Monday, February 23, 2009

Muri Ghonto -- a heady Fish Head Dish

Muri Ghonto, Bengali Fish head Curry
Muri Ghonto -- Bengali Fish head Curry

Bengali kids are initiated into eating fish head from a very tender age and so very soon they learn to do it with a panache that very few non-Bongs can contend.

By tender age I mean at the age of 6-7 months when they have not tasted anything beyond mother's milk or formula. At their Annaprashan or Rice Ceremony, an occasion to mark the intake of first morsel of rice by a Bengali baby, they are offered to suck on a finger dipped in Paayesh and then presented with a silver plate with rice, dal, bhaja, maacher muro(fried fish head), fish curry, chaatni, mishti. Of course the baby is not even allowed to eat such stuff but a moment with the fish head is captured on either a film roll or a piece of memory(not human but digital). For fish loving Bongs anything fishy is "not fishy" but auspicious and might even bring good luck.

When we were kids we were pushed into this barbaric activity (of eating fish head) with an incentive that devouring fish head especially the brain part of it would enrich our brains and also make our vision stronger."Khub buddhi hobe (You will have a high intelligence)", my Ma or Aunt or some other such person would shout over the din and we would deftly manouevre a tricky head and suck with might. What we would do with so much "buddhi" was a question that was never asked.

By the time we were teenagers and had lost sight to myopia and also lost faith in "more buddhi" when we saw veggie eating South Indians topping the IIT-JEE every year, we were so used to eating a fish head that we relished it even without the added incentive.

The deed was done, we were now fish head loving converts for life.

Muri Ghonto is a dry dish made with fried fish head (known as maacher matha or muro in Bengali), potatoes, very little rice and myriad spices. Don't turn up your nose, it smells nothing but heavenly and tastes more so. If you haven't sucked onto a piece of fish head and pondered on the complexities of life while doing so, you have not lived a full life.

To eat and relish Muri Ghonto you need a long leisurely afternoon, enough time to deal with fish head pieces without being rushed, family banter in the background to convince you that everything is right in the world, company that will let you sit cross-legged on your dining chair and rest your elbows on the table, people who will not make fun of your facial expressions and of course a nice nap afterward.

Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates. 


Now I was always used to a Muri Ghonto with rice and potatoes till the other day I had a discussion with the nanny. She is a Bengali but from Bangladesh and I had no idea that there was so much difference in cuisine across the borders. She said she had never even heard of Muri Ghonto with rice and instead they make it with Dal or Lentils. What she makes is more like our Maacher matha diye Dal(Lentil with fish head) and nowhere near my dear own Muri Ghonto.

So I made Muri Ghonto our way last week after a long long time. I don't make this very often so I eyeballed the ingredients and the measurements are approximate. It tasted great and while I had mine with Rice, D had his just by itself. The kids in my home, they are the generation of Bengali kids who are not pushed into eating a Maacher Matha and so avoid it, maybe the time will come for them to get "more buddhi" soon.

Muri Ghonto -- a dry dish with Fish Head

Makes just enough for two bong fish lovers

Prep: Wash and clean fish head, sprinkle salt and turmeric and let it sit for 15-30 minutes. I used half of a regular sized fish head for fish like Rohu or Rui. I have not used fish head of salt water fish or any other fish than Rohu for this dish ever and do not know how it might taste.

Start Cooking:

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan

Fry the Fish head till its nicely fried, it should turn a nice shade of yellowish brown. While frying try breaking it into medium sized pieces, kind that is easier to suck on but will not choke you. Remove and keep aside.

Fry 2 cut and cubed potatoes to a light golden, remove and keep aside

Temper the Oil with a large Bay Leaf, 2 green cardamom and a 1/2" cinnamon stick

Add the paste of one medium sized onion and fry till the oil separates and the onion has taken on a light brownish hue

Add 1-2 tsp of fresh grated ginger, 2-3 slit green chillies, 1 tsp of Cumin powder and saute the masala with a sprinkle of water for couple of minutes. Now add back the potatoes

Saute for a minute

Add 1/3 cup of uncooked and washed Basmati Rice. If you have Gobindo bhog( a variety of rice popular in Bengal), it's better.

Fry for a couple of minutes and add the fried fish head pieces.

Add 1 tsp of fresh Garam Masala Powder, 1/2 tsp or less of Red Chilli Powder, salt and mix well.

Add about 1 cup of water and cover and cook at low heat. At this point you can add few golden raisins (15-20) to add a touch of sweetness.

Check to see if you need water in between(you might need to add 1/2 cup more water), and stir in between.

Cook till the rice and potatoes are done. It should be moist but will not have a gravy.

Top it with a little ghee, lends a wonderful flavor

*Buddhi -- intelligence, brains

Trivia: The reason fish is so good for the brain is the so-called omega-3 fatty acids it contains. Oily fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, bluefish and black cod, are the best sources of those special fats. One of the omega-3s—DHA—is the main constituent of cell membranes in the brain, and a deficiency of it can weaken the brain's architecture and leave it vulnerable to disease.


  1. Barbaric activity!!!! :) hey, I love fish BUT cant eat the maacher muro or the 'chal/tel or deem(eggs)'!! BUt this is one thing I might try when my in-laws are here this summer. Seems easy enough :)
    Btw, the tiger story was adorable :) HUgs to the lil one.

  2. I do honestly believe Seafood or Fish gives your better Buddhi (We call the same too in Kannada!) Sandeepa!
    Unfortunately, our families as pure vegetarians, never let us taste or smell any kind of meat at all, so we grow up knowing nothing other than veggies.
    I am cooking more Seafood these days and loving it. Cat fish smell is something I still have to get used to! :D
    Dish looks good, enjoy! :)

  3. Born and raised near sea side, I thought, My mom made us eat only fish stating "Good to memory". I love the barbaric activity, I am the only one who suck for fish head in my home! There is nothing compared to the soft head bone , brain... But I love the pomfret head, mackerel,... Gal u make me home sick :( I almost forgot the taste because of my sweet "almost" veg husb! So did u learn so early to eat fish head? Amazing!

  4. I am not a Bengali, I might fall into Veg. eating South Indian but IIT-JEE was way beyond my league, probably because I was not just veg. eating, we enjoyed our fish heads as well but in a fish curry not a fish rice dish. That looks very tasty Sandeepa, please a box of Muri Ghonto when you travel to my neck of the woods ;)

  5. Piper are like the hubby almost..he doesn't like "chaal" either but loves muri ghonto, strangely doesn't like the fish head in any other dish !!!

    Light candle or incense stick while cooking fish or open windows :)

    Cham and Indo

    I had no idea that there were fish-head loving people other than bongs !!! The Southie friends I had were strict vegetarian and there were few who wouldn't even share the cafeteria table with me if I ordered egg curry.

    I love fish head in my curry too but with the frozen fish, I am bit weary and don't cook the fish heads much.

    I love pomfret head but I generally don't like mackerel, my office cafe in India used to make a fry which didn't taste good and
    so the memory remains


    Come over and we can gossip over fish head and bones :)
    I really want to know if those toppers ate fish ;-) and btw it was totally beyond my league too

  6. And Indo you wouldn't be a Veggie South Indian then :D
    Do you add fish head to your usual fish gravy ? Also do you guys eat fish roe ?

  7. heady indeed! never had this before but it does look good and i would probably eat this if you did not tell me it was fish heads lol!

  8. Never knew about this sounds like a seafood jambalaya with a bong touch :)

    Keralites too have a dish with fish head we call it meen(fish) thala(head) curry...

    Btw, that rice ceremony is very does get into the league of auspicious items right?!

  9. Scott from here – I’m one of the authors of “Call Me Dad!” a practical guide for expectant / new fathers. We believe our book is a unique take on parenting from a male perspective – it’s practical, to-the-point and funny. It’s just a great read and makes for a perfect gift for all dads-to-be.
    The book is sold by offline and online resellers but we are also selling it directly on our website and we offer a commission of $2.50 per sale for other sites who link to our site. We thought your site has a good fit with our target audience and so I was wondering whether you’d be interested in joining our affiliate programme (
    Best wishes, Scott

  10. Fish is one of the healthiest things to eat couse it contains omega 3 wich help with everything from adhd to arthritis to skin its an essential fatty acid that ur body needs but never created the ability to make it couse 99 percent of our ancestors lived on the sea but now that we have migrated further a way from the ocean and seafood we are missing omega 3 i get omega 3 at try it out i think its the best product going! let me know what u think!?

  11. I hear that the Chinese have similar customs with their babies, except with pork and pig's head/brain.

    Curry fish head is a very popular local fare in Singapore and though I can't bring myself to eat the fish head, the gravy is really tasty and has tons of vegetables in a tangy base.

  12. Cham & Nags

    The tradition is just to cook fish head for the baby, not feed them :)

  13. LOL Sandeepa ... and LOL still. What a description of the whole activity of eating a muro! Ami ar haashte parchi na.

    Ami durokomer e muri ghonto kori .. kintu chal diye beshi bahlobashi.
    Blog e post korar shahosh pai na ... eto pure veggie charidike je nijeke minority mone hoye. ;-)

  14. We adore our muri ghanta(as we call it) too....but our way is more like your nanny's version with moong dal. Your version sounds interesting. BTW, when we were in Kolkata, I did find quite a difference in the cooking among East and west Bengalis.

    And yes, all those dishes prepared during the's more a feast for the adults, isn't it? nonetheless :-)

    Hope the li'l ladies are doing well :-)

  15. Loved reading about the fish head initiation for better buddhi! :)

  16. Do you eat the eyeballs? I love to roll them around in my fingers and tease the squeamish Spouse with them. He does not eat fish unless it's a variety with just one central bone, btw!

  17. Yeah, I've heard of fish head eating bongs:) I might eat it if I didn't know it was the head!

  18. Tumi eto bhalo lekho....aami to hese goriye jacchilam :). My mom would flavor cabbage with rui fish head, and it would be quite delicious. That was the only way, I would eat the fish-head then, but I think it is a great way to use up all parts of the fish. But I suspect salt-water fish in this recipe would be extremely fishy.

    BTW, aamar PHD hoye geche (phew!), aar ekhon aami slightly different field-e kaj korchi, but boy o boy, it's a relief to be done after so many years of toil aar kiptemi.

    Tumi konodin west coast-e aasle bolo. Darun paat pere golpo korbo.

  19. BTW aami salt-water fish-er kotha bolchilam, karon aami rohu easily paina, so I was wondering aloud.

    Tomar recipe-ta besh bhalo lagche; rui pele banabo.

  20. BTW aami salt-water fish-er kotha bolchilam, karon aami rohu easily paina, so I was wondering aloud.

    Tomar recipe-ta besh bhalo lagche; rui pele banabo.

  21. Meeta
    You would know for sure :)

    Jambalaya is a nice name for ghonto, but not really seafood, the fish we eat is more of fresh-water


    Ami nijer jonyo recipe gulo blog kori,khub bhule jai, nijer blog nijei refer kori :) Bhobishyote jodi meye gulo kore to bhalo

    Tai tumi ja bhalo lage tai blog koro, onyoder katha bhabte hobe na


    Yeah there is a difference as I have said even before but even East bengalis in India make Muri Ghonto this way, my in-laws being among them !!! So it was a surprise for me.

    We too make Moong dal with Fish head, only don't call it Muri Ghonto :)



    Yeah eyeballs too but even that would make me squeamish:) Didn't know you ate fish.

    Come on, how can you not know, maybe eat the rice & potato


    BandhaKopi-Maacher matha amar o bhalo lage, kintu amar hubby khai na. Salt water fish diye bhalo lagbe na mone hoy, mishti hobe na.

    Ar Congrats on your PhD, kobe sesh holo, ebar tahole blog koro :D

    Bay Area te to indian fish paoa jai, naki na ?

  22. 'getting buddhi'..boy can i relate to that mom pushed me so hard to eat bhindi..coz supposedly that gives you a lot of now i can blame the lack of eating bhindi as the reason for all the idiotic deeds i seem to commit often!! you are so funny sandeepa..glad that you are blogging often...btw. i don't think i told you this..but i have moved to NYC...and loving every minute of it!

  23. Aami jantam tumi aamke blog korte bolbe, tai lukiye chilam. But ekhon eto bhalo bhalo blogger aache. But I'll try.

  24. Sandeepa - now that you back to blogging , I am back to wishing I lived next door to you! I don't think I have ever eaten muri ghonto in US. Just years of boneless,skinless fish fillets from Costco. Looks delicious!! BTW, I sent you an email at the desimomzclub address.

  25. Sandeepa,
    Thats Hilarious!! and aamra Fish head lao kimba bandhakopi diye banai , Muri Ghonto dekhe khob khete iche korche.......
    arey hain ami O bhabh chilaam je fish, Bengali aar myopic hoba koto common na...
    bachara kemon ache ?
    hugs and smiles

  26. Just when i was planning to make MuriGhonto n logged to ur i saw Murighonto awaiting for me.Mere coincidence...or maybe just our bong taste bonding.:)

  27. This looks much better than a cerelac soup! hehe! :)

  28. Thank you Sandeepa for the microwave Kalakand recipe, it was always my favourite mitthai in India and it works a treat x from a huge fan and fellow Bong in the UK

  29. this is first time to ur site. you have a beautiful blog.

  30. I really enjoyed this post, Sandeepa! I wanted my kids to be adventurous eaters, and I used to take my son for sushi when he was in high school. One day the sushi chef presented me with a bowl of crispy fried shrimp heads -- a real honor. Of course I could not insult him so I tried to eat them - a tiny bite from the very bottom was about all I could manage as the eyes and antennae were more than I could handle. I imagine there is alot of goodness in fish heads! I've never tried, but I have seen 'salmon cheeks' for sale on occasion :)

  31. For Piper and all the others who dislike fish - just replace fish with phulkopi (cauliflower), potato and peas.

    I love murighonto so much I add enough rice so that it can be eaten as a standalone dish. :)

  32. Oh my, when the first fish head was served to me the same rantings I heard from my mom. But still myself and amma were fish head lovers and most of the time we get moe than enough to satiate our cravings. I especially love sardine heads to chew up. But my most favorite is that of cat fish and shark. I love to suck it especially cooked in a tamarind based gravy. Oh dear u'e made me crave for that now :) And Big S's first story was absolutely adorable! You have given me enough inspiration to start that with my elder one now! After a break I am reading all of the posst together so bear with my colsolidated comment :) Oh and how I missed the bong mom's dance ? It was simply superb!

  33. Rajitha

    Yeah didn't know about the Bhindi. One of S's friend's Mom(who is from B'lore) had told me the same. Ah, so you are enjoying NYC, are you back to school ?

    Eta ekta reason holo ?

    If you had lived next door, probably you would have got a share of my take out :) I don't make this things that often, but you know I love to eat and since we can't eat such dishes at a restaurant, I tend to nake them at home

    Amrao dei lau etc te kintu ekhon khub ekta kori na, barite ar keu khai na

    Can bongs differ over food ?


    I loved your site. Wished you could deliver here in the US

    Thank You

    Shrimp with the antennae can be too much, but we dip shrimp head in a batter and fry

    Chaal Kopi -- yeah I have blogged about it too but muri ghonto is in a diff genre

    I have never had sardine or even shark !!! We don't make that much salt water fish

  34. That was a hilarious read, memory stirring but so true.. now whenever my kids show any sign of Buddhi, I brag to my non fish eating hubby that it is becoz of all the fish i ate & transferred the goodness to them while they were still in:-)

    I really wish i didn't move to tx or found u earlier:-) Muri ghonto ONEK bochor khaini.. ar oi barbaric act er bhoye bariteo korina.. jani o na korte. now atleast i have ur recipe.

  35. Hey sandeepa,
    I'm smitha and a newborn blogger.Do I get to undergo this rice eating ceremony with fish? ;)
    I love fish and being a keralite, I find that bongs and mallus have alot of things in common. Form food preps to the love for art etc etc.
    Love your space.

  36. Enjoyed reading the post!!! We do have the same traditions except for "fish head";). veggie guys can't say anything about seafood or meat:)

  37. Hey Sandeepa: We too make this quite often. If a fish has more heads, noone would have been happier :)

  38. Bhishon favourite amaar . Aami ektu chirey bhejey sprinkle korey deyisab kichur oporey . Eta porey I want to make it - maybe Saturday :)will be thinking of you :)

  39. woww..something new to me...since am fish lover...i will give a try ..yeah fish is gud for memory ..even in malaysia we used to eat lot of seafoods..only after marriage i cook less seafood...only fish in the list since my hubby dunt like the way its really great ...u have learnt to eat fish at early age....if u got somemore fish post it.....bye

  40. My mother's family is from Pabna but she grew up in Krishnagar. She makes muri ghonto exactly the same way, except for the onions. So I guess it depends where in Bangladesh one is from ...

  41. name is candy from bangalore but living in dubai...i just tried ur recipe n it came out hubby is a bong....thanks for sharing bengali is a gr8 help for me too

  42. Dear Sandeepa
    Aj eta try korbo. Kal ekta Rui machh kin-e hatat tomar ei recipe tar katha mon-e PoD-e Gyalo :-)
    Nani thik bol-e chhen,
    Bangal (amio), der Muri Ghanto Dal diye hoe..Tab-e jara Dhaka side-er lok, they had a good influence of great dishes developed by the great connoisseur of Calcutta Bengal babus (Popularly known as ghotis those days.
    So rice Muri ghanto and many other dishes had reached the other side too
    Bhalo theko

  43. For a few hours I have been reading and looking for Muri Ghonto a heady Fish Head Dish and is amazing and disturbing how many blogs related to generic viagra are in the web. But anyways, thanks for sharing your inputs, they are really helpful.
    Have a nice day

  44. The buddhi bit is certainly true ..since fish is very rich in omega 3 fatty acids and which is good for the brains

  45. Hey!! Thanks for this recipe and all the others!!!I am cooking for a month now and my hubby is really happy!! Thanks n hugs!


  46. Dear Sandeepa
    Kemon achho?
    Anek din par tomar ei recipe banachhi. Temperature gone to 42 deg will try both your Matar dal recipe. Kolkata gie chhilam Mator-er dal niye esechhi.
    Bhalo theko

  47. Hi
    You made my day today. Moved to down under a year back after being spooky by cook and family, I am struggling to make our fav foods. Made the mudi Ghonto today. Yummy!
    Thanks, great post and funny too! Southie brains etc:) lol

  48. Hey u bought a bit of humor .... and ya. Loved the bongs surely keep my bengali frnds in place ...... just one lil problem. ,,,,moorighonto is a curry also ryt????

  49. Hey loved the humor bit.... nd the bong phrase was new to will surely keepp my bong grnds in place...just one question ...moorighonto is also made as a curry ryt...if f yes ...plz mkr ur nxt post dat one

  50. Hi Sudeepa, I am bong and staying in kolkata, but still read ur blog for the recipe of (hilarious) muri ghonto :). Keep up the good job and thanks for the recipe.

  51. could not find the recipe !!

  52. Nice post, Sandeepa. Now you should regale your fans with the TRULY barbaric Bangla delicacy: fish innards, liver, float bladder, lots of frames and bones, cooked with mixed vegetables in a dryish mess, horrible to look at delicious to eat. BTW, the badge of barbarism belongs to those from North Calcutta, who manage to relish piping hot fried paka pona, slightly mature rohu >3 kg in weight, but not too large a size. THis is eaten mixed with sweet lal doi, yoghurt flavored with caramel, the milk being thickened to create a thick layer of cream on the yoghurt. Cool dahi, hot fish; do you wonder why Kolkata Bangalis are such aberrants and perverts? lol!

    'kaatlaa, Cyprinus catla (?) can get very large, 10-12 kg not being unusual in the early 60s, even from our own pond!! It is a coarser fish, the large fatty belly being used for Doi maach, where the freshest fish can be used raw, w/o the compulsory pre-frying of W. Bengal, or just lightly fried. Have a couple of old-time N. Calcutta recipes for those who are interested. They are SWEET with sugar, be warned!

    All those innards and bones should come from the carps, or from hilsa. Pui shaak is a favorite foil, along with kabocha/calabaza pumpkin, skin on, excellent eggplant cubed, and just a couple more veggies. Dark, mysterious and funky, great with truly fresh fish innards!

  53. Hi there, just wanted to mention, I liked this blog post.
    It was funny. Keep on posting!


Thanks for your Comments. I hope you will be nice and not Spam.