Tilapia Macher Tok Recipe | Sour Tilapia

5 from 2 votes
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Tilapia Macher Tok is a Bengali fish dish that tantalizes the taste buds with its unique blend of flavors.

Hailing from the eastern part of India, this recipe showcases the culinary expertise of Bengal, where fish is not just a dish but an integral part of the culture.

“Macher Tok” translates to “Fish Sour” in Bengali, and true to its name, this dish presents a delightful combination of tanginess and spiciness that creates a symphony of flavors in every bite.

In this recipe, succulent pieces of tilapia fish are first marinated, lightly fried and then cooked in a delectable concoction of tamarind pulp, mustard oil, and an assortment of spices.

Tilapia Macher Tok

Key Takeaways:

  • Tilapia Macher Tok: A Bengali fish dish with a unique blend of flavors, combining tanginess and spiciness.
  • Culinary Heritage: Showcases Bengal’s culinary expertise, where fish is integral to the culture.
  • Flavor Symphony: “Macher Tok” translates to “Fish Sour” – a harmonious blend of tanginess and spiciness.
  • Cooking Process: Marinated tilapia fish cooked in tamarind-based gravy with mustard oil and spices.
  • Balanced Experience: Offers a harmony of sweet, sour, and savory notes; traditionally served with steamed rice for a satisfying and contrasting meal.

The Ingredients

Tilapia Macher Tok Ingredients

  • Tilapia fish: 5 pieces (cut & cleaned)
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tbsp
  • Red chili powder: 1 tbsp
  • Sugar: ½ tbsp
  • Tamarind pulp: 1 tbsp
  • Coriander leaves: 1 tbsp
  • Curry leaves: 1 tbsp
  • Black mustard seeds: ½ tbsp
  • Hing or asafetida: 1 pinch
  • Dried red chili: 2 pieces
  • Mustard oil: 2 tbsp
  • Salt to taste

How to Cook Tilapia Macher Tok (Step by Step Images)?

1. Marinate the Tilapia fish with ½ tbsp of salt, 1 tbsp of turmeric powder, and 1 tbsp of red chili powder. Leave it for 15 to 20 minutes.

Marinating Tilapia fish

2. Add 2 tbsp of mustard oil to the wok and let it heat up. Gently add the fish into the hot oil and let them fry.

(Expert tip: Be very careful while adding the fish into the oil.)

Frying Tilapia fish

3. Flip them over and fry both sides. Take them out on a plate when they are done.

Frying both side of Tilapia fish

4. Add dried red chilis, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and asafetida. Sauté everything. When the mustard seeds start crackling, add the tamarind pulp. Stir everything. Finally add 1 cup water.

Adding dried red chilis, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and asafetida, tamarind pulp. water and stirring

5. Add less than ½ tbsp of salt to the gravy. Let it come to a boil. When the gravy starts boiling, add the fried Tilapia fish.

Adding fried Tilapia fish to the gravy

6. Add ½ tbsp of sugar when the gravy is almost done. Turn of the gas. Add coriander leaves from above.

(Expert tip: Coriander leaves is optional. Add sugar as per your taste)

Adding sugar and coriander leaves

7. Tilapia Macher Tok is ready. Trans it to a bowl.

Tilapia Macher Tok is ready

Pro Tips for Making Best Tilapia Macher Tok

Here are some pro tips to help you make the best Tilapia Macher Tok:

Choose Fresh Fish: The freshness of the fish is crucial for the flavor of the dish. Opt for fresh tilapia fish with a clean smell and firm texture.

Marination Time: Allow the fish to marinate for at least 30 minutes. This helps the flavors penetrate the fish and enhances its taste.

Balanced Tamarind: The tanginess of tamarind is a key element in this dish. Start with a small amount of tamarind pulp and gradually adjust to your taste preference. Too much tamarind can overpower the other flavors.

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Spice Blending: Create a balanced spice blend with ground turmeric, red chili powder, and mustard seeds. Adjust the quantities based on your spice tolerance.

Slow Cooking: Let the fish simmer gently in the tamarind gravy. Slow cooking allows the flavors to meld and develop depth.

Don’t Overcook: Fish can become mushy if overcooked. Once the fish flakes easily with a fork, it’s done. Be cautious not to stir too vigorously and break the fish.

Jaggery or Sugar: To balance the tanginess, a touch of jaggery or sugar can be added. Start with a small amount and adjust to taste.

Garnish with Fresh Herbs: Chopped fresh coriander leaves add a burst of color and freshness to the dish. Sprinkle them over the top just before serving.

Resting Period: Like many flavorful dishes, Macher Tok benefits from a short resting period. Allow the flavors to meld by letting the dish sit for a little while before serving.

With these pro tips in mind, you’re well on your way to creating a delicious and authentic Tilapia Macher Tok that will surely delight your taste buds and impress your guests.

What to Serve with Tilapia Macher Tok?

Here are some traditional and complementary options to consider serving with Tilapia Macher Tok:

Steamed Rice: This is the classic and preferred choice to accompany Tilapia Macher Tok. The neutral taste of steamed rice balances the tangy and spicy flavors of the dish.

Roti or Paratha: If you prefer a bread option, soft rotis or flaky parathas can be served alongside the fish. These breads help soak up the flavorful gravy.

Remember that the choice of accompaniments can vary based on personal preferences and dietary restrictions.

Feel free to mix and match these options to create a well-rounded meal that suits your taste and style of dining.

How Does Tilapia Macher Tok Taste?

Tilapia macher tok featured image

Here’s how Tilapia Macher Tok typically tastes:

Tangy: The name “Macher Tok” directly translates to “Fish Sour,” highlighting the dish’s tangy character. The tanginess primarily comes from the use of tamarind pulp or other souring agents. This tanginess is balanced with other flavors to create a harmonious blend.

Savory: The fish itself absorbs the flavors of the marination and the simmering gravy, resulting in a rich and savory taste. The combination of spices like turmeric, and mustard seeds adds depth and complexity.

Spicy: While the level of spiciness can be adjusted to taste, Tilapia Macher Tok usually carries a mild to moderate level of heat from ingredients like red chili powder and red chilies. The heat adds a warming sensation without overwhelming the palate.

Pungent: The use of mustard oil in Bengali cuisine imparts a distinct pungent flavor that adds character to the dish. The pungency of mustard oil is a signature feature in many traditional Bengali recipes.

Sweetness: To balance the tanginess and spiciness, a touch of sweetness is often added using ingredients like jaggery or sugar. This sweetness complements the other flavors and creates a well-rounded taste.

Umami: The combination of marinated fish and slow cooking in a flavorful gravy enhances the umami taste of the dish. Umami adds depth and richness to the overall flavor profile.

Herbal and Fresh Notes: Chopped coriander leaves or other fresh herbs are often used as a garnish. These herbs provide a burst of freshness and color to the dish, adding a layer of aromatic flavor.

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Overall, Tilapia Macher Tok offers a symphony of flavors that play on the palate—tangy, savory, spicy, and pungent—creating a well-balanced and satisfying dish that’s both comforting and exciting.

The interplay of these flavors is a hallmark of Bengali cuisine and reflects the rich culinary heritage of the region.

Tilapia Macher Tok Alternatives

If you’re looking for fish-based dishes with a tangy or sour profile similar to “Tilapia Macher Tok,” here are some other Bengali fish preparations that have a tangy element:

Rui Macher Tok: Similar to “Tilapia Macher Tok,” this dish uses the rohu fish and features a tangy and sour gravy.

Pabda Macher Tok: Pabda fish, another popular fish in Bengali cuisine, can also be prepared in a similar tangy style.

Ilish Macher Tok: Ilish or hilsa fish, known for its distinct flavor, can be cooked in a tangy gravy with mustard and tamarind.

Tangra Macher Tok: Tangra or catfish can also be used to prepare a dish with tangy and spicy flavors.

Pona Macher Tok: Pona fish, also known as Indian Tarpon, can be used to create a tangy fish dish.

Recipe Card:

Tilapia macher tok featured image

Tilapia Macher Tok

By Mita Mondal
Tilapia Macher Tok is a traditional Bengali fish dish originating from the eastern part of India, particularly the region of Bengal. The name "Tilapia Macher Tok" translates to "Tilapia Fish Sour" in English, highlighting the key elements of the dish's flavor profile.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Marination Time 15 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 5
Calories 174 kcal


  • 5 pieces Tilapia fish (cut & cleaned)
  • 1 tbsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp Red chili powder
  • ½ sugar Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Tamarind pulp
  • 1 tbsp Coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp Curry leaves
  • ½ tbsp Black mustard seed
  • 1 pinch Asafetida
  • 2 pieces Dried red chili
  • 2 tbsp Mustard oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Marination Magic: Begin by marinating the Tilapia fish with ½ tbsp of salt, 1 tbsp of turmeric powder, and 1 tbsp of red chili powder. Allow the flavors to meld for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Sizzling Start: Heat 2 tbsp of mustard oil in a wok until it's hot and ready. Gently add the marinated fish into the oil, taking care to prevent any splatters.
    (Expert tip: Exercise caution while adding the fish to the hot oil.)
  • Golden Fry: Carefully flip the fish to ensure both sides are fried to a delightful golden hue. Once done, place the fish on a plate.
  • Aromatic Infusion: In the same wok, introduce dried red chilies, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and a pinch of asafetida. Sauté this aromatic mix. As the mustard seeds begin to crackle, introduce the tamarind pulp and give everything a good stir. Finish by adding 1 cup of water.
  • Seasoning Symphony: Gradually add a touch less than ½ tbsp of salt to the bubbling gravy. Let the flavors mingle as the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Once the gravy is in motion, gently nestle the fried Tilapia fish into the mix.
  • Sweet Harmony: Just as the gravy nears its completion, sprinkle in ½ tbsp of sugar to harmonize the flavors. Turn off the heat, and for a fragrant flourish, garnish with optional coriander leaves.
    (Expert tip: The addition of coriander leaves is at your discretion. Adjust sugar according to your taste preference.)
  • Culinary Masterpiece: Your Tilapia Macher Tok is now ready to grace your table. Carefully transfer it to a serving bowl, letting the enticing aroma fill the air.


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Fish Selection: Choose fresh and good-quality tilapia fish. Look for firm texture, clear eyes, and a fresh ocean-like smell.
Marination Time: Allowing the fish to marinate for 15 to 20 minutes ensures that the spices penetrate the fish, enhancing its flavor.
Mustard Oil: Mustard oil is a key ingredient in Bengali cuisine. Heat it until it starts to smoke, then let it cool slightly before adding the fish. This process mellows its pungency.
Frying Fish: Fry the fish until it's golden and crispy on both sides. Be cautious while adding the fish to the hot oil to prevent splattering.
Spice Temperatures: Adjust the amount of red chili powder and red chilies to your spice preference. Bengali cuisine often balances heat with other flavors.
Mustard Seeds and Curry Leaves: The crackling of mustard seeds and aroma of curry leaves add depth to the dish. Ensure they don't burn during sautéing.
Tamarind Pulp: Begin with a small amount of tamarind pulp and adjust to taste. You can use other souring agents like raw mango if preferred.
Salt Balance: Add salt gradually, keeping in mind the fish is marinated with salt as well. Taste as you go to achieve the desired seasoning.
Sugar Addition: Sugar balances the tanginess of the dish. Adjust the amount based on personal taste, but keep in mind the sweetness should be subtle.
Fresh Coriander: Garnishing with fresh coriander leaves adds a burst of color and freshness. Feel free to skip it if desired.
Resting Time: Allow the dish to rest for a few minutes before serving. This helps the flavors meld together even more.
Handling Fish: Be gentle while flipping and handling the fish to avoid breaking the fillets.
Remember, cooking is both an art and a science. As you become more comfortable with the recipe, you can adjust and personalize it to your liking, creating your unique version of Tilapia Macher Tok. 

Nutrition Info (Estimation Only)

Nutrition Facts
Tilapia Macher Tok
Amount per Serving
Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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“Tilapia Macher Tok” is a delightful and flavorful recipe known for its sweet and sour taste.

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The addition of a pinch of asafetida along with curry leaves elevates the overall flavor profile of the dish, providing a highly delectable taste that culminates beautifully when paired with steamed rice for either lunch or dinner.

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