Fermented fish pickle

Puthi Shidol Shutki

Traditional Bangladeshi fish pickle

  1. To make Puthi Shidol collect good quality Puthi fish not scaled or washed, dry well under the sun for 4 to 5 days.

  2. Now wash the sundried Puthi fish (Puntius sophore)and soak it in water for 5-10 minutes allowing the excess water to drain.

    • Soaking of raw fish is very important in the preparation of Shidol, Now the fish is put in an earthen pot (koloh/motka) filled with mustard oil.

    • The earthen pot (koloh/motka) should be prepared by repeatedly smearing oil on the inside and drying under the sun The earthen pots are saturated with oil to prevent the permeability of air. Generally, oil polishing is continued until the wall absorbs no more of it. The quality of shidol largely depends on the preparation of the pot.

  3. The mouth of the pot is sealed airtight and the pot is then buried underground for a month during winter season or stored at room temperature for 3-4 months for fermentation. Salt is never added during the preparation of Shidol. It will become a fishy oily pickle after the prescribed time.

    • Most of the salty shidol are produced in greater Mymensingh and Sylhet, while salt-free Shidol are produced in the middle-western part like Faridpur and Jessore.

Our family recipe of making Shidol (fish pickle)

  • My grandmother always made shidol with fresh fish (never with stale fish) and she missed so very much the Ghainna fish (ছোট চাবা - ঘইন্না) because after migration from East Bengal they never prized with it here in West Bengal.

  1. Puthi Fish (পুটি - সামুদ্রিক চেবা) is dried for 4-5 days Scales, fins, gills and gut should be removed by then.

  2. Fishes are kept in bamboo made basket under the sun while moisture content comes down to approximately 20-25% and then again soaked in the river water to wash rigorously for 30-60 minutes and again drying in the shed for another 2 to 3 days, allowing the excess water to drain out.

    • The Fish should be dried well before fermentation. Soaking of raw fish is very important in the preparation of Shidol It thus eliminates wastes, reabsorbs water, softens up and gets ready for fermentation.

    • Rigorous washing removes all scales and dirt from the fish. A 25 to 30% weight gain occurs due to soaking. Soaking time depends on the size and quality of the dried fish. Moderate sized good quality dried fish if soaked for 30-40 min. can yield uniform and adequate fermentation. If adequate soaking time is not maintain it might cause uncontrolled fermentation.

  3. Then the fish is mixed with oil and kept under the sun in a pot.

  4. This oil is allowed to decompose for 2-3 days.

    • The pot is prepared beforehand by polishing fish oils inside and outside the walls several times and then drying in the sun for 3-4 days. The pot thus dried and matured; do not allow any air or moisture to pass through the pores of earthen wall.

  5. The pot is heated for hours while the oil goes up, fishes braise up well and the gut content is deposited at the bottom. Clear oil is then separated to another pot.

  6. Remaining oil and fish is allowed to cool and solidify. Solid oil and fish is taken out easily and the bottom deposits are rejected.

  7. After collecting the oil mix the remaining oil, which was previously taken out.

  8. The fishes are then spread on the bamboo split mat (madur) for sun drying again until the oil dries off completely.

  9. The fishes are then grinded and mixed with the remaining oil.

    • For most preparations salt is not used, but sometimes a little amount of salt is sprinkled over while grinding the fish. To prevent dried Punthis from insect attack 1% red chilli powder can be spread over the fish while drying or during storage.

  10. Sealed pot with pot cover (matir sora) is kept in the earthen hole under the shed or in a dark cool room undisturbed for aging or fermentation for about 2 to 3 months.