Monday, November 23, 2009

Bengali Fish Fry --- anglo bangla fry

The Bengali fish fry is not really the everyday bengali fish fry. The everyday bengali fish fry is actually the maach bhaja, steak pieces of fish, smeared with salt and turmeric and fried golden in smoking mustard oil. The maach bhaja can be eaten on its own as a side with the dal. It is also a precursor to the bengali fish curry, the every day maacher jhol, bengalis rarely make a fish curry where the fish has not been fried and it is these fried steak pieces that are slid into the gravy and left to simmer to complement each other.

However when a Bong says "Fish Fry" with a glazed look in his eyes and a dreamy smile, don't get fooled, he isn't thinking of Katrina Kaif, she isn't dreaming Hugh Grant, both are thinking of a Bong version of their British legacy, breaded and fried fish, famously known as what else but "Fish Fry".

The "Fish Fry" was not a household name when I was a child. First we weren't in the heart of Bengal ever and secondly my childhood now seems to go back to the days when life was very different from today's. I had my first taste of fish fry when we were attending some family wedding in Kolkata, I don't remember when. The taste was heavenly as everything else tasted in wedding feasts of the yore but the fish fry stood out because of its anglo heritage among the radhaballavi, cholar dal, begun bhaja and such.

We then had it at some specific Calcutta restaurants, probably "Bijoli Grill". Though honestly I preferred the Kobiraji Cutlet around College Street, and associated "Fish Fry" more with wedding feasts.

Gradually everyone realized that making "Fish Fry" with bhetki(the preferred fish for making fish fry in Bengal) wasn't really such a big deal after all and almost every other house started making a fish fry. Every wedding feast had a Fish Fry and later Fish Orly on their menu.

We rarely make fried goodies at home and by the time I make an attempt I forget the recipe I followed maybe a year back. The recipe that I have used this time here is that of my friend's, the domestic diva of 70 chops, everyone else's recipe is almost exactly same so go on be creative.

The crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, fish fry tastes great as a snack with hot tea on the side and company to keep you warm. It also acts as a wonderful appetizer or even a side to the main menu when you are entertaining.


Bengali Fish Fry

I had 3 fillets of Tilapia cut in 12 pieces, each fillet in 4 that is. Each piece was about a 3"x 2" piece or smaller. You can use fillet of fish like Bhetki if in India or Cod, Tilapia when Bhetki is not available.

Make a paste of
1/2 of a small red onion,
2 fat cloves of garlic,
1/2" piece of peeled and chopped ginger(or 1 tbsp of peeled & chopped ginger),
2 green chili
with little water
. This is the paste that will be used to marinate the fish.

Put the fish pieces in one single layer in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle salt to taste on them.

Marinade the fish pieces with the
paste in step 2
1 tbsp of vinegar or lime juice,
1 tsp of corriander powder,
1 tsp of Roasted Cumin Powder &
1/4 tsp of Garam Masala
. All of the fish pieces should be nicely coated with the marinade

Cover & refrigerate overnight. If in a hurry, half an hour to an hour is fine.

Before you start frying, take each of the fish pieces out from the marinade and drain the excess liquid.

Set up a "breading station". First have a
flat plate of bread crumbs seasoned with salt and black pepper(you can also use all purpose flour seasoned with salt & pepper)

next a shallow bowl of 2 eggs whisked to a smooth consistency,

another flat plate of bread crumbs seasoned with salt & black pepper.

In a small Kadhai or Frying pan(suitable for deep frying) heat enough oil for deep frying.

Take the fish piece, roll it in bread crumb(or flour) --> dip it in the egg wash --> roll in bread crumb again gently rolling off any excess --> and then gently slide in the hot oil.

When the fish has nicely browned on both sides take out with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Enjoy it hot off the Fryer with some mustard sauce or my all time favorite Maggi Hot & Sweet. A side of chopped onions & cucumber works wonder

If you are a vegetarian don't be disappointed you can make Paneer fingers just like this from here at Cooking and Recipes.

BTW was Chef Mehta on The Next Iron Chef using a bottle of Maggi Ketchup yesterday ? Was it me or did anyone else notice that ?


  1. oh im so glad to see one person following Jehangir Mehta on Next Iron Chef! Im so sad that he didnt win :( I had hoped he would..

  2. What one person, there were two from my home but am sure there were more out there :)

    I was sad too but he really did bad yesterday, maybe he is not used to so much meat. Why did they have all that meat as ingred in the first place ?

  3. Fish fry is a big favourite of mine. I always recommend it when people want to know what to order at the local Mumbai Bong restaurant, Oh Calcutta.

    Yours looked even better Sandeepa. I could smell the fish fries of biye baaris when I saw your pictures.

    Too think I actually had some bhetki fillets and just grilled them. Grrrrr

  4. ooh, these look so good. fish fry in our house is much simpler though - chili powder, optional ginger garlic paste, salt,turmeric powder, maybe a bit of corn starch which is fairly recent, that is it.

  5. This is my fave way of having have me craving now :)

  6. Lovely read, Sandeepa! Yup, no Hugh Grant or Katrina Kaif, food lights up eyes at an entirely higher level :). A lot of my Bengali friends fondly mention Bijoli Grill in their conversations!

  7. I really wish to attend a Bong wedding to see the fish in the menu!
    We make either simpler version by pan frying (chili-turm and salt) or Bajji ( bengal gram batter and deep fried). U re tempting now Sandeepa with this one :(

  8. Hey Sandeepa,

    Nice blog! :) Thanks for all your efforts to write so much about Bengal, its people and Bengali food! In childhood my close family friends were Bengali, and I loved some of the great times we spent together. Reminds me a lot of those days! :)

    Fyi, all the fish on ur blog inspired me to make my Mom's (gotten from our friends) Bengali Fish curry! :) I guess I will try one of your recipes sometime soon too! :)

    Cheers and happy thanksgiving!

  9. A regular reader but first time commenter. Your post makes me want to sink my teeth into maach bhaja pronto. And I am a vegan :D
    You are that good.

    And yes yes yes!! I spotted that bottle and I could'nt believe it. Chef Garces did do a better job but I dont like him- too smug, me thinks.


  10. that's so yummy looking! very different from the kerala version but delicious-looking nevertheless :)

  11. aaah! fish fry.. with dreamy eyes ;-) i am craving some. amar ar eshob ekla r jonne kore otha hoyna Sandeepa, kintu bhison khete ichey korchay. ma used to make the fish butter fry.. with almost no spice and with bhetki maach...oi peyaj ta diye ar ektu kashundi.. divine.

  12. Sandeepa,Your piece is making me salivate.Am just back from Kolkata after attending one such do.As always ,you write so well!

  13. ummm yummy even i published fish curry in my blog,..but ur pic is making me drooling,..looks so yum,..;-)

  14. Oh I havent yet seen the episode.. I read the results on wiki since I was travelling at that time :(

  15. I echo Soma ... ektu kasundi and fish fry ... aha! :-)
    I gorged on enough fish fry during this Puja to last a year ( I hope). :-)

  16. Looks delicious! The only thing you do differently is the extra coating of breadcrumbs before egg. I usually do egg and 1 layer bread crumbs. Hmm, I'll try this next time - from the photo looks like you have a pretty crunchy crispy bread layer..
    BTW, lately I have been only doing fish fry as my fish dish at home. Seems to get done faster than frying and then making jhol - and the daughter loves it!

  17. For us, bhaja maach is just the deep fried steaks or tiny fishes with turmeric and salt (like you do too).We love them, but this version sounds so much better for indulging once in a while. )

  18. simple....drooling...Amma makes a fish fry but all of hers were pan fried. I can use this technique and pan fry them...But being a conservative one she might not allow me to add eggs...but bread crumbs sure gives a great crispiness.

  19. Dear Sandeepa
    I am off to CR Park Market (In Del, mini bong-place)to buy Bhetki fillet or any other fillet.
    Now I know what I missed in fish fry all these days, that dash of garam masla and roasted Jeera in Marinade. Thank you so much!!!
    The 1st coat, normally I use All purpose flour and some times a mix of corn flour( with black pepper salt), just a bit of dusting to seal the juice and fish surface. But will use bread crumb and see.

    Darun sikhe nilam ei masla byapar-ta

  20. Dear sandeepa'
    Asol katha-tai bol-te bhul-e gelam..I feel so great that you gave my reference in your blog..This is my biggest award so far..Your Boudi sends a special thanks to you for the Both Mator dal recipe ( she is Mator-dal-er poka.) Kolkata theke dal anate holo abar...
    Ullash !!!
    Bhalo theko

  21. I will certanly give up Karna and Hugh for this delicous piece of fried fish.

  22. Sandeepa my hubby is all dreamy eyes and actually drooling seeing this fish fry...awesome.

  23. Hey, send me some of that fried fish :)

  24. Sandeepa,
    I would have to say this that I never dreamt of seeing somebody prepare fish fry with tilapia. This is absolutely marvellous.

  25. Nice post - liked "domestic diva of 70 chops" and "breading station".

  26. mach bhaja looks totally amazing... so many memories of it.. barir mach bhaja and the biye bari mach bhaja... you've captured it Sandeepa.

  27. Thanks Everyone Trying to put up a post before tomorrow and so unable to do individual replies :)

  28. S and Nitya and Doli

    Welcome first timers :) Hope to hear more from you guys

  29. I simply adore ur writing skills and culinary fry looks too good:)

  30. What is it about Bongs and Anglo food! ;) Oh Calcutta has a lot of Anglo food on its menu and now there is a new place opened called "Brown Sahib" and that has the usual suspects too - Railway Mutton Curry , Country Captain...

  31. Fabulous recipe! Hubby said it was better than what a bengali shop serves...Thanks a lot.

  32. Fabulous recipe! Hubby said it was better than what a bengali shop serves...Thanks a lot.

  33. Hi There,

    I was looking for some great Bengali fish curry recipe.And endup reading your Blog.Its quite different from other blogs.You have provided not only the recipes but the tradition and glimpse of Kolkata in your writing.Thats really interesting ,Being a punjabi i don't cook fish that often and neither i know recipes to cook fish.But know after reading your blog,i am gonna to try fish fry and fish curry recipe.Wish me luck...

  34. I am a vegetarian south indian married to a bengali guy...made the fish fry for my hubby...he totally loved it...:)..said it was amazing...thanks a lot for the recipie..:)


    bengali food recipe online video ..

  36. Hi I loved the fish fry. Very nice. A request - can you give us some recipes with 'jhinge' apart from the usual jhinge-aloo posto?


  37. great recipe..tried it the same day n it turned our beautifully..even my younger one who does not take to fish usually, finished his portion..keep cooking and sharing!!

  38. Hi..tried the fish fry..really loved it..mine didn't turn out as perfect as yours :)...i've put a picture in my blog....

  39. I really love it.
    Best having it in evening time with tea or coffee

  40. Hi,

    I made the fishfry following your recipe. It was very tasty . Thank you so much for sharing this. I really miss this fish fry. But I could not make the cover very well. Is there any detail you can point out that would help to make it better?


  41. Suratna

    Did you do the double coating ? Bread Crumb-->egg wash --> bread crumb ? Another thing you can do is, after the first coating, refrigerate for an hour. Then coat again and fry

  42. Oh! this really looks good, we used to do Mach Vaja, but this fish fry is something different. I should try it at home.

    Thanks for sharing.

  43. I love it....and miss it too..

  44. Awesome recipe..i followed the steps and it was just awesome

  45. I am planning to cook this today. I will make following changes to the recipe
    a. Use Barramundi - I did not know this before today, but according to wikipedia - it is our very own bhetki
    b. I am planning to ditch the cumin / corriander / garam masala (I will marinate with vinegar, onion, ginger, garlic, green chili)
    c. I don't have breadcrumb but I think I will get it in shoprite - I will use a lighter coating if I get breadcrumb - otherwise I will use a batter of eggs, white flour


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