Bengali Fish Curry (Macher Jhol)

Cook Eat WorldAsianBengali Fish Curry (Macher Jhol)
By Published On: January 15th, 2022Last Updated: March 17th, 2022

This unique Bengali fish curry recipe, features a light and fragrant coconut sauce with mustard and poppy seeds. It’s a quick and easy curry to make at home and one of the tastiest ever!

Bengali Fish Curry in a bowl in a black tabletop with rice and scattered with cilantro, radishes and celery

My Bengali Fish Curry is a fragrant and flavourful dish that’s jam packed with personality. It’s often called Macher Jhol or Kalia Jhol and a curry unique to Bengali cuisine.

Bengal and Bangladesh, its close neighbour, serve up a diverse range of unique dishes. This Bengali recipe draws its authentic flavours from mustard oil, white poppy seeds (khus khus) and coconut milk. Together they create a robust, lightly creamy and fragrant sauce that clings to the flaky white fish.

It’s a light, bright and spicy curry - quick to prepare and even quicker to eat! Super-charged delicious.

What type of fish should I use?

Bengali fish curries use local fish like Hilsa, Rohu (carp), Koi and Tilapia, all native to the region.

If you’re elsewhere in the world, a firm white fish is the best option. Here’s a guide to the types of fish you should consider where you live. To make things easier, I use fish fillets with the skin off.

North America - Pollock, Cod, Tilapia, Bass, Grouper, Haddock and Halibut, Mackerel and Mahi Mahi,

UK - Cod, Haddock, Whiting, Bream, Monkfish, Grey Mullet and Mackerel

Australia - Flathead, Barramundi, Blue Warehou, Whiting, Snapper, Mackerel and Basa

Step by Step

This Bengali fish recipe is simple to make at home - it’s quick and painless!

  1. Make the Bengal Curry Paste by dry frying a few whole spices and then grinding into a powder. Mix these with some coconut milk.
  2. Fry the paste in mustard oil to cook out the spices
  3. Add the potato, tomato and coconut milk then simmer until the potatoes are cooked through
  4. Add the fish and cook until done.
  5. Add tamarind to enhance the sourness of the curry.
  6. Your Bengali Fish Curry is done!

Pro tips

This Bengali fish recipe is simple to make at home - it’s quick and painless!

  1. When buying fish, make sure it’s fresh - buy it whole and have the fishmonger fillet it for you. Always check the eyes of the fish - if they’re milky and opaque, the fish is not fresh. Secondly, if it smells a little fishy, it IS A LITTLE FISHY, so avoid!
  2. Temper the spice with a dollop of cooling plain yoghurt or a few slices of cucumber. Both are more effective than water if your mouth is on fire.

How to make my Bengali Fish Curry (Macher Jhol)

Bengali Fish Curry in a bowl in a black tabletop with rice and scattered with cilantro, radishes and celery

Bengali Fish Curry (Macher Jhol)

Rate this recipe

5 from 3 votes
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Recipe by Lee
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 538

Video Recipe

Ingredients

For the Bengal Curry Paste

For the curry

  • 4 tbsp mustard oil
  • 4 green chillies (thinly sliced) (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tomato (chopped)
  • 1 potato (cubed, about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • t tbsp tamarind concentrate (diluted with a little water)
  • 1.5 lb white fish (700g) (cut into large chunks) (fish suggestions below)

Garnishes

  • ¼ cup cilantro (chopped)
  • ¼ cup radishes (finely diced)
  • ¼ cup celery (finely diced)

Instructions

For the Bengal curry paste

  • Add the dried chillies, cumin seeds, poppy seeds and coriander seeds to a dry frying pan and toast for 1 minute until the cumin seeds start to jump around. Remove from the heat and add to a spice grinder and grind into a fine powder. Stir in the turmeric, salt and sugar and 1/2 cup of the coconut milk and set aside.

For the curry

  • In a wok or deep sauce pan, heat the oil over a moderate temperature until just hot. Add the curry paste along and fry for 1 minute, until the oil separates.
  • Pour in the remaining coconut milk, 1/4 cup water, chopped chillies, potatoes and tomato and stir well. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered for 12 minutes until creamy. The potatoes should be cooked too.
  • Stir in the tamarind liquid and then carefully add the fish chunks and simmer for 5-10 minutes (depending how large your fish pieces are), covered, without stirring until the fish is cooked through.
  • Remove from the heat and serve scattered with cilantro, celery and radish with plenty of fluffy basmati rice or Indian breads.

Notes

Wherever you are in the world, a firm white fish is the go-to for this curry. Here are a few suggestions:
North America - Pollock, Cod, Tilapia, Bass, Grouper, Haddock and Halibut, Mackerel and Mahi Mahi, 
UK - Cod, Haddock, Whiting, Bream, Monkfish, Grey Mullet and Mackerel
Australia - Flathead, Barramundi, Blue Warehou, Whiting, Snapper, Mackerel and Basa

Nutrition

Calories: 538kcal (27%) | Carbohydrates: 19g (6%) | Protein: 38g (76%) | Fat: 36g (55%) | Saturated Fat: 19g (119%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 85mg (28%) | Sodium: 848mg (37%) | Potassium: 1099mg (31%) | Fiber: 4g (17%) | Sugar: 4g (4%) | Vitamin A: 505IU (10%) | Vitamin C: 23mg (28%) | Calcium: 90mg (9%) | Iron: 6mg (33%)
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Bengali Fish Curry in a bowl in a black tabletop with rice and scattered with cilantro, radishes and celery

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