Machher Jhol (Bengali Style Fish Curry)

Recently I went to our local supermarket and picked out some rainbow trout. Trout are freshwater fish closely related to salmon and char. I like to use trout when I am cooking curries as they hold their shape when they are cooked. By contrast some other types of fish fall apart when simmered in liquids.

Today I am sharing my Machher jhol (মাছের ঝোল) Bengali recipe using trout. This is a traditional spicy fish curry in Bengali cuisines eaten in most households. The recipe varies with the household. In my family we first season the fish with turmeric, salt, and pepper. Then we fry the fish, so the fish holds its shape. The fried fish is then simmered in a flavorful gravy made of onion, ginger, garlic and other spices. Potatoes are added in some cases. Tomatoes are also an essential part of the dish as this adds a reddish color which is preferred by most people in Bengal.

Things I do slightly different from traditional method is that I dredge the fish in flour when I season the fish. This keeps the fish from drying out and also helps thicken the gravy.

If you are unable to find trout, you can use tilapia. Bengali households typically use hilsa, rohi or catla (bhakura). Besides these, very small fish are also used.

Serve this curry over cooked white rice, and a side of veggie of your preference.

This dish was so delicious that my husband — who doesn’t normally eat much fish curry — want more after tasting the curry. I hope you try this curry and let me know your thoughts.



  • 1 lbs. or 2 whole rainbow trout
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp. onion seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp. methi
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 Indian bay leaves (tej patta)
  • 1 cup yellow onion, cut into thin julienne
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili powder (Indian)
  • 2 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 green chili (about 2 tsp. serrano or jalapeno), sliced (remove seeds if you don’t want spicy)
  • 1 cup Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped


Clean, wash, de scale, and remove the fins from the fish. Then cut rainbow trout into 5 pieces each. Then make sure to pat dry the fish pieces with paper towel.

In a large shallow baking dish place fish, turmeric, pepper, salt, and flour. Coat the fish pieces with flour and spices well. Then set them aside until you are ready to fry the fish.


In a large non-stick wok or pan, heat oil over medium-heat. Once the oil is hot add fish pieces. Fry the fish without disturbing for 3-4 minutes in one side. Then flip the fish and fry for another 2-3 minutes on the other side, or until pieces are golden brown. Turn down the heat to very low.

Transfer the fried fish to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving most of the oil in the pan and set aside.

Add onion seeds, mustard powder, methi powder, cumin seeds, and bay leaves to the remaining oil in the pan. Fry for 30-40 seconds.


Next add onion, garlic, and ginger. Stir everything very well, then cook on low for 4-5 minutes.

Add chili and coriander powder to the onion mixture, stir well, cook for 40-50 seconds.

Next add tomatoes, stir well, and cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes as you stir few times during 5 minutes of cooking.

Add 2 cups of warm water and 1 tsp. salt, then turn the heat to medium. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then add the fried fish pieces along with all the oil accumulated in the plate.

Next add the green chilies, give the mixture a gentle stir. Try not to break up the fish pieces. Turn the heat down to low, and cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.


Taste for seasoning, then sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the curry. Gently stir and transfer the curry to a serving dish. Serve this over cooked rice.

Serves 5-6

Did you make this dish? I’d love to know how it turns out! Feel free to like this post and comment or use the hashtag #globaldinein on Instagram. If you would to be notified of upcoming posts, please consider subscribing to my blog!

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