Macher Jhal – Bengali Fish Curry

Why you should make this recipe:

Being a Bengali and a chef, I am passionately attached to it’s cuisine. While writing about the cuisine we cannot separate fish from it. This recipe is one that I was fed from my childhood. I have slightly modified it, to lift the recipe to restaurant level.

Mach means fish and jhal means spicy. Pabda is the type of fish used in the recipe. But, can be replaced with any sweet water fish. Very simple, but cooked with love and care.

The use of ginger, coriander leaves, sometimes even the onions is optional. My Mom’s daily recipe might not include any of them. If a guest comes to visit then, some of these ingredients might step in.

The recipe uses Kasundi mustard. It  should be easily available. If not grind mustard, green chillies, turmeric powder, mustard oil and salt together to a fine paste. We call it shorshe baata in Bengali. It adds sharpness to the dish balancing the aroma from the ginger and coriander, the heat from the chillies and the pungency coming from the mustard oil. Simple, subtle and yet powerful. One of my favorite style of cooking fish.

Ingredients

  • Pabda or any other sweet water fish – 8 pieces
  • Onion chopped – 1 medium
  • Ginger julienne – 1.5 tbsp
  • Chopped coriander – 3 tbsp
  • Kalounji( nigella seeds) – 1tsp
  • Turmeric pwd – 1 tbsp
  • Red chilli pwd ( mix of Kashmiri chilli and normal) – 1tbsp
  • Mustard oil – 4 to 6 tbsp
  • Kasundi mustard – 1 tbsp
  • Slit green chillies – 3 nos
  • Salt to taste
  • Diced potatoes ( 1.5 cm) – 1 medium
  • Atta( whole wheat flour) – 1 tbsp mixed with cold water

Method

  • Marinate the fish with around 1 tsp of the turmeric, chilli, salt and one tbsp of the mustard oil.
  • Refrigerate for an hour.
  • Pan fry the fish in the remaining mustard oil. Keep aside.
  • Fry until slightly crisp on the outside.
  • Follow the same process with the potatoes. Do not change the pan. Keep aside.
  • Using the same pan with remaining oil, add the kalounji. As it sizzles add the onion.
  • Fry onion until glossy (very slight colouration required)
  • Add the remaining turmeric and the chilli powder, with some water, allowing the spices to mix.
  • Cook until the oil separates from the spices. Slide in the green chillies.
  • Add the potatoes and enough water to cook the potatoes.
  • When the potatoes are around 80% done slide in the fish. Add water if required.
  • Add half of the ginger and coriander.
  • Mix in the atta mixed with water to add a very slight thickness to the stock.
  • Add the kasundi mustard.
  • Adjust the seasoning.
  • Allowing the fish to cook over a gentle flame.
  • Serve the Macher Jhal with steamed fish, garnished with coriander, julienne ginger and green chillies.

In this Recipe

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