Bengali Fish Curry With Rice


This post will be a little different. I was invited to participate in this month’s roundup of “Our Growing Edge“, our-growing-edge-badgehosted this month by Sonya at andmorefood.  The challenge for this month was about trying new things. I was excited about participating because I had an upcoming dinner planned that involved fish. Whole fish. Heads and tails and bones, oh my! Not to mention eyeballs. Eyeballs scare me. I was not overly enthused about making this meal, because I have never really liked the thought about having whole animal body parts in front of me, especially fish. It’s just weird. When I was younger, my mom put a whole fried fish in front of me on my dinner plate. I refused to eat it. She also put a whole lobster and crab, on separate occasions in front of me. I frantically demanded on both times that she remove them, and bring them back when properly disassembled. Yes, I was rather snooty and demanding as a child. Can’t say much has changed with the passing of the years. For more info about Our Growing Edge, click here.

So, with that said, today’s recipe will be about my first attempt at making a Bengali version of fish curry served with rice. Not just any rice, rice with mashed up fish head.  Another reason I was apprehensive about making and eating this dish is because of the use of mustard oil. The smell of mustard oil is rank, and it happens to be the main ingredient. Oh the joys of cooking with friends.

This fish curry is supposed to be cooked with Rohu, which is a type of South Asian carp. We don’t get Rohu here, at least not fresh Rohu, so I went looking for carp in general. I didn’t find any. I asked the lady handling the fish at Whole Foods, which would be the best for fish curry, so she pointed me to some snapper. I chose two, and she washed and chopped them into good sized curry pieces for me. This is what I brought home. da2H-nTtRruVLi3_1s1wic3bGdCOm-QRDBvYPFfz-1c

Oh look, there’s Mary and Joe staring at us. I have no reason why I named them Mary and Joe. I don’t even know why I named them period.

Before I continue with the recipe, I must say this, and it is very important. If you use whole fish, BE CAREFUL OF BONES!!!!!! When it was time to eat our meal, I thought I was in the clear. Then I swallowed. Then came the pain. I had a stupid fish bone stuck in my tonsils. Luckily my cooking companion was a doctor, and the look on his face when he realized what was happening priceless. It was scary. I ran into the bathroom and stuck my finger in my throat trying to get the bone out. Thankfully, it was vertically stuck in the left side of my tonsils, so with a few quick swipes I eventually got it out. When I came out of the bathroom and said the bone was gone, my friend had a complete look of relief on his face. He told me he was ready to have to jump into action and do the Heimlich maneuver on me if needed. Later that night he made me stick out my tongue and say ahh. So the moral of this story is that if you are cooking with fish that have bones, make sure you thoroughly inspect your food and remove all bones before swallowing. And it might be a bonus if you have a doctor on standby.

Ingredients: serves 4

For the Fish Curry:

  • 2 whole fish, cut into large pieces – make sure you use a fish that will keep its shape and not melt away into the curry
  • salt
  • turmeric
  • 3-4 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1-2 tbsp ghee
  • mustard oil for frying

For The Rice

  • 1 fish head taken from the fish used for curry, fried and taken apart by hand
  • 1 cup rice, washed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 red chilis
  • 2 tbsp cumin seed paste (just soak cumin enough to get it wet, then grind it)
  • 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp mustard oil



In a large bowl, use enough salt and turmeric to coat the fish. Let it marinade for around 30 minutes.JK7KcwWwc1PMzWNrKbwn1_5DeaPrFY0XRU45_cS2fBE

In a large pan, heat enough mustard oil to a smoking point. When it starts to smoke, add the fish pieces, and fry on both sides till a nice color is achieved. You will probably have to fry in batches. yXGaTxVuAPyjW-SfoY4Tw_I1gQjJjNMIJZbKBvX0IXM nQNHQBWsitRmRxWe5mLfQIEYy5oLVHXuD-JarSQRmFk

Drain on paper towel. Now fry the potatoes in the same oil until they are somewhat golden. Drain on paper towel. c4McRyJw0kKzMDNgdNgSoss_1OtcIH9fEW3RJ95Td5s zAse--GlLeW_Je7mjmsXo5IPuxPvqkWCR-Nde-jOtnY E2exW66L_TyToTvO_14cD7iNmrheRp8tXzGwHci5N6Y

Fish Curry

You can do this two ways, you can either continue cooking with the mustard oil from frying, or you can use ghee. I used ghee.

Heat the ghee, and add the cumin seeds, cinnamon and bay leaves. When they start to splutter, add the onions. Cook till golden brown, then add the ginger garlic paste along with the turmeric, red chili powder, and garam masala. Stir till the raw smell goes away, and then add the tomatoes.  j2kEGHhsqopxGVJUfuaDcWfEKFIcwNeKW-8jb3Fz9pI

Cook till tomatoes are nice and squishy. mLrmfPk_fy6uro1o5MDMPrpHlndRhsUhtV1GiOMLujQ

Now add the potatoes. uw_ohlXv1VpMQ5-84t3q7Jks4hcjZZypGqjz6blm4-s


Give it a quick stir, then add the fish. Ny50Le64JfnuHxAf73AcISRKLpfX34OzbUxFqurSJFY


Now add enough water, just to cover the fish almost. KI03yTeUyZVmcy-4ooiD5g-TKjt1yCTw3PRGe_06IRU

Bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and reduce heat to simmer until potatoes are done and fish is cooked completely. It will look like this when finished, see how it has thickened? UmCw0HGP4nUoNHIMy0kW3d7wxmvFrxiX7sXgVv2LJnk

Get started on the rice.


Take the reserved fried fish head, and use your hands to pull it apart into small pieces. OP_nXtR6zN0yfXrPDLaC_2z2p43VKo5SkYOwVrekWHo

To a pan, add mustard oil. Once it smokes add the bay leaves, cinnamon, and red chilis. hNZTMk2sLbee9cYlhhjJlpUkjiwQNyMCELIT9AKug3k

Once those start to smell, add the ginger garlic paste and turmeric. Then add the crumbled fish head, and the cumin paste. 2ChggtWQz-cUdPhA26A0aSEerK-lUFJL1-v19xHp3Do

Look, we reserved the eye because neither of us felt like accidentally biting into it. vmoHQa9_CV_k14uW7Sc7j5bPQO7aUfODNQ2ai6KvIJM


Now add the rice, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover with lid. Cook until rice is done- around 20-25 minutes. Check to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate too soon leaving the rice uncooked. Add more water if needed, it is ok if the rice is mushy. It’s supposed to be mushy. kIQiteplY3RGhCzfSN6IyZXjJYxOUf_mGIPoWtJzMWM

You can serve the curry on top of the rice, or you can put the curry in a bowl. Whatever you want to do. We served it separately so we could check for bones. You already know how that turned out. _Y907WEYW8pVcWuVDVlIJ-qeE_qqZuIJIrlegcA1WKk



28 responses to “Bengali Fish Curry With Rice

      • I’ve always wondered. My fiance is Bengali so this is something he would love, and I could cook to impress his father, but I’m not sure I could manage to stir the curry and see it looking back up at me.

      • Well, I didn’t stir it, just poked it every now and then. And plus when we fried the fish heads, the eyes kind of…uh…melted away…except for just a wee bit.

      • That’s even creepier. I think I’ll pass for the moment. And I have an excellent excuse, at least until I’m in India. We don’t get fish with the heads, or scales, still on here.

      • Small town Southern Illinois. It’s not usually available. I have seen it once or twice but that is only if you’re okay paying $13 a pound and it’s frozen.

      • I’d actually never thought about that. We do have a local Asian restaurant where one of the chef’s specials is whole fish, it makes sense they’d have to get it from somewhere 🙂

  1. Nice! I was going to make a bengali fish curry tonight, actually, but decided against it because it makes the house smell so horrible! I can understand how you feel about mustard oil. Being married to a Bengali for 4 years now, I only just began to appreciate the oil’s rank smell and pungent taste. Now, I crave it!

    • Oh lawd the smell!!! Don’t think I will get to the point of craving it!! =) Haha. It was pretty good taste-wise, and he said the curry tasted like it does back home. So I guess it was a job well done, considering the smell and almost dying from a fish bone. Ha!

  2. I’ve only cooked with fish heads once, but they always entice me when I visit the fish shop. So much fish for so little money. I do find that I have to be in the right mood for fish heads though. But if you’re in the mood for a puzzle and some tasty excavation, fish heads are great. I’ve never used mustard oil before. Is it strong tasting?

    • This was my first experience with fish heads. It was exciting, but I think I am going to be staying away from fish for quite a while. The bone scare has really traumatized me. The worst part about mustard oil is the smell. It is awfully strong. And pungent. It has a strong taste, but it isn’t bad. It definitely takes some getting used to, though.

  3. Pingback: our growing edge: may 2013 | andmorefood·

  4. hello! and thank you for this lovely entry into this month’s our growing edge. I’ve got it up in my round-up here.

    the list of ingredients in indian food always scare me off – we don’t use quite so many spices in chinese cooking so I don’t always have them on hand. but all your food looks so delicious!

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