Every summer several communities in Mumbai, take to drying not just chillies but also fish like Bombay Ducks, or bombil, as they are popularly called in the city. While it is savoured by many, bombils are an important part of Koli cuisine for the fisherfolk community. It is also the very same reason why they rely on dried bombils when fishing is stopped for the monsoons, and make a variety of dishes out of it. “We, Kolis, cannot live without fish and so during the monsoon, we consume it in different forms such bombil chutney, roasted dry bombil as a substitute for papad, even when we cook some veggie, with small pieces of the fish,” says Versova-based Harsha Tapke, whose family has been at the forefront of promoting the cuisine in Mumbai. While it started with her mother Rajini Kathin, she is now being helped by her son Pranav Tapke, who promotes the cuisine on social media under the name Bombay State Fisheries. She adds that while the wet bombil is available during the monsoon, it barely lasts for a few days and that is why dried bombil is of greater use to the community. “The fish is very important to us because it is fed to a newborn baby, old people and those who are ill in the family.” While the latter is fed a bombil pakanji, which acts like a medicine, sukha bombil batata is also a popular dish for them.
It is no different for the East Indian community, as they relish it in different forms too and the preparations vary from the traditional Koli preparations. “The Koli preparation uses chilli, turmeric powder and salt whereas the East Indian preparation is made with bottle masala. Both are covered with rice flour and fried but in the Koli version, they also use rawa flour as a substitute for rice flour,” says city-based East Indian, Chef Paul Kinny, Director of Culinary, The St. Regis Mumbai. He reveals that among the many, he loves mouthwatering crumb-fried bombils stuffed with prawns.
Dry Bombil Chinchoni
100 grams each dry bombil, 20 gms garlic, 20 gms ginger, 20 ml tamarind pulp, 20 gms coriander leaves, 5 gms green chilli, 20 gms tomato paste
Cut the dried bombil into 1-inch pieces. Wash and soak in warm water for 10 mins
Grind all the masala to a paste.
Heat oil, add turmeric, bottle masala
Add the masala and tomato paste, and sauté
Add bombil and fry. Add some water and bring to a boil, cover and simmer
Serve hot with East Indian hot breads
Chef Paul Kinny, Director of Culinary, St Regis Mumbai
5 wet bombils, 10-12 garlic cloves, 1 tbsp coriander and cumin seeds, 1-2 green chillies, 2-3 coriander stems, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1-2 kokum
Grind all the ingredients
Add oil in a vessel and sauté the mixture. Add turmeric and salt as required
Add the kokam and stir, then add 1 cup water
Boil for 10 minutes and serve
Home chef Harsha Tapke