Bengali Fish Curry Recipe | Macher Jhol

5 from 1 vote
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Bengali fish curry, known as “macher jhol,” is a treasured and iconic dish in Bengali cuisine.

This delectable meal holds a special place due to Bengal’s rich aquatic resources, making fish an essential part of their diet and culture.

The art of preparing fish curries has been refined over generations, resulting in dishes celebrated for their unique flavors and delicate spices.

Bengali Fish Curry

Key Takeaways:

  • Bengali Fish Curry, known as macher jhol, is an iconic dish in Bengali cuisine.
  • Fish is an integral part of the Bengali diet and culture due to the region’s abundant aquatic resources.
  • Bengali fish curries are known for their distinct flavors, delicate spices, and careful ingredient balance.
  • Various types of fish, both freshwater and saltwater, are used in Bengali fish curries, adding unique flavors to each preparation.
  • Traditional accompaniments for Bengali Fish Curry include steamed rice, roti/chapati, paratha, luchi, and naan.

The Ingredients:

How to Cook Bengali Fish Curry (Step by Step Images)?

1. Marinate the fish pieces with ½ tbsp of salt and ½ tbsp of turmeric powder. Leave the marinated fish aside for 15 minutes.

Marinating the fish pieces

2. Place a pan on the gas stove. Pour 4 tbsp of oil into the wok. Once the oil is heated up, carefully add the fish pieces one by one to the oil. Then, cover it.

(Expert tip: Add oil according to your preferences.)

Frying Fish

3. Flip the fish pieces over and fry both sides. Take them out onto a plate when they are done.

Flipping the fish pieces

4. Add chopped onions to the wok. When the onions turn light brown, add 3 tbsp of ginger-garlic paste. Keep stirring until the raw smell dissipates from the paste.

Adding chopped onions, ginger-garlic and stirring

5. Add 1 tbsp of turmeric powder, 1 tbsp of red chili powder, 1 tbsp of Kashmiri red chili powder, and 1 tbsp of coriander powder. Stir well until the raw smell dissipates. Add a little bit of water to prevent the spices from burning. Stir well.

Adding, turmeric powder, red chili powder, Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander powder and Stirring

6. Now, add the chopped tomatoes and continue stirring. Add 1 tbsp of salt to help the tomatoes cook quickly. Adding the chopped tomatoes and stirring

7. Once the tomatoes become soft and blend well with the cooked onions, and the spices start releasing oil, add 2½ cups of water and cover it with a lid. Allow it to come to a boil.

(Expert tip: Adjust the water according to your desired gravy consistency.)

Adding water

8. Remove the lid and add the fried fish pieces and four green chilis. Cover the lid for 10 to 15 mins. Removing the lid and adding the fried fish pieces and four green chilis

9. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of roasted cumin powder and mix everything thoroughly. After a few minutes, turn off the gas. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of coriander leaves.

(Expert tip: Optionally, you can also add raw cumin powder for cooking.)

Sprinkling roasted cumin powder and mix everything thoroughly

10. Your Bengali fish curry is ready. Bengali fish curry is ready

11. Transfer the Bengali fish curry to a bowl.

Transferring the Bengali fish curry to a bowl

Pro Tips for Cooking Bengali Fish Curry

Choose Fresh Fish: Opt for fresh and high-quality fish for the best results. Look for firm flesh, clear eyes, and a fresh sea-like smell. Popular choices for Bengali fish curries include Rohu, Katla, Hilsa, Pomfret, and Bhetki.

Marinate the Fish: Before adding the fish to the curry, marinate it with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder for about 10-15 minutes. This step enhances the flavor and helps the fish absorb the spices.

Use Mustard Oil: Mustard oil is a quintessential ingredient in Bengali cuisine, and it adds a distinct flavor to fish curries. Heat the mustard oil to a smoking point before adding other ingredients to reduce its pungency.

Master Panch Phoron (OPTIONAL): Panch phoron is a blend of five spices (fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and fennel seeds) commonly used in Bengali cooking. Toast the panch phoron in hot oil before adding other ingredients to release its aromatic flavors.

Sauté Onions to Golden Brown: Sauté finely chopped onions until they turn golden brown. This process adds depth and sweetness to the curry base, enhancing the overall flavor of the dish.

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Balancing Spices: Achieve a well-balanced spice blend by using a combination of ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, and red chili powder. Adjust the spice levels according to your preference.

Incorporate Aromatics: Ginger and garlic play a vital role in Bengali fish curries. Crush or finely chop them to release their flavors and add them early in the cooking process.

Embrace Mustard Paste (OPTIONAL): Mustard paste is a signature ingredient in many Bengali fish curries. Make a paste by grinding mustard seeds with a little water and add it to the curry for a distinct and pungent flavor.

Control the Heat: Adjust the amount of green chilis or red chili powder according to your spice tolerance. Bengali fish curries are generally mildly spiced but can be adjusted to suit individual preferences.

Simmer Slowly: Once all the ingredients are combined, bring the curry to a gentle simmer over low to medium heat. Cooking it slowly allows the flavors to meld together and ensures the fish cooks evenly without becoming too tough.

Resting Time: Let the cooked fish curry rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the flavors to further develop and blend together.

Garnish with Fresh Herbs (OPTIONAL): Just before serving, sprinkle freshly chopped coriander leaves over the curry. The bright and herbaceous flavor adds a refreshing touch to the dish.

Feel free to experiment, adjust flavors to your liking, and enjoy the journey of creating a delicious Bengali fish curry.

What to Serve with Bengali Fish Curry?

Here are some traditional and popular options to serve with Bengali Fish Curry:

Steamed Rice: Bengali Fish Curry is commonly enjoyed with steamed white rice. The fragrant and fluffy rice helps balance the flavors of the curry and absorbs the delicious gravy.

Roti/Chapati: Soft and freshly made roti or chapati is a great choice to mop up the flavorful curry. The combination of the bread and fish curry creates a satisfying and hearty meal.

Paratha: Flaky and layered parathas are another delicious option to serve with Bengali Fish Curry. The rich and buttery parathas complement the flavors of the curry and add a delightful texture to the meal.

Luchi: Luchi is a deep-fried Indian bread made from refined flour. Its crispy texture and slightly indulgent nature make it a popular choice to enjoy with fish curry. It adds a unique element to the meal.

Naan: Naan, a leavened bread typically cooked in a tandoor, is another option that pairs well with Bengali Fish Curry. Its chewy texture and slightly charred edges provide a delightful contrast to the flavors of the curry.

Bengali Fish Curry offers versatility, allowing you to explore various combinations and enjoy a satisfying dining experience.

How Does Bengali Fish Curry Taste?

Bengali Fish Curry Featured Image

Bengali Fish Curry is known for its distinct and flavorful taste. Here’s a description of how it typically tastes:

Savory: Bengali Fish Curry has a savory flavor profile with a rich combination of spices, herbs, and aromatics. The use of ingredients like onions, garlic, ginger, and a blend of spices contributes to its savory taste.

Spicy (Variable): The level of spiciness in Bengali Fish Curry can vary depending on personal preference and the recipe. It can range from mild to moderately spicy, with the heat derived from spices like chili powder, turmeric, and mustard.

Tangy Undertones: Bengali Fish Curry often incorporates tangy flavors that add a refreshing element to the dish. This tanginess can come from ingredients like tomatoes, which help balance the richness of the fish and spices.

Depth of Flavors: The curry has layers of flavors resulting from the careful combination of spices and aromatics. The blend of spices such as  coriander, turmeric, and cumin creates a complex and well-rounded taste.

Umami from Fish: The fish used in Bengali Fish Curry contributes a unique umami flavor, adding depth and richness to the dish. The fish absorbs the flavors of the curry, making it more flavorful and satisfying.

Balanced Flavors: Bengali cuisine is known for its balanced flavors, and Bengali Fish Curry is no exception. The combination of spices, tanginess, and richness from the fish creates a harmonious balance of taste, where no single flavor overpowers the others.

Overall, Bengali Fish Curry offers a delightful blend of savory, spicy, tangy, and aromatic flavors. The combination of these elements creates a unique and satisfying taste that is cherished in Bengali cuisine.

Bengali Fish Curry Alternatives

If you’re looking for alternatives to Bengali Fish Curry, here are a few dishes that capture the essence of Bengali cuisine while offering different flavors and ingredients:

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Doi Maach: Doi Maach is a popular Bengali fish curry where fish is cooked in a yogurt-based sauce. It has a creamy and tangy flavor profile, with the yogurt adding a refreshing and slightly sour taste to the dish.

Shorshe Ilish: Shorshe Ilish is a classic Bengali dish that features the famous Hilsa fish. The fish is marinated in a mustard and yogurt sauce, then cooked to perfection. It has a pungent, tangy, and slightly spicy flavor that pairs wonderfully with steamed rice.

Chingri Malai Curry: Chingri Malai Curry is a delicious Bengali dish made with prawns cooked in a creamy coconut-based sauce. It has a mild, slightly sweet, and rich flavor, with the coconut milk imparting a velvety texture to the curry.

Macher Kalia: Macher Kalia is a spicier fish curry that features a thick and rich gravy. It is made with a blend of spices, onions, ginger, and garlic, resulting in a bold and flavorful dish. Macher Kalia is often served on special occasions and celebrations.

Sorshe Bata Maach: Sorshe Bata Maach is a fish curry where the fish is cooked in a mustard paste-based sauce. The mustard adds a distinct and robust flavor, giving the curry a tangy and slightly spicy taste. It is a popular dish in Bengali cuisine.

Paturi: Paturi is a traditional Bengali dish where fish or shrimp is marinated in a mixture of mustard paste, coconut, and spices, wrapped in banana leaves, and then steamed or grilled. It has a unique blend of flavors with a subtle smoky taste from the banana leaves.

Koi Macher Jhal: Koi Macher Jhal is a spicy curry made with Koi fish, also known as climbing perch. The fish is cooked in a hot and flavorful gravy made with mustard oil, spices, and green chilies. It has a fiery and tangy taste that pairs well with steamed rice.

These alternatives provide a variety of flavors and textures while highlighting the diversity of Bengali cuisine.

Each dish has its own unique characteristics, allowing you to explore different tastes and ingredients in traditional Bengali cooking.

Recipe Card:

Bengali Fish Curry Featured Image

Bengali Fish Curry (Macher Jhol)

By Mita Mondal
Bengali Fish Curry, also known as macher jhol, is a popular dish in Bengali cuisine that features fish cooked in a flavorful curry. It is a traditional and beloved preparation that showcases the culinary expertise and cultural significance of fish in Bengali culture.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marination time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 5
Calories 263 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 750 grams Rita Fish (cut into 10 pieces and cleaned)
  • 3 pieces Onions (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • 3 pieces Tomato (chopped)
  • tablespoon Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Red Chili Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander Powder
  • 4 pieces Green Chili
  • 1 tablespoon Coriander Leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Roasted Cumin Powder
  • 4 tablespoons Mustard Oil
  • Salt to Taste

Instructions
 

  • Begin by marinating the fish pieces. Sprinkle ½ tablespoon of salt and ½ tablespoon of turmeric powder evenly over the fish pieces. Allow them to marinate for 15 minutes, which will infuse them with flavor.
  • Heat a pan on the stove and add 4 tablespoons of cooking oil. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the marinated fish pieces one by one. Ensure they are coated evenly in the oil, then cover the pan. Adjust the amount of oil to your preference.
  • Flip the fish pieces gently to ensure they cook evenly. Fry both sides until they turn golden brown. Once done, transfer the fried fish pieces to a plate and set them aside.
  • In the same pan, add the finely chopped onions. Sauté them until they turn light brown, then add the ginger-garlic paste. Continue stirring until the raw smell dissipates from the paste.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder, 1 tablespoon of red chili powder, 1 tablespoon of Kashmiri red chili powder (for color), and 1 tablespoon of coriander powder. Stir well until the spices release their aroma. Add a splash of water to prevent the spices from burning and continue stirring.
  • Incorporate the chopped tomatoes and continue stirring. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to expedite the tomato's softening process.
  • Once the tomatoes have softened and melded with the cooked onions, and the spices have released oil, add 2½ cups of water. Cover the pan with a lid and bring it to a boil.
  • Remove the lid and carefully place the fried fish pieces back into the curry. Add four green chilis for an extra kick. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.
  • Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of roasted cumin powder and mix it into the curry. After a few minutes, turn off the heat. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves for a burst of color and aroma. Optionally, you can also add a pinch of raw cumin powder for an extra layer of flavor.
  • Your authentic Bengali Fish Curry is now ready to be savored. Transfer it to a serving bowl, and enjoy this delightful Bengali culinary masterpiece.

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Notes

Fish Selection: Choose fresh and high-quality fish for the best results. Look for firm flesh, clear eyes, and a fresh sea-like smell. Popular choices for Bengali fish curries include Rohu, Katla, Hilsa, Pomfret, Rita and Bhetki.
Marinating the Fish: Before adding the fish to the curry, marinate it with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder for about 10-15 minutes. This step enhances the flavor and helps the fish absorb the spices.
Mustard Oil: Mustard oil is a quintessential ingredient in Bengali cuisine and adds a distinct flavor to fish curries. Heat the mustard oil to a smoking point before adding other ingredients to reduce its pungency.
Spices and Flavorings: Achieve a well-balanced spice blend by using a combination of ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, and red chili powder. Adjust the spice levels according to your preference. Ginger and garlic play a vital role in Bengali fish curries. Crush or finely chop them to release their flavors and add them early in the cooking process.
Mustard Paste (Optional): Mustard paste is a signature ingredient in many Bengali fish curries. Make a paste by grinding mustard seeds with a little water and add it to the curry for a distinct and pungent flavor.
Green Chilis: Adjust the amount of green chilis or red chili powder according to your spice tolerance. Bengali fish curries are generally mildly spiced but can be adjusted to suit individual preferences.
Cooking Technique: Once all the ingredients are combined, bring the curry to a gentle simmer over low to medium heat. Cooking it slowly allows the flavors to meld together and ensures the fish cooks evenly without becoming too tough.
Resting Time: Let the cooked fish curry rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the flavors to further develop and blend together.
Garnish with Fresh Herbs (Optional): Just before serving, sprinkle freshly chopped coriander leaves over the curry. The bright and herbaceous flavor adds a refreshing touch to the dish.
Experiment and Enjoy: Feel free to experiment and adjust the flavors to your liking. Bengali fish curry offers versatility, allowing you to explore various combinations and enjoy a satisfying culinary experience.

Nutrition Info (Estimation Only)

Nutrition Facts
Bengali Fish Curry (Macher Jhol)
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
263
Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
16
g
25
%
Saturated Fat
 
2
g
13
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
4
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
8
g
Cholesterol
 
87
mg
29
%
Sodium
 
797
mg
35
%
Potassium
 
641
mg
18
%
Carbohydrates
 
3
g
1
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
 
0.3
g
0
%
Protein
 
25
g
50
%
Vitamin A
 
575
IU
12
%
Vitamin C
 
2
mg
2
%
Calcium
 
48
mg
5
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Conclusion

Bengali Fish Curry is a flavorful and beloved dish in Bengali cuisine. It offers a harmonious blend of spices, tanginess, and the rich flavors of fish.

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The curry can range from mildly spiced to fiery, depending on personal preference.

It is typically served with steamed rice or bread, creating a satisfying and wholesome meal.

Bengali cuisine offers a range of fish curry variations, each with its own distinct flavors and ingredients, allowing for a diverse culinary experience.

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