a great demand in the sea food market. When shallow fried with a coating of Semolina and Rice-Flour it attains a crisp exterior with soft and buttery texture inside. The succulent Bombil Fry is a much sought after dish on the menu of any sea food restaurant.
Bombil is also known as Bombay Duck owing to the fact that it’s presence is found in and around waters of Bombay (Mumbai). For the benefit of those who reside outside of Mumbai, let me clarify Upfront-Bombay Duck is not a duck but a fish. It is definitely one of the most popular fishes for Mumbaikars. Particularly during monsoon seasons when fishing is stopped in sea water of west coast, Mumbaikars prefer buying dried version of this lizard fish. During summers the sight of Bombil suspended with a rope tied across poles to dry up is far too common if you happen to be in Mumbai. If you stay in vicinity to areas where the fishes are put to dry up, then this activity could prove to be a torturous exercise on your olfactory senses. The fish is high in moisture content and when dried it loses all its moisture and it appears like a small stick. So if you are familiar with Mumbai slang, this explains why a thin person is referred in Mumbai parlance as Sukka Bombil (dried Bombay Duck)
The fish is as queer in its appearance as its name. There are quite a few stories ranging from Indian mythology to Colonial history associated with this fish, let’s explore these stories. Let’s start with the mythological story first- When Lord Rama was constructing bridge to reach to Lanka, he was ably assisted by Hanuman and his army of Monkeys. However, he also received assistance from several other creatures too-fishes of the sea being one of them. While it is said, every other fish came to his assistance, Bombil or Bombay Duck refused and this made Rama angry. He tossed it towards the Bombay Bay but not before crushing it in his palms. This physical torture had crushed all its bones and it became devoid of backbone for ever. Since then the fish exists with no bones- as soft as cotton. This story features in a biography authored by Govind Narayan by the title- ‘Govind Narayan’s Mumbai: An Urban Biography from 1863’.
The other more common story explains how it acquired its name Bombay Duck- during British Raj days, this fish was transported from Mumbai along with the mail (known as Daak). Thus the name Bombay Daak stuck with it which was bastardized to Bombay Duck.
Bombil is a highly valued fish in homes of Maharashtrians, Goan, Parsis and East Indians and many delicacies exists in each of these Cuisines made with Bombil. Of late the supply of Bombil worldwide has been dwindling which explains the steep rise in its price. Climatic changes and incessant, mindless fishing are two most attributed factors for this decline. There has been a steady rise in temperatures of Ocean and fishes like Bombil, Pomfret cannot thrive in warmer conditions and have to migrate to deeper water for survival. Many local fishermen who cannot wade into deeper waters are thus staring at a crisis. Similar scene is unfolding at the eastern coast where the population of Hilsa has been declining and Bengalis are being forced to switch to other types of fish.
This recipe was requested by our dear viewer Mahima Jadhav on our YouTube Channel. This video is an elaborate version of Bombil fry that also covers the process of cleaning Bombil or Bombay Duck, how to handle the fish, marinating it and finally some important tips to be remembered for a perfect fish fry.
Follow the video and make this crisp and succulent Bombil fry for your family lunch or dinner. Do share your feedback with us in comment section below.
You may also enjoy curried preparation of Bombil- Bombil Kalvan
Make some delicious Konkani Preparations
- 5 Large sized=700gms Fresh Bombay Duck-Bombil
- 1-tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 Lemon Juice
- 3 Green Chilies
- 7-8 Cloves of Garlic
- 1-inch Ginger root
- Cooking Oil
- ¾ Cup=150 gms Semolina (Bombay Rava)
- ½ Cup=75 gms Rice flour (can be replaced with Wheat Flour or Sorghum Flour)
- 4-tbsp Malvani Masala (or 3 tbsp Kashmiri red Chili Powder + 1-tbsp Garam Masala Powder)
- Let's learn how to clean Bombay Duck fish. Spread a paper on the board, so that it doesn't get dirty. Take a chopping board and a sharp knife. Take a fish on chopping board. Chop off Tail, Head and Fins. Using a sharp knife, chop off these parts. Ensure knife that is used for cleaning is sharp. Cut below the head in a diagonal manner and pull out the offal. Chops off the fins now.
- Let's remove its shells now. With the blunt edge of knife scrape off the shells by running it along its body from tail to head. Cut along its stomach and open the fish. We will run the knife along this faint line running through its stomach. Remove the offal from inside and discard. Keep going deeper gradually so that we can open the fish completely. You can use the center bone as a reference for cutting along. Flip to other side. If it still does not look completely flat, you can go a little deeper. Do not cut too deep. We don't want to cut it into two different parts. We will clean the fish with water in a bit. Often, most of us do not know how to clean the fish at home and rely on vendors. At times vendor is swamped with buyers and sometimes he is just not an expert in cutting fish. If you follow this video carefully, you will learn to clean Bombay Duck easily at home. Similarly, we will clean all Bombay Ducks.
- Now, we will wash and clean the fish with water. After cleaning with water, pat dry with a kitchen napkin. Marinate with Turmeric Powder, Salt and Lemon Juice. Turmeric Powder has antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties. Lemon Juice and Turmeric Powder helps get rid of fish smell. Apply this mixture on fish on both sides. Keep aside for 10 mins.
- After marinating Bombay Duck for 10 minutes, now we will perform a very significant step. Bombay Duck has lot of moisture content which must be removed from the fish for its better handling. We will take a chopping board. You can take any large flat object and cover with a piece of cloth. Arrange marinated fish on this cloth. Now, cover fish with another piece of cloth. Place another chopping board/flat surface object. Place a heavy object/load on this board. Leave the fish for 30 mins.
- For second marination, grind chilies, ginger and garlic together. Grind into a thick and coarse paste with 1-2 tsp water. The coarse paste is ready. I have used 1-tsp water while grinding.
- Keep it aside. Let's check the fish now. Remove the board and cloth. We got rid of excess moisture and the fish has become firm.
- Take a large plate, and put green masala paste. Apply this masala on all the fish. Fish is ready now. We will refrigerate for 10 mins before frying. Refrigerate (Do not keep in deep freezer). This will help in making fish firm and it becomes easy to handle while frying.
- Now, we will make a dry batter for frying the fish. In a large bowl, put Semolina, Rice flour and Malvani Masala. Check out our video on How to Make Malvani Masala. If you don't have this Masala, you can use 3 tbsp Kashmiri red Chili Powder+ 1 tbsp Garam Masala Powder instead. Add Salt to taste and mix well.
- We have used more Semolina/Rava in the batter as this is Rava fry. If you chose, you can skip Rava completely and make a batter of rice flour, Malvani masala and salt. You can store this dry batter in your refrigerator and use it when required for fish fry.
- Take some quantity of batter in a plate and reserve remaining. Remove fish from refrigerator and coat it with this batter. Apply the coating nicely. We have put a pan on heat. Let's start frying the fish now.
- We have heated 2-3 tbsp Cooking Oil in a Pan. As the Oil becomes hot, reduce heat and put a batter-coated fish on the pan and fry on low-medium heat. For a good fish fry, it is important that you heat the Oil and tawa perfectly and then fry fish on low-medium heat.
- If Oil temperature is too low, fish will stick to the pan and while changing its side its skin may come off. Such fried fish does not look appetizing.
- We have cooked the underside for 3 mins. Now, change sides. The underside is well cooked and looks crisp fried. Spread the Oil all around the tawa. Cook for 3 more mins from other side.
- Remove from pan after 3 mins. Add some more Oil and fry remaining fish.
- Malvan Special-Crispy Bombil Rava Fry is ready. Make this for your weekend meal and share your feedback with us in comments section below.
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