Every family has its own set of food habits. Some of which are passed on by the ancestors and some which they acquire with gradual passage of time from various people they come across. Well, my food habits are greatly influenced by the ones that were my father’s favourite. My father was my favourite food partner. After he passed away I really miss eating some special dishes which he prepared just for me and only me because I loved eating that. Shutki is one such thing that is popular in my house even before I was born. This recipe of Pui shaak with Loitta Shutki or Bombay duck shutki is one that I have learnt from my father.
My ancestors, my great grandfather were settled in Chittagong of Bangladesh and my mother hailed from Cachar district of Barak Valley, India. My father used to say that I have inherited my taste buds from his side of ancestors as mostly the food I liked were chattgaiya or from Chattogram (as in Bengali) of Bangladesh.
Whereas from my mother, my sister and I inherited the love for Shidol. A mouthful of shada bhaat with a dollop of Shidol chutney used to cure our apetite when we suffered from fever. Nothing, absolutely nothing can beat the taste of Shidol Chutney. So you can say my family has both Sylheti and Chattagram influence.
Although Loitta shutki is quite popular in my family but the Loitta maach / Bombay duck fish isn’t. I was in primary school, I don’t remember the exact year, one day my father came back from the market, it was Sunday. And said, “Today I shall cook something special, and after eating that you shall get transported to heaven (Kheye sworge chole jaabe)”. It was loitta mach or bombay duck fish that he had cooked.
My choto pishi (Father’s youngest sister) used to stay with us before her marriage and she helped my father cook the fish curry. It was absolutley divine and the way he cooked the taste still lingers in my tongue.
After that it was a regular affair and my I demanded my father to cook loitta mach for me. It was just I, he and my pishi who used to eat as my mother and didi found the smell too pungent.
After my father passed away when I was in 11th standard, my mother kept the tradition of cooking loitta mach. Although she didn’t like the smell, she bought it for me from the market and cooked for me. Gradu ally when I started cooking I prepared it on my own.
Pui shaak with loitta shutki was also prepared quite a lot of times in my house, as it was also one of my father’s favourite. Though most of the time all the Shutki preparations were done my my father and Shidol preparations by my mother.
All you need just onion, garlic, red chilly, turmeric, cumin powder and salt and in this concoction you can add any of the dry fish and it would taste divine.
In a Bengali kitchen shutki is also traditionally prepared with various seasonal vegetables. Like you can add pumpkin, raddish, sheem/flat beans or eggplant/brinjal, etc and add either some chingri shutki or loitta shutki, it would taste absolutely delicious.
One popular fish that too hails from Bangladesh is the Churi maach and it’s Shutki version commonly available in the market as Churi Shukti. The shutki looks long just like a sharp knife, may be the reason behind it’s called Churi (means Knife in Bengali) Shutki. This Churi shutki tastes delicious when cooked with raddish.
So I have seen these vegetable enhances the taste of Shutki or dry fish when cooked properly and goes best with steamed rice.
The recipe of Pui Shaak (Basella Alba or Malabar Spinach) with Loitta Shutki is definitely not a complicated one. The cooking time is 40-45 minutes, only because I have cooked in slow flame.
Anything when cooked in slow flame tastes good although the cooking time increases. I have also used few cubes of pumpkin and potato. Pumpkin and potato when cooked properly will soften and will help in binding all the ingredients together.
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Ingredients for Pui shaak with Loitta shutki
For the recipe you need some fresh Pui shaak (leaves along with the branches), which we call “pata r data in Bengali”. Roughly chop these and keep it aside. 10-12 Cubes of freshly cut Pumpkin and 4-5 cubes of Potato. You can increase the amount of cubes depending on the quantity and number of people eating.
One dried Bombay duck Shutki or Loitta Shuttki. Since I am cooking for single serving that I am the sole person to eat, so I have used just one dried fish. You can use more fishes depending on the number of servings.
One middle sized onion chopped, few cloves of garlic coarsely chopped, 2 green chilly. One table spoon Red Chilly, Turmeric, one and half table spoon cumin powder. Salt to taste. 2 tablespoon Mustard Oil for cooking. You can make it more spicy by increasing the amount of red chilly powder.
The Bombay Duck Shutki or dry fish becomes tender once you soak in hot water for few minutes. Just a few minutes is enough or else it shall become all soggy making it difficult to retain the pieces. After the dry fish gets tender, take it out properly from the water, you can also use a sieve to strain the water.
Heat one tea spoon oil in a wok and fry the dry fish pieces with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder. Just a few minutes of frying is enough. Keep it aside.
In the same wok heat 2 table spoon of mustard oil. After the oil is evenly heated, put the chopped onions, garlic and keep stirring for some time.
After the onions becomes translucent put the pumpkin and potato cubes and keep stirring. Cover the wok with a lid and lower the flame. After 10 minutes you will see all the ingredients are properly cooked.
Now put all the dried masala- one table spoon Red Chilly, Turmeric, one and half table spoon cumin powder. one by one and salt to taste. Also put the chopped green chillies in the wok and give all the ingredients a good stir. Cover with a lid and again let it cook on low flame.
After few minutes you will see that all the ingredients have started releasing oil and the masalas are uniformly cooked.
Normally when I cook I put the masala after the vegetables get boiled as I don’t like the masalas getting over-fried. The vegetables sometimes do take a lot of time to tenderize. We don’t get organic vegetable too often in the market. If you put the masalas too early there is a chance of it either getting over cooked or sometimes it gets burnt.
After all the ingredients gets properly cooked now is the time to put the roughly chopped Pui shaak. Give a good stir, mix all the ingredients along with the leafy vegetables properly and cover with a lid. Let it cook for 10 more minutes. In between do take off the lid and stir all the ingredients.
After the pui shaak gets mixed up with the pumpkin, put the fried Bombay Duck shutki and again give a nice stir but with soft hands. Pour half cup water so that it will help to soften the fried shutki and also bind it together. Taste for salt, add a little more if required.
Serve with steaming hot rice, pui shaak with Loitta shutki will be loved by all. If you don’t like Shutki you can simply cook Pui Shaak with Pumpkin which is also quite delectable. Any kind of Shutki or dry fish works well as an apetizer especially when you suffer from loss of appetite during fever and common cold.
That was all, let me know if you love Shutki or even if you don’t. Do share this post with your loved ones and try making this recipe at home.
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