Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Tomato diye Macher Patla Jhol

Come Winter, I start recollecting the exact way this light fish curry with tomatoes would taste. It is not that I make it only in Winter. No, it is an easy dish and I make it throughout the year whenever I have less time on hand which apparently translates to often.

But never do I think deeply about it as I do, when the mercury drops and I seek out a patch of sunlight sliding through the high windows of my family room.

Years ago winter meant sunshine on your back, a sunshine that warmed you unlike the folly outside my window. It also meant lots of fresh plump red tomatoes, their skin smooth and taut as a baby's bottom and green coriander leaves, dhone pata, with a smell that reminded you of green fields stretched out luxuriously in the winter sun.

Ok, I am not really sure if they reminded anyone of anything but food but that statement sounds pretty nice so that is how it will be written.

It also meant mid-terms or half-yearly as we called them.Coming home early, dusty and tired after half a day of writing about meaning less things on a sheaf of paper, right in time when Ma would be serving lunch. On such days, this light fish curry with the fresh tomatoes was what I most looked forward to. Made with Rui(Rohu) or some fresh Chara Pona, this halka jhol solely relied on the tomatoes and the fish to impart the right taste. With some fluffy white rice, this would be the only bright spot on a day that would be later spent ruthlessly memorizing the details of Panipat War.

Better days of December would soon follow and there would be rich fruit cakes, pastries from Flury's, juicy Darjeeling oranges made into kamola kheer, but this macher jhol would still hold its place and would whisper "home" while we made a pledge to survive on only rum balls the entire life.

Perfect to be described as "kalojiire ar alpo aadar ros, kNachalonkar kuchi diye ekta machher halka refreshing jhol ranna korlam, sathe seddho chaaler jhorjhore bhaat" -- Kuntala

In the US, if you have access to an Asian Market, I would insist you get fresh fish like Striped Bass or Buffalo Carp cut in steak sized pieces from there. They taste awesome in this gravy. Even Pomfret or Butterfish from there will work well. Rohu from your Bangladeshi Fish seller works very well too. If everything fails try with fillet of Tilapia or Rainbow Trout.

Never, ever make this dish with Mahi Mahi like I did this Sunday. It took away all the taste of the dish. Also no Salmon. Sweet water fish works best for this kind of light gravy.

I blogged about exactly this dish in October when I just started blogging way back. Things don't change that much foodwise.


Tomato diye Macher Patla Jhol

Serves 3 adults. About 6-8 pieces of 2" x 3" fish pieces.

Wash the fish pieces in warm water, pat dry & and smear them with half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt. Keep aside for 15-20 minutes

Heat Mustard Oil in a Kadai/Wok till you see smoke just coming out, indicating it's hot enough.
Fry the fish in hot oil till it turns light golden on both sides, kind of deep fry. The only draw back of this is most of the oil goes to waste as you discard most of the oil after frying. You can also save this oil for frying fish again next day as my Ma would do.

If you are using fillet of fish you can shallow fry them in much less oil.

Heat Mustard oil to smoking in Kadai/Wok.

Temper the hot oil with a little less than 1/2 tsp of Kalonji/ Kalo Jeera and 4-5 hot Indian green chillies slit through the center.

Puree or finely chop two medium tomatoes of good quality. I used about 1 cup of fresh tomato puree.

Saute till they become a fine pulp, kind of mushy and you see the oil seeping out on the edges. The raw tomato-ey smell should be totally gone.

Add 1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger and saute for a minute

Now add a pinch of turmeric powder and 1 cup of water. Add salt to taste.

Simmer till the gravy comes to a boil.When the gravy comes to a boil add the fish pieces.

Add a fistful of fresh chopped coriander leaves.

Cook for a few more minutes and you are done. The gravy is light and is best enjoyed with white rice.



  1. Well I am way past mid night but your post needs to be responded to! It's so tempting that I feel like running into the kitchen and cooking it right away!

    This post had the Nigella kinda can't but just drool at the sight of the dish!

    An all time favorite...

    I love making this jhol with paabda maach. You can drop by my little blog space too...

  2. Sandeepa, visiting after a long time. You stole my heart. Ei tomato diye patla jhol is my favourite and has fond memories of childhood just like you. Thank you for posting this.

  3. Yummy fingerlicking dish, truly inviting..

  4. I am missing mom now ..... ur recipe reminds me of winters in India. Uff too much :)


  5. This is a great receipe. No piyanj and only aada, with tomato.. ajke try korbo. thank you so much.

  6. Amrita

    saw your pabda maach, same jhol. Isn't it awesome ?

    Shreya's Mom

    I love this one



    Aww poor girl, take a vacation :)


    No onion, only good tomatoes, fresh dhone pata, little ada and fish that doesn't have a strong smell. I don't know where you are. If in India, use Rui, Pabda, Chara Pona, Pomfret kind of fish

  7. Hi Sandeepa,

    Does this have a vegetarian equivalent - maybe paneer or potatoes (or dare I suggest Tofu :) )

  8. Kheede te pet ta growl korche. Amader baadi t o emni kore hoye, patla patla kalo jeerer jhol. Gorom bhaat diye kobji dubiye khawar moton.

    Kuntala ki bhalo lekhe na. I am a fan!

  9. Hey,

    Just wanted to check can't we use the same mustard oil for making the curry that we fry the fish in. My Maa does the same.



  10. hmmm...tempting soul food, smells of zillion small and big incidents of childhood and adolescent days.

    Looks like you are already in Christmas mood, ...good for us, more posts and wider grin to light up our grey grey winter days.

    Have fun.

  11. I love the lighting in ur dish! Fish is my weakness, more like a comfy food for me :)

  12. Nicely written.....and I do like the simplicity of this curry, can almost taste it!

  13. Dhone pata shob shomoye winter er kotha mone koriye deye. Ekhane shara bochor pawa jaye ... amar bhalo lage na. Simple maacher jhol ta khub bhalo lagche ... snapgulo o. :-)

  14. I have not had fish curry for the last 2years, I have never ever made any fish curry in mife, unless if you call dishes with prawns , fish curry.
    My passion for fish curry has not rubbed to my hubby and daughter.
    This looks so so droolie yummy.

  15. GT

    Don't know about paneer, potatoes should be good. If you can get Tofu right that will be great. The other day I had a very simple Tofu dish at the Thai Place where I never ever order Tofu and it was so goddamn good.


    Kuntala osombhob bhalo lekhe. Amio fan.


    We can use the same oil. But some times the oil gets a fishy odor which transfers to the gravy. So I try to use fresh oil for the gravy.
    Totally depends on the fish you are using.


    Mone hoche tai :-)


    Same here


    Yeah it is a very simple home food.


    Ekhane o shob shomoy shob paoa jay. Dhone pata oboshoy amar sara bochor i lage. Ote ar ami go local korbo na.


    Fish Curry is comfort food for us. Both my kids like fish too but they only like fillet with no bones

  16. Lovely.

    Know what, am stuck in the Middle East and all of today I tried searching for a Bengali restaurant in Dubai and no luck.

    Dying to have some 'niramish' Bengali food. Guess have to make it myself.

    BTW, if you are interested check this one out- Recently baked hilsa
    at home. Almost two years after my previous attempt inspired by your blog.

    Nice to be back,

  17. Looks lovely, and enjoyed your write up about winters back in your homeland.

  18. That fish curry is sure to bring warmth. Fish it will be this weekend.

    Keep warm Sandeepa.

  19. looks so finger licking good! am tempted to try this dish right away.. thanks for sharing.

  20. I remember your old post! :) :) Love this fish curry. My favorite!

  21. Nice piece of writing. We ARE having a winter, and I must say I'm not enjoying it much, come as it did with rain and chills and a short trip with more rain and more chills.

  22. Very nice, as usual.
    Just made it with catfish. Perfect Satruday lunch.
    Time for a bhatghum! (Yawns)

  23. This dish sounds so wonderful and tempting! Definitely some great comfort food!

  24. simple and delicious it seems :) Now that does bring into mind some pictures.....

  25. yum yum yum..what more do I say.

  26. Oh my! This recipe looks and sounds good!

  27. What a delicious fish curry this is. Your photos are making me hungry!!
    I would like to invite you to visit my new blog @

  28. Mmmm this is what I am going to prepare today,,,I was craving for some Bengali curry,,,:)

  29. a friend of mine from delhi tasted fish curry for the first time when I made this and she kept on eating....speaks how good it is

  30. I tried this dish yesterday and it was just awesome! Thank you Sandeepa for sharing this wonderful recipe..makes me miss mom and home so much...:(

  31. I tried this dish yesterday and it tasted exactly the way Maa used to make it..Thank you Sandeepa for sharing the recipe..made my day!

  32. Sandeepa I made this the other day and have also blogged about it linking it to your post. Thank you for sharing this. I love the recipe to bits.

  33. will the ginger get fried if it is put in the tomato paste. pls tell me

  34. I really enjoy reading your blog and trying you out the recipes! Keep up the good work!

  35. Today 1st time I will try this.As am newly married.And Going to give surprise to my hubby with ths simple dish...Hope for the best☺

  36. I just loved the recipe. The dish is yum! Miss my ma er hather ranna :'<


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