Sunday, 16 May 2010

Bengali style fish curry (Pabda fish)

About the food:

This is a traditional Bengali delicacy and an extremely coveted dish.Pabda is a river fish, and is heavenly in taste.

There is a funny story to tell about my experience with this dish.

I had never been a fan of fishes, which is very unlikely for a Bengali. To the extreme, when I was in college, I would not eat in the same table where fishes were being served. My mom arranged to cook fishes when I was not at home, as the smell of raw fishes made me sick. But eventually, with my mom's persistence and a lot of effort from my part, I developed a taste bud for it.

And when on the other day, while shopping in Tesco, I found pabda fish, my heart sank. Having lived abroad for about 7 yrs now, it brought back the nostalgic memories of home, of the spices, of the family meal. So, before thinking that I have never cooked this fish before, it was in my shopping basket.

I called my mom up back in India for the recipe and excitedly started off to cook. I heated oil in the pan, mixed salt and turmeric with the fishes, and was just about to fry them. Then in a frenzy I realised that I need to de-gut the fish, which has not been done! It was a moment of utter frustration, as I did not know how to de-gut fishes. I saw myself in the shoes of Julie Powell, as in the film of 'Julie & Julia' , who was struggling with the lobsters. Then, my instincts ruled and I was successful at last, but would always remember my first day experience of cooking a fish from the scratch!

Go ahead and dive for the recipe: I promise that its extremely easy to cook: only a bit messy with the cleaning part. But even then, it's worth it!

Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 30mins


6-7 medium whole Pabda fishes, de-gutted and cleaned
Oil for frying - mustard oil for best results, otherwise vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp whole black cumin (kalo jeera)
3-4 green chillies, split through the centre
1/2 tbsp cumin ( jeera) powder
1 big tomato, finely chopped
1 bunch of coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger paste
turmeric powder
salt to taste


1. Wash the fishes, drain and mix them well with salt and turmeric powder.

2. Heat 1 cup of oil in a flat base pan for deep frying the fishes. Carefully lower the fishes in batches into the oil and fry them both sides until lightly golden in colour. Take care as oil may split. Cover the pan if the oil splits too much. Take the fishes out and put them on a kitchen tissue.

3. Clean the pan. Heat 3 tbsp of oil. Add the black cumin, green chillies, cumin powder and the chopped tomatoes one by one. Stir and mix them well. Add the ginger paste, and continue frying on low flame until the oil separates out. Pour in 2 cups of water. Add salt and turmeric powder. When the water boils, place the fishes back to the pan carefully as not to break them. Cover the pan and let it cook for about 7-8 mins.

4. Remove from the flame, garnish it with the coriander leaves and serve with basmati rice.


  1. ekhono porjonto etai sob cheye bhalo laglo. kobe khaoachho?

  2. try a variation with ginger garlic paste - not just ginger, and chopped onions along with kalo jeera. also you can replace jeera powder with dhaniya powder for an overall coriander taste.

    kalo jeera and chopped onion make a great combination for all machher jhol - even if you dont use ginger garlic paste.

  3. just tried this today!!! great!!!

  4. Replies
    1. Good to know you liked it! Thank you for your comments!