Most people of my generation (I was born in the late 70s) buy seafood butchered in a pretty standard fashion, with the fish being sliced into steaks with a central bone surrounded with marbled flesh.
The Mumbaikar Kolis though, have a unique style of cutting large fish (this cut is typically reserved for fish like Ghol, Tuna and Rawas, which grow to a significant size), where boneless fillets (the choicest parts) are extracted from the fish. These get sold at a premium and the residual head, spine and tail (बघड, काटा and पिसारा respectively in Parbhi Marathi) are sold separately. All of these parts are bony and gelatinous. Any recipe that involves cooking these, yields a dish with a distinct smell, typical to fish, and a unique jelly like texture (somewhat close to a paya soup). These ingredients are most definitely an acquired taste.
The part I’ve used in this recipe is an all time PP favourite, ‘kaata’. Notice how the spine is butchered into pieces with due care to ensure that the joint between each spine is left intact (attached to each other with cartilage and holding delicately flavoured and delicious fluid).
Apply some turmeric and salt to each piece and set aside till you go about the rest of the prep. I’ve used 6 chunks of kaata and the recipe which follows is in proportion for this quantity.
In a flat vessel, crush together (by hand) a large sized finely chopped onion, Salt to taste, 1 heaped tablespoon of ginger garlic paste, ½ tsp turmeric powder, a finely chopped spicy chilli, 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves, 3 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder and a generous 4 tbsp oil. Keep crushing this with your fingers till the mix turns into an almost smooth, paste like consistency.
This step takes at least 8–10 minutes and needs to be executed very patiently, till the mixture comes together to a smooth paste.
Here’s a slightly closer pic for a better look at the versatile bhujana masala.
Once the masala has reached this stage, coat the previously marinated kaata and add ½ a cup of water.
Now put the vessel on a stove top and bring to a gentle boil. Once it’s started to boil, cover and leave on a medium flame for around 5-6 minutes.
Switch off the stove and cool for a couple of minutes. Serve this over steamed white rice.
This quick fix recipe serves approximately 3-4 people and makes for a truly satisfying and delicious meal!