Sunday, 8 March 2015

Bengali Pabda Macher Jhol (Bengali Pabda Fish Curry)

It occurred to me recently that almost three whole months into my food blogging career, I still don't have a single fish curry on here. Due to the geographical location of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal, freshwater fish is very commonly consumed, sometimes more than meat or chicken. This is something that has been exported with the Bangladeshi diaspora in the UK and beyond.

Although we cook and eat a lot of fish curries in my family, I haven't posted any recipes here under the assumption that not many people would really be interested in them. But then after some thought, I realised that actually fish dishes are what sets Bengali cooking apart from Indian and Pakistani cuisine. It is far more representative of traditional Bengali cooking and really does deserve a lot more exposure. And thus this post was born!

Depending on where you are, buying Bengali fish may not be as difficult as you might think. Asian or Bengali food stores are to be found in most cities in the UK, and in actual fact, the Pabda used in this dish can be purchased from several of the big supermarket brands in larger cities like London. However, if it is not available to you, from what I have heard from chefs, something like John Dory or maybe even whole tilapia could be used.

As we buy our pabda frozen, we have to do all the preparing ourselves. There are no scales to remove, however, we do remove the tail and the head at about a 45 degree angle to remove some of the innards of the fish. Then depending on the size of the pabda, I cut it into small pieces, usually two. The fish is then washed out with water and left to soak in salted water while the other ingredients are being cooked.

As curries go, this is perhaps one of the easiest to make as there are no other vegetables cooked with the fish and unlike meat or chicken curries, there are a lot less spices used in fish curries. The fish becomes soft and flaky as it cooks in the gravy and is spicy and flavourful. The fish is on the bone. however as the actual flesh is so tender, it peels away from the bone with little effort. I also love fish curries due to the fact that it just feels a lot lighter to consume that heavy meat or chicken curries.

Bengali Pabda Fish Curry

Serves: 4-8  

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 30-45 minutes 

by Abida at The Red Lychee


1 small onion, mashed/grated (Either using food processor or cheese grater)
3 cloves garlic
4-5 tablespoons oil
1 block frozen pabda topped and tailed and cut into small pieces (about 5 pabda fishes)
1/4 tsp salt plus extra to season
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp curry powder
1-2 cups water
Green chillis sliced lengthways (optional)
Corriander to garnish 


1) Add oil to pan and wait for it to heat up.

2) Add the minced garlic. Wait for garlic to turn golden, then add your onions. Add salt. 

3) Wait for onions to soften then add chilli powder, turmeric and curry powder. Allow spices to cook off on a medium heat. Stir and add a few tablespoons of water if it catches the pan.

4) Then add pabda. Stir to coat in sauce. Cover and leave to cook on a medium to high heat for about 10 minutes so that all the water comes out of the fish.

5) Once all the water has come out of the fish, add about a cup to a cup and a half of water to the pan so that the fish is covered. Cover with lid and leave to simmer for another 10-15 minutes. 

6) Uncover and season with salt to taste. Add in green chillis. Garnish with corriander. Cover with lid and remove from heat. Serve with plain rice. 


  1. Dekhe lobh lege gelo. Delicious!

  2. Thank you, Lail!
    P.S. I will also shyly confess that I can only really speak Sylheti dialect and so I had to get my mum to help me read your comment lol. However, we were both on your blogs and I was able to read some of your recipes in Bengali so perhaps there is hope for me yet!