Recently, a recipe in The New York Times reminded me of macher tok, or sour fish, because the recipe listed tamarind as an ingredient. The dish, curried striped bass, brought to mind rui and katla, which are similar to bass. So, I decided to try it. It had basically the same ingredients – mustard seeds, turmeric, sugar, tamarind – but differed in a couple of respects: the Bengali version, at least the one in our home, doesn’t use onion and coriander leaves.
The New York Times version turned out to be good enough to eat, although I prefer my mother’s simpler version, which calls for lightly frying the fish before dropping it into the simmering sauce, rather than using straight. But, the point is that the recipe, written by a non-Indian for an American newspaper, had connected me to home and my mother’s cooking.