Shutki or dried fish gets very extreme reactions from people; you either can’t stand to be near it because of its strong smell or you love it with all your heart. I fall in the second category. Just like there are hundreds of ways of cooking fish, there are many recipes for dried fish too, depending on whether you like it dry, with gravy, as a chutney, with vegetables, as a pickle, just fried or as a powdered seasoning to be sprinkled on steamed rice. The most common vegetables used with shutki are potatoes, long eggplants, pumpkin and drumsticks.
The recipe also depends on the kind of fish used – shidol, usually made with puthi, disintegrates and almost has a chutney like consistency, Bombay duck or lotka/loitta is more chewy and is great for frying, dried prawns can be both fried or used in curries and so on. My favorite is pumpkin leaves stuffed with cooked shidol and deep-fried after being coated in besan or chickpea flour batter. Those who have tasted it before are already feeling blissful as they are reading this right now. No matter how you make it, eastern Indian shutki preparations are always very spicy, cooked with a lot of garlic. Since it has such a strong flavor of its own, you don’t really need to add too many spices.
Here I have cooked lotka two ways and since the steps are so simple, I am going to describe both recipes in one post. The only different ingredients added to the second method are potatoes and eggplant.
Dried lotka/ loitta: 200 gm
Chopped onions: 1 large or 2 medium
Chopped garlic: 8 pods
Slit green chillies: 3
Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
Chilli powder: 1 tbsp
Kashmiri mirch: 1 tbsp
Turmeric: ½ tsp
Cumin powder: ½ tsp
Mustard oil: ½ cup
Salt to taste
1) Thoroughly wash the dried fish and soak it in warm water for an hour. Shred it with your hands or cut into pieces.
2) Heat mustard oil and fry onions, garlic, chilles and ginger paste. Add half the dried fish (100 gm) and fry it with some salt, chilli powder, Kashmiri mirch, turmeric and cumin powder till the fish is cooked. The whole recipe will take hardly 10-15 min. Serve with steamed white rice.
Use all the same ingredients as above plus
Diced long eggplant: 2 cups
Diced potatoes: 2 cups
1) Heat mustard oil and fry onions, garlic, chilles and ginger paste. Add eggplant and potatoes and fry a bit.
2) Add the remaining dried fish (100 gm) and fry it with some salt, chilli powder, Kashmiri mirch, turmeric and cumin powder.
Add ¼ cup water and cover for 7-10 min or till the potatoes are cooked. Serve with steamed white rice.