In current days, it has become a trend to eat panta bhat (fermented rice) by the urban people to celebrate Nobo Borsho (Bengali New Year). Here is my ‘panta bhat’ recipe with fried sardines and alu bhorta (potato mash). 

Serves
4

Preparation

45min

Cooking

30min

Skill level

Mid
By
Average: 4.1 (4 votes)
Yum

The first day of the Bengali New Year, is a joyous occasion celebrated with new hopes, vivacity, and wellbeing in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, and in Bengali communities in the other Indian states, including Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand, Odisha and all Bengalis worldwide.

Traditionally, ‘panta bhaat’ with deep-fried hilsa (the national fish of Bengal) and different kinds of ‘bhorta’ (mash) has been the food of choice to mark the festivities in Bangladesh.

Panta is leftover rice soaked in water and is very popular in the rural areas. Due to the fact that refrigerators are not common in rural kitchens, water is poured on leftover rice to keep the rice cool and prevent spoiling during the hot summer months. 

Once a peasant dish common during the Bengal famine, the soaked rice and chilled water is served with salt, onion and smoked chili to create a delicious and affordable meal that’s filling for an entire workday.  

Ingredients

Smoked rice (panta bhaat)

  • 1 ½ cup basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 4 cups iced water
  • salt, to taste

 

Fried sardines

  • 8 sardines, scaled and gutted
  • 2 long red chillies
  • 90 g fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • 2-3 tsp lime juice, or to taste

 

Spiced potato mash (aloo bhorta)

  • 3 red-skinned potatoes
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • ½ shallot, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp mustard oil
  • ⅓ cup fresh coriander leaves, julienne
  • salt, to taste

 

Onion salsa

  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 bird’s eye chillies, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup coriander leaves, julienne
  • 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • ½ lime, juiced

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Resting  and marinating time: 1 hour

  1. For the onion salsa, combine ingredients in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Crush with fingers to release juices and create a dressing. Set aside in a small serving bowl.
  2. For the rice, rinse rice three times under running water until water runs clear.
  3. Place into a rice cooker or small saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow steam to evaporate. Cover with ice-cold water and set aside.
  4. Burn the dried red chilli over open flame until blackened and add to rice.
  5. Stir through a pinch of salt and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain rice through a lined sieve over a bowl and reserve the rice and water separately. Discard chilli.
  6. Meanwhile, for the sardines, dry sardines and place into a dish.
  7. Place chillies and half of the ginger into a small food processor and process to a paste.
  8. Grate remaining ginger and place into a piece of muslin cloth. Squeeze the ginger over a bowl to collect one tablespoon of juice. Add 1 tablespoon of chilli ginger paste, Rub sardines with the mixture, ensuring the cavities are coated also. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, place cumin into a frypan over medium heat and toast until fragrant. Grind to a fine powder and set aside.
  10. For the potatoes, boil potatoes in salted water until soft and starting to fall apart. Drain and allow potatoes to cool.
  11. Heat ghee in frypan and shallot and garlic. Cook until golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  12. Hold dried chillies over an open flame until blackened then set aside.
  13. Once potatoes are cooled, knead them gently first by crushing by hand, then working from outside in, lightly knead until lumps are removed potato is bound together well. Add shallots, garlic, chilli, mustard oil, salt and coriander and mix gently. Set aside at room temperature.
  14. When ready to serve, heat mustard oil in a large frypan over medium high heat. Fry sardines until a char forms on skin and flesh is just cooked through to the bone, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  15. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkle of ground spices.
  16. To serve, place rice in bowl. Top with a quenelle of potato and top with charred chilli. Place sardines onto a serving plate and garnish with coriander. Serve the salsa and smoked water on the side.