On the “mustard plant” profile on Wikipedia, a blooming mustard field in Bangladesh is the first image on that page – a fair tribute to just how much Bangladeshis love this versatile brassica. The edible leaves and flowers are sautéed in dishes with panch phoron, while the whole seeds are ground into a mild spice powder, smashed into a sharp paste (shorshe bata), or pressed into a pungent oil (shorshe tel).
I wanted to share an easy recipe that would showcase the distinctive notes of this beloved mustard flavor. In this delectably sharp and aromatic Bengali-style salmon in shorshe jhol (mustard seed sauce) from Madhur Jaffrey, you experience the mustard flavors through three mediums: whole mustard seeds, ground mustard powder, and pressed mustard oil. Just make sure you’ve prepared a side of jasmine rice to soak up all of the rich, piquant gravy.
Spicy Bengali Salmon Bowl in Golden Turmeric & Mustard Seed Sauce (Shorshe Jhol) with Jasmine Rice
Serves 2; 30 min cook time
Salmon Spice Rub
½ pound skinless salmon fillet, cut into 2-inch pieces*
¼ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp turmeric, ground
½ tsp paprika, ground
Turmeric & Mustard Seed Sauce (Shorshe Jhol)
1 tbsp mustard powder
½ tsp cayenne or red chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric, ground
¼ tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp mustard oil**
½ tsp mustard seeds, whole (brown or black)
¼ tsp cumin seeds, whole
¼ tsp fennel seeds, whole
2 green chilies, slit in half (optional)
a handful of chopped cilantro leaves (optional)
* If salmon isn’t your thing, switch it out or another firm and fatty fish ~ carp, halibut, or catfish are all fair game.
** Substitute mustard oil with peanut, safflower, or a chili-infused oil.
Small dish to marinate the salmon
A medium-sized skillet
Mix the spice rub ingredients (turmeric, paprika, and kosher salt) together in a small dish.
Add the salmon pieces to the dish, and gently massage the spice mixture all over the salmon pieces with your fingers. If you don’t want to touch the salmon, you can just sprinkle the spices onto the salmon instead. Cover the dish, and let marinate at room temperature for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes. If preparing this dish in advance, store the spice rubbed salmon in the refrigerator for up to 10 hours.
While the salmon rests, combine the mustard powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder, and kosher salt in a small bowl. Add one tablespoon of lukewarm water, and vigorously mix together. It should form a thick paste. At this point, add 7 more tablespoons of lukewarm water to this paste, and mix again. Set this sauce mixture aside.
Heat the mustard oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized skillet. When the oil is hot (it should shimmer), add the mustard seeds, and temper the seeds for a few seconds (they will begin to sizzle and pop). When the mustard seeds begin to pop, stir in the cumin and fennel seeds, and temper for 30 more seconds.
Add the sauce mixture to the fragrant seeds in the skillet. Add the green chilies, if using, as well. The mixture should boil at once, and when this happens, reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir the sauce, and gently place the salmon pieces in the sauce.
Simmer the salmon pieces in the sauce, and baste the tops of the salmon with the sauce, until all of the pieces have cooked through (about 5-8 minutes). Check for seasoning, and adjust for salt and spice to taste, if necessary. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve alongside warm jasmine rice.
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