Bata Fish in Bengali & Indian Cooking: Things to Know

Bata fish, a cherished delicacy among Bengalis, is a small freshwater species primarily found in India and Bangladesh.

Its popularity stems from its year-round availability, affordability, and exceptional flavor.

Explore its significance in Bengali and Indian cuisines, discover signature dishes, and learn essential cooking tips in this culinary journey.

Bata Fish

Key Takeaways:

Bata Fish Popularity: Bata fish is a beloved staple among Bengalis, mainly found in India and Bangladesh. Its popularity is attributed to year-round availability, affordability, and exceptional taste.

Regional Cuisine: Bata fish is predominantly cooked in Bengal, Odisha, and Tripura, while its popularity varies across other Indian states.

Culinary Traditions: Bengalis, known as “Bongs,” have a deep-rooted love for literature, music, and fish. They maintain traditional cooking methods while embracing culinary fusions.

Signature Dishes: Explore signature Bata fish dishes like “Aloo, peyaj diye bata macher jhal” (Bata fish curry with potato and onion) and “shorshe diye bata mach” (Bata fish in mustard gravy), both celebrated for their flavors.

Cooking Tips: Mastering the art of cooking Bata fish involves essential tips such as marination, cleaning, and using mustard oil for the best flavor, enhancing its unique taste profile.

Use of Bata Fish in Bengali and Indian Cuisines

While Bata fish may not have found its way into the majority of Indian kitchens, its culinary significance is deeply rooted in the region it calls home.

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This is primarily due to the influence of regional ingredients and culinary traditions.

Bata fish is native to the freshwater bodies of India and Bangladesh, and its popularity is particularly pronounced in Bengali cuisine.

Bengalis, affectionately referred to as “Bongs,” have embraced Bata fish as an integral part of their culinary heritage.

However, the reception of this fish varies across Indian states.

In places like Tripura, where a significant Bengali-speaking population resides, Bata fish dishes have garnered popularity.

Similarly, in the coastal state of Odisha, the residents have developed a fondness for this fish variety.

Aloo, peyaj diye bata macher jhal: One standout dish that encapsulates the essence of Bata fish in Bengal is “Aloo, peyaj diye bata macher jhal,” a delectable Bata fish curry enriched with potatoes and onions.

Despite its simplicity, this dish is celebrated for its superb taste and comforting appeal.

Shorshe diye bata mach: Another beloved preparation is “bata mach in mustard gravy (shorshe diye bata mach),” an authentic and traditional Bengali creation.

This dish features lightly fried Bata fish, resting on a bed of golden-yellow mustard gravy. Its flavor profile not only delights the taste buds but also pleases the eyes.

Fried bata fish: For those seeking a different culinary experience, crispy Bata fish fries offer a delightful option, especially when accompanied by steamed rice and pink lentils.

These variations showcase the versatility of Bata fish in Bengali cuisine and provide a glimpse into the diverse ways it can be savored.

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How to Master the Art of Cooking Bata Fish?

Cooking bata fish is not rocket science. Especially if you are making bata fish curry with potato and onion, it is the simplest of all. Just remember a few important tips and voila.

  • Make sure to cut and clean the tummy of the bata fish; otherwise it may stink.
  • For scaling, rub the fishes with some salt on a rough surface and then wash them properly.
  • Marinate the fish with some salt and turmeric powder and keep aside for 10-20 minutes.
  • Whether you are preparing bata fish fries or bata fish curry, use mustard oil for the best flavor.
  • Fry the fish light brown and add to curries only when the gravy comes to a boil.
  • Use cumin seeds for tempering. Always use both coriander and cumin powder while making fish curries the Bengali style.
  • If you are using vegetables like potatoes, don’t use a lot of spices as it is meant to be simple unlike fish kalia which is usually prepared with catla.
  • If you are preparing bata fish in mustard gravy, it will be a little bit on the spicy side. Mustard adds a lot of pungent flavor to the dish. No ground spice other than turmeric goes into its cooking. The flavor comes from the combination of mustard paste, green chillies and mustard oil. Garnish the dish with a few green chillies to enhance its look and spiciness.

How to Make Bata Fish Taste Good?

It’s really important to marinate bata fishes.

Some salt and turmeric are good for the purpose. If you want to serve fried bata fish, fry it golden brown so that it tastes crispy and crunchy.

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If you are making curry or thick gravy, fry them light brown before adding to gravy.

Questions & Answers:

Do You Need to Marinate Bata Fish Before Cooking?

Yes, it’s absolutely important to marinate bata fish before cooking. This way, salt and turmeric will get into the fleshes and the fish will taste really good.

How Long Does Bata Fish Take to Cook?

It takes not more than 20 minutes to prepare bata fish curry. If you want to serve bata fish hot and crispy, it is just a 5-minute affair.

Which Part of Bata Fish Is Best?

Bata fish is not cut into pieces and the whole body goes into the gravy. The fleshiest part is obviously between the head and the tail. Both its head and tail are tiny (tail tinier than head). So, most of the fish is fleshy.

How Do You Know When Bata Fish Is Cooked?

Use a fork and try to poke it into the middle. If it goes in easily and can cause some flesh to slip off on a little twist, the fish is done.


In summary, Bata fish holds a special place in Bengali cuisine, valued for its year-round availability, affordability, and delicious taste.

While it may not be as widely known in other parts of India, it has carved a niche in regions like Bengal, Odisha, and Tripura.

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