Pabda Maachher Jhaal: Flavours of the East

Soul food. Thats the ideal word to describe the magic of Maachher jhaal (fish curry) to any Bengali worth his/her salt. We simply love our fish, and literally have a myriad ways to cook it, with each dish being super special. It was simply a super satisfying session for me, when I stocked up my freezer some time back ,with nothing else but Fish. It was  a conscious decision, to absolutely touch nothing, which was not 'Fishy, this month.' Coinciding with this, was request from a  college buddy, a fellow Kolkattan, for some traditional fish recipes. She wanted to introduce her husband to the exotica called Flavours of the East. Now to introduce someone to the flavours of the East, what do I start off with?

Well, I just got partial. I pulled out the packet containing my personal favorite, from the freezer: Pabda Maach, or butter catfish. And decided to make a jhaal (curry), just as my Momma makes it.  Did I mention that this was also the first Bong fish dish, which I learnt to cook !


Pabda Maachh: 5-6 whole fishes
Mustard Oil
Kalo Jeera (Kaluanji)
Green chillies: 4-5, slit lengthwise
Turmeric powder
Potatoes: 2, cut lengthwise
Red Chilli powder
Coriander leaves


Rub the whole cleaned fish with salt and turmeric powder,and fry them in mustard oil. Ensure that the temperature of the oil is high, while frying. If the oil is not hot enough, then the skin of the fish starts peeling. Set the fried fishes aside. 

Fry the potatoes in the same oil, till the sides start getting golden. Remove and set aside. 

Put kalo jeera and the slit green chillies in the oil, and let them splutter. 

Make a runny mixture of turmeric powder, sugar, salt,and red chilli powder(according to heat preferences) with water. Pour this mixture in the oil in the pan with the kalojeera and chillies. Cover and cook for around 5  minutes. 

Add the fried potatoes,and cook till they are done. 

Add the fried fishes and cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so. 

Turn off the heat and garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with hot basmati rice. 
This particular dish is such a favorite of mine, that I had absolutely ensured that this was featured in the menus of the parties of both my legal and social marriage. Yes, I married the same man twice, so basically double the fun, and two huge Bong culinary fests. Coming back to Pabda, there are quite a few ways of cooking it, but I decided to to stick to the most traditional and time tested formula. Its the simplicity of the dish which bowls everyone over. 


  1. Great dish. But I have never had the opportunity to have it along with potato wedges. Is that part of the original recipe or your own innovation?