Fish Curry (Bengali style macher jhol)

As a Bengali, fish is something that I can almost eat daily. However, we as a community eat only river fish as they are easily available and sweeter in taste. This is very different to the fish eaten in western and southern India where they eat mostly coastal fishes.

Since I moved to the UK, 9 years ago, I must say that my fish-eating has significantly reduced. Firstly, we don’t get fresh water fish here in the UK that’s not frozen. You can buy a frozen fresh waster fish (Rohu, Katla, Ayre) etc. in Bangladeshi / Asian grocery stores but you need to buy the whole fish. As I am the only fish eater in the family it will take me months to eat a 2-3 KG fish so I just dont buy it all.

My parents recently visited me and this was the perfect opportunity to buy some fresh water fish so I picked up a nice size (must be 2.5 kg) Rohu fish from a fish store in Whitechapel, East London. I prefer Rohu as its meaty and I quite enjoy the sweet taste. My mother cooked most of it while she was here in the 3 weeks as I had frozen them in zip lock bags it was easy to defrost 4-5 pieces at one time. Mom left and so was the fish in the freezer. And the fish monger will cut them into pieces so please get that done before leaving the shop.

Last week, I watched the series on BBC by Nisha Katona called Recipes that made me and one of the episodes focussed on Bangladeshi food and it was delightful to watch. In that episode, a Bangladeshi lady proudly cooked her fish curry and I made my mind that I am going to try her recipe and add my own touch to it. So here I am trying to recreate the recipe with my measurements and touch. I am hoping I have done justice to the lovely lady recipe and Bangladeshi food which is very similar to what we cook at home.

If you can’t get a fresh water fish, I think you can try this with sea bass or monk fish. So let’s get started.

What you will need (for 2-3 people)

  1. Fresh water fish, cut into pieces and descaled – I used Rohu but you can use Katla too
  2. Onion – 1 medium size, finely chopped
  3. Tomatoes – 2 finely chopped
  4. Mustard seeds (1 Tbsp)
  5. Ginger garlic paste (I used fresh paste – 1 tbsp)
  6. Turmeric – 1.5 tsp
  7. Chilli powder – 1 tsp or reduce if you can’t handle the heat
  8. Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
  9. Garam masala – 1 tsp
  10. Sugar – a pinch
  11. Mustard Oil to fry the fish or use any white oil if you can’t get the mustard oil
  12. Salt to taste


  • Wash the fish pieces after descaling them and pat them dry with a kitchen towel, add some turmeric powder and salt and leave them for 10 minutes.
  • Heat some oil and shallow fry the fish pieces till they are crisp on the outside, the colour will change to light brown.
  • Remove the fish pieces out to drain the excess oil on a kitchen towel.
  • Take out an excess oil from the pan and leave the amount of oil you will need to fry the masala (suggest around 2 tbsp)
  • In the hot oil, add the onions and fry them till they start getting brown, add the ginger garlic paste and the dry spices. Lower the heat so that the masala doesn’t burn. Add a pinch of sugar and the tomatoes to the masala and leave it to cook for around 3-4 minutes.
  • Once the oil separates, the masala is ready so add the fish pieces and some water with some salt.
  • In another pan, dry roast the mustard seeds and once they start to split take them away from the hob. Grind them into a powder in a mortar and pestle.
  • Once the masala has been bubbling away for around 10 minutes, add the mustard powder and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Switch off the gas.
  • Your Fish masala is ready to serve with some steamed rice.

I hope you will enjoy making this dish as much as me and I would love to hear back from you.

Till the next time, Ciao

4 Comments Add yours

  1. candidspring says:

    I am an absolute lover of fish! And this curry looks delicious and also interestingly easy to prepare! Thanks for sharing!


    1. Please try and let me know how it went


  2. mistimaan says:

    Any time i loved this bong fish curry


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