— Written in collaboration with Dr. Zulfiya Tursunova, Sharmin Ahmad, Gerry Lor, and Phian Tran
For the fourth and final part of Food Storytelling Collective’s “Cooking for Peace” Recipe series, we present Sharmin Ahmad’s recipe for Bengali Fish Curry with tomato and dill, which she prepared with her son Taj Iman Ahmad Ibn Munir.
Sharmin and Taj are a mother and son duo from Bangladesh. Sharmin is the founder and president of the One Light Institute to promote peace and enlightenment through multidimensional education and experiential learning. Currently she is leading a project in developing a peace education curriculum and teacher’s guide for the grass roots and marginalized communities. Taj was raised in the United States but spent the better part of his adulthood in Bangladesh as a social reformer, activist, mediator, and humanitarian, championing the cause of human dignity.
During the final Cooking for Peace event, Sharmin and Taj wove a beautiful story of their heritage, of sharing meals with friends and family, and of the importance of passing on tradition from one generation to the next.
The event kicked off with some touching opening statements from Dr. Zulfiya Tursunova, Sharmin, Taj, Dr. Amr Abdalla (Sharmin’s husband), as well as their colleague Nivene Sultan.
With editing help from Nivene, Sharmin and Taj created a wonderful presentation which took us through a step-by-step process for making Bengali Fish Curry. Many of the ingredients were sourced straight from Sharmin’s garden, invoking connections to Taj’s grandmother and her belief in farm to table. As the pair harvested lime leaves together, they reminisced on Taj’s childhood and shared powerful reflections about the ties between cooking and community. Later on in the video, Sharmin shares some incredible ancestral histories and heirlooms that were passed on for generations.
You can catch all of these moments and more by watching the full recording of the event here:
Bengali Fish Curry with Tomato and Dill Recipe
- 3 lb salmon or any other fish (with scales removed) or fillets. If the steak or filet size is too big you can slice it into smaller pieces.
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil. *We like to cook with sunflower or olive oil
- 3 cups finely chopped red or yellow onion
- 2 large or 3 medium tomatoes, chopped. Vine ripe is a preferred one.
- 1 and 1/2 rounded tsp freshly grated ginger or store bought paste
- 3 rounded tsp fresh garlic blend or paste
- 3 level tsp ground turmeric for cooking plus 1 tsp turmeric for marinating
- 1/2 tsp chili powder or more to taste
- 3 rounded tsp ground cumin. It tastes better with cumin seeds roasted and ground at home. You can keep the ground cumin in a glass jar to preserve the flavor.
- 2 tsp salt or to taste for cooking and 1 tsp for marinating.
- 1 and 1/4 cups water
- 1 and 1/2 cup fresh dill leaves, chopped. You can substitute it with cilantro.
- 5-6 Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
- 4 green chillies (optional)
- 4 tablespoons juice from half of a fresh lime or lemon. You can add one whole lemon if you like it tangy.
- Wash the fish well, about 6-7 times.
- Marinate the fish with salt and turmeric for 20 minutes and then rinse it out a few times.
- Marinate the fish with lime/ lemon juice for another 15 minutes.
- Add oil to a shallow pan over medium heat.
- Add chopped onions when the oil is hot. Keep stirring the onions until it is softened and becomes translucent.
- Add the ginger and garlic and keep stirring for 1-2 minutes.
- Add salt and the rest of the ground spices. Stir for another 3 min.
- Sprinkle water in between to keep the spices from drying out.
- Add half of the chopped tomatoes. Stir it with the spice mixture for 2 minutes until the tomatoes soften.
- Gently lay the pieces of fish next to each other over the tomato mixture.
- Pour the rest of the water over the fish. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on medium heat for 7 minutes.
- Intermittently, gently shake the pan. It prevents the fish sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Open the lid and pour some sauce over the fish.
- Add green chillies and remaining tomato on top.
- Cover and cook for another 6-7 minutes.
- Open the lid and sprinkle the dill and lime leaves. Cover and turn off the heat at this stage.
- The fish curry goes well with boiled white Jasmine or Basmati rice.
This series is organized by the Food Storytelling Collective, which is here to inspire conversations on traditional dishes and their rich legacies. Together, we’ll learn how to make traditional dishes, learn more about our food systems, and celebrate the resilience of different communities through family stories. This project is run by Dr. Zulfiya Tursunova, associate professor at Guilford College, and is sponsored by NCAAT. You can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.