Ilish Macher Tok Recipe

5 from 1 vote
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Ilish Macher Tok is a traditional Bengali fish curry known for its tangy and spicy flavors.

“Ilish Macher” refers to the type of fish used, which is the Hilsa fish, a popular and prized fish in the Bengali cuisine.

“Tok” translates to “sour” in Bengali, which indicates the distinctive tangy taste of the dish.

The curry is characterized by its balance of flavors, combining the sourness of tamarind or elephant wood apple (kodbel) with a touch of sweetness from sugar or jaggery, and the heat from various spices.

Ilish Macher Tok

Key Takeaways:

  • Ilish Macher Tok is a traditional Bengali fish curry known for its tangy and spicy flavors.
  • It uses Hilsa fish (Ilish) as the main ingredient, known for its rich flavor and texture.
  • “Tok” translates to “sour” in Bengali, indicating the distinctive tangy taste of the dish.
  • The curry achieves a balance of flavors by combining tamarind or elephant wood apple pulp, sugar or jaggery, and a blend of spices.
  • The fish is marinated with turmeric and salt, lightly fried, and then simmered in the tangy gravy for a perfect harmony of sour, sweet, and spicy notes. It is traditionally served with steamed rice.

The Ingredients:

Ilish Macher Tok Ingredients

  • Ilish mach or Hilsa fish: 6 medium pieces (cut, rinsed and cleaned)
  • Kotbell or elephant wood apple: 1 piece
  • Black mustard seeds: ½ tbsp
  • Dry red chili: 3 pieces
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tbsp
  • Mustard oil: 4 tbsp
  • Salt: as per taste
  • Sugar: 1 tbsp

How to Make Ilish Macher Tok (Step by Step Images)?

Preparing the Wood Apple

1. Start by breaking the elephant wood apple fruit with a rolling pin and scoop out the pulp from inside. Collect the pulp in a bowl.

Breaking elephant wood apple with a rolling pin and scooping out the pulp

2. Now, smash the pulp with a spoon and soak it in water for 10 minutes. After that, strain the pulp using a strainer.

Smashing the pulp with a spoon and soaking it in water

3. Take a strainer and a clean bowl. Smash the soaked wood apple pulp with a spoon and strain it through a strainer. This will help you extract the fresh juice of the wood apple without any seeds or fibers.

Wood apple pulp straining

Marinating the Fish

4. Marinate the Hilsa fish pieces with turmeric powder and salt. Add ½ tbsp salt and a little less than ½ tbsp turmeric powder. Mix well and set it aside for 5 minutes.

Marinating the Hilsa fish pieces

Cooking

5. Heat a wok and add 4 tbsp mustard oil to it. Let the oil become hot.

Heating mustard oil

6. Once the oil is hot, add the Hilsa fish pieces. Fry them lightly, making sure not to overcook.

Frying Hilsa fish

7. Fry both sides of the fish pieces by flipping them.

Flipping hilsa fish pieces

8. Take out the fried Hilsa fish pieces and place them on a plate.

Taking out the fried Hilsa fish pieces

9. Add the whole spices, black mustard seeds, and dried red chili to the same oil. Sauté them lightly, keeping the flame low.

Adding whole spices, black mustard seeds, and dried red chili

10. Add turmeric powder and a little bit of water to the oil. Sauté it lightly.

Adding turmeric powder and a little bit of water

11. When it starts simmering, add Kashmiri red chili powder to enhance the color. Sauté it for few seconds.

Adding Kashmiri red chili powder

12. Once the raw smell of turmeric powder disappears, add the sour wood apple pulp juice. Mix all the ingredients well.

Adding the sour wood apple pulp juice and mixing

13. Add water to achieve your preferred gravy consistency. I have added a total of 1 and ½ cups here.

Adding water

14. Add ½ tbsp salt and let it boil.

Adding tbsp salt

15. When the gravy starts to boil, add the fried Hilsa fish pieces. Cover the wok with a lid and keep the flame medium to high.

Adding the fried Hilsa fish to the boiling gravy

16. After some time, open the lid. The dish is almost ready.

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Ilish Macher Tok is almost ready

17. Add sugar and a little more salt. Flip the fish pieces to ensure both sides are cooked equally. Increase the heat on the gas stove.

Adding sugar and a little more salt and flip the fish pieces

18. The preparation is now ready. Turn off the flame and transfer Ilish Macher Tok to a serving bowl.

Expert tips: This dish can be prepared with either tamarind or wood apple.

Ilish Macher Tok is in a serving bowl

Pro Tips for Making Ilish Macher Tok

Here are some pro tips to help you make a delicious Ilish Macher Tok:

Choose Fresh Hilsa Fish: It is important to select fresh Hilsa fish for the best flavor. Look for firm flesh, clear eyes, and a pleasant smell. Fresh fish enhances the overall taste of the dish.

Marinate the Fish: Before cooking, marinate the fish with turmeric powder and salt. This helps to remove any fishy smell and adds flavor to the fish.

Lightly Fry the Fish: Gently fry the marinated fish in mustard oil until it turns golden brown. This step helps to enhance the texture and flavor of the fish.

Use Fresh Tamarind or Elephant Wood Apple Pulp: For the tangy element in Ilish Macher Tok, use fresh tamarind or elephant wood apple pulp. Soak them in water and extract the pulp, discarding the seeds and fibers. Fresh pulp adds a natural sourness to the curry.

Balance the Flavors: Achieve the perfect balance of flavors by adjusting the amount of sugar or jaggery, tamarind pulp, and spices according to your taste preferences. The dish should have a tangy, sweet, and spicy flavor profile.

Mustard Oil for Authenticity: Use mustard oil for cooking Ilish Macher Tok as it imparts a distinct flavor that is traditional in Bengali cuisine. Mustard oil complements the flavors of the fish and spices.

Resting Time for Flavors: Allow the curry to rest for some time after cooking. This helps the flavors to meld together, resulting in a more flavorful and delicious dish.

Garnish with Fresh Coriander (Optional): Before serving, garnish the Ilish Macher Tok with fresh coriander leaves. This adds a touch of freshness and enhances the presentation of the dish.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to preparing a mouthwatering and authentic Ilish Macher Tok.

What to Serve with Ilish Macher Tok?

Here are some popular options:

Steamed Basmati Rice: The delicate flavors of basmati rice complement the tangy and spicy flavors of Ilish Macher Tok. The fluffy texture of steamed basmati rice makes it a perfect accompaniment.

Bengali Pulao: If you want to add more flavors to your meal, you can serve Ilish Macher Tok with Bengali pulao. This fragrant rice dish is cooked with spices, ghee (clarified butter), and aromatic ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom.

Remember to adjust the side dishes based on your personal preferences and the occasion. The goal is to create a well-rounded meal that complements the flavors of Ilish Macher Tok while adding variety to your plate.

How Does Ilish Macher Tok Taste?

Ilish macher tok taste

Ilish Macher Tok has a distinct and flavorful taste that combines tangy, sweet, and spicy elements. Here’s a breakdown of the flavors you can expect:

Tangy: The tanginess in Ilish Macher Tok comes from the use of tamarind pulp or other souring agents. It adds a zesty and slightly sour taste to the curry, which balances well with the other flavors.

Sweet: To counterbalance the tanginess, a touch of sweetness is added to the dish. This can be achieved through the use of sugar or jaggery (unrefined cane sugar). The sweetness helps to mellow out the sourness and adds depth to the overall flavor.

Spicy: Ilish Macher Tok typically incorporates a blend of spices that bring a hint of heat and complexity to the dish. Common spices used include turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, and green chilies. The spiciness is usually mild to moderate, allowing the other flavors to shine through.

Umami-rich Hilsa Fish: The Hilsa fish itself has a distinctive, rich, and slightly oily flavor. It is known for its soft, tender flesh that melts in the mouth. The flavors of the fish blend harmoniously with the tangy and spicy curry, creating a delightful combination.

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When all these flavors come together, Ilish Macher Tok offers a unique taste experience that is savory, tangy, slightly sweet, and with a subtle kick of spiciness.

The balance of flavors is key to the dish’s appeal, and it showcases the nuances of Bengali cuisine. It’s a dish that is cherished for its complex and satisfying taste, particularly among fish lovers and enthusiasts of Bengali cuisine.

Ilish Macher Tok Alternatives

If you’re looking for alternatives to Ilish Macher Tok, here are a few options that you can consider:

Ilish Bhapa: Ilish Bhapa is a popular Bengali dish where the Hilsa fish is marinated with mustard paste, coconut, green chilies, and spices. It is then steamed to perfection, resulting in a flavorful and moist fish dish with a distinct mustardy taste.

Doi Ilish: Doi Ilish is a creamy and tangy fish curry made with Hilsa fish cooked in a yogurt-based sauce. The fish is marinated with spices, gently fried, and then simmered in a gravy made from yogurt, ginger, garlic, and spices. It offers a rich and mildly tangy flavor profile.

Shorshe Ilish: Shorshe Ilish is another classic Bengali preparation that features Hilsa fish cooked in a mustard-based sauce. The fish is marinated with mustard paste, turmeric, and salt, then lightly fried. It is then simmered in a thick gravy made from ground mustard seeds, green chilies, and spices. This dish is known for its bold and pungent flavors.

Ilish Paturi: Paturi is a popular cooking technique in Bengali cuisine, where fish or other ingredients are marinated with spices and wrapped in banana leaves before being steamed or grilled. You can prepare Ilish Paturi by marinating Hilsa fish with a mixture of mustard paste, coconut, green chilies, and spices. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and cooked, resulting in a fragrant and flavorful fish dish.

Macher Jhol: If you prefer a lighter fish curry, Macher Jhol is a great alternative. It is a simple and comforting Bengali fish curry made with various types of fish, including Hilsa. The fish is cooked in a light broth with onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and spices. It is often enjoyed with steamed rice and offers a delicate and soothing flavor.

These alternatives showcase the versatility of Bengali fish preparations, with each dish offering its own unique flavors and cooking methods. You can choose the one that appeals to your taste preferences and availability of ingredients.

Recipe Card:

Ilish Macher Tok

Ilish Macher Tok

By Mita Mondal
Ilish Macher Tok is a traditional Bengali fish curry that features Hilsa fish (Ilish) cooked in a tangy and spicy gravy. The term "Ilish Macher" refers to the specific fish used in the dish, which is the Hilsa fish, highly prized in Bengali cuisine. "Tok" translates to "sour" in Bengali, indicating the distinct tanginess that characterizes the dish.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marination time 15 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6
Calories 263 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 600 grams Hilsa fish (cut into 6 pieces and cleaned)
  • 1 piece Elephant wood apple
  • ½ tablespoon Black mustard seed
  • 3 pieces Dry red chili
  • 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Mustard oil
  • Salt as per taste

Instructions
 

Preparing the Wood Apple:

  • Break the elephant wood apple fruit with a rolling pin and scoop out the pulp from inside. Collect the pulp in a bowl.
  • Smash the pulp with a spoon and soak it in water for 10 minutes. Then strain the pulp using a strainer to extract the fresh juice without any seeds or fibers.

Marinating the Fish:

  • Marinate the Hilsa fish pieces with turmeric powder and salt. Mix well and set aside for 5 minutes.

Cooking:

  • Heat a wok and add 4 tbsp of mustard oil. Let the oil become hot.
  • Add the marinated Hilsa fish pieces and lightly fry them, flipping to cook both sides evenly. Remove the fried fish pieces and set them aside.
  • In the same oil, add whole spices, black mustard seeds, and dried red chili. Sauté them lightly on low flame.
  • Add turmeric powder and a little water. Sauté briefly and then add Kashmiri red chili powder for enhanced color.
  • Once the raw smell of turmeric disappears, add the sour wood apple pulp juice and mix well.
  • Adjust the consistency by adding water (approximately 1 ½ cups) to achieve your preferred gravy thickness. Add salt and let it boil.
  • When the gravy starts boiling, add the fried Hilsa fish pieces. Cover the wok and simmer on medium to high heat.
  • After some time, open the lid and add sugar and a little more salt. Flip the fish pieces to ensure even cooking. Increase the heat.
  • Once cooked, turn off the flame and transfer the Ilish Macher Tok to a serving bowl.

Video

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Notes

Choosing the Hilsa Fish: Opt for fresh and good quality Hilsa fish to ensure the best flavor. Look for firm flesh, clear eyes, and a pleasant aroma. Fresher fish will enhance the taste of the dish.
Adjusting the Sourness: The tanginess in Ilish Macher Tok comes from the tamarind or wood apple pulp. You can adjust the amount of pulp according to your preference for sourness. Start with a moderate amount and add more if desired.
Balancing the Sweetness: The addition of sugar or jaggery helps balance the tangy and spicy flavors. Adjust the sweetness according to your taste. Start with a small amount and gradually add more if needed.
Mustard Oil Flavor: Mustard oil is a traditional ingredient in Bengali cuisine and adds a distinct flavor to the dish. However, if you prefer a milder taste, you can use a combination of mustard oil and a neutral cooking oil like vegetable oil.
Frying the Fish: While frying the fish, make sure not to overcook it. The goal is to lightly fry the fish until it turns golden brown and retains its moisture. Overcooking can result in dry and tough fish.
Spices and Heat Level: Adjust the amount of spices, such as turmeric, red chili powder, and green chilies, according to your spice tolerance. Start with smaller quantities and increase gradually if you prefer a spicier curry.
Serving Temperature: Ilish Macher Tok is typically served hot. Make sure to serve it immediately or keep it warm until serving to enjoy the flavors at their best.

Nutrition Info (Estimation Only)

Nutrition Facts
Ilish Macher Tok
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
263
Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
19
g
29
%
Saturated Fat
 
3
g
19
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
4
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
10
g
Cholesterol
 
60
mg
20
%
Sodium
 
1276
mg
55
%
Potassium
 
399
mg
11
%
Carbohydrates
 
4
g
1
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
2
g
2
%
Protein
 
19
g
38
%
Vitamin A
 
621
IU
12
%
Vitamin C
 
1
mg
1
%
Calcium
 
67
mg
7
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Conclusion

When combined with aromatic Hilsa and the elephant wood apple pulp, it creates a mouthwatering sour fish dish.

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Anyone can make this dish by extracting the fruit’s pulp and cooking the fish with it. It is best served with steamed rice.

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