Puti Maach Er Tok

Puti Maach Er Tok (Tangy Fish Stew) | Playful Cooking

Puti Maach Er Tok is a quintessential Bengali fish curry prepared a lot during peak summer time. The curry is prepared with small variety of fish and puti maach is one of the many varieties. It is served with steamed white rice. 

What is Puti Maach Er Tok

Let me break down the name of the dish first. Puti is a kind of small freshwater fish, Maach means fish in Bengali and Tok means tangy.

The selections of fish recipes that one can find in Bengali cuisine are countless. Some are spicy, some are mild, some are loaded with vegetables and others are not.

There are also various fish curries/stews that goes with the season. This simple Puti Maach Er Tok (Tangy Fish Stew) is typically prepared in peak summer months.

Kolkata summer is brutal and this tangy Puti Maach Er Tok stew helps to cool down the body and keep the tummy calm.

Ingredients you need for Puti Maach Er Tok

  • Puti Maach, tiny lake water fish
  • black mustard seeds
  • tamarind paste or lemon juice
  • green chiliv- the heat in the dish comes from fresh green chili. 
  • sugar – to balance the tart from tamarind or lemon juice
  • finely chopped cilantro
  • oil
  • salt 
  • turmeric

As you can see it is not a spicy fish curry at all. It is mild, and the tangy taste is very refreshing on a warm sunny day. 

Puti Maach Er Tok (Small Fresh Water Fish in Tangy Stew) | Playful Cooking

Where to find Puti Maach

This particular small freshwater fish is not easily available, unless you stay in Kolkata or Bangladesh.

Out here, in US, I buy it from a local Bengali shop. They stock every kind of fish that I grew up eating. Although it is kept frozen, the fishes taste quite good. What a blessing, right? You could always try this same curry with shrimp or any other small fish that you may like.

Raw fish, small variety fried fish

Frying the tiny lake water fish

When crispy fried, Puti Maach tastes wonderful. The bones get brittle and so crunchy. It can make a great bite when paired with a chilled beer.

As a kid, we ate it with steamed hot rice and daal. Ma would always save some fried Maach while making the Puti Maach Er Tok. We would walk by the kitchen and gobble a couple of them because it was so hard to resist.

Puti Maach Er Tok (Tangy Fish Stew) can be prepared in several different ways and with several different fishes. However, Ma always prepares a tangy stew with only small freshwater fish. She adds the acidity using green raw mango, green tomato or tamarind.

In terms of spice, she always keeps it extremely minimalistic. It might be bizarre for many of you seeing the fish head. I am sorry if it offends you any way. We Bengalis are extremely fond of fish head.

I always remove fish heads before serving it to Arvind. The boy has learnt to eat different kind of fishes but fish head is a long shot and I don’t expect it from him.

Puti Maach Er Tok (Tangy Fish Stew) | Playful Cooking

Puthi Maacher Tok

Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Puti Maach Er Tok is a quintessential Bengali fish curry prepared a lot during peak summer time. The curry is prepared with small variety of fish and puti maach is one of the many varieties. It is served with steamed white rice.


  • 1 lb./500 gm Puti Maach, tiny lake water fish
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • oil for frying the fish
  • 1 teaspoon oil to prepare the stew
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons tamarind paste
  • 3 green chili, slit in half
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro


  1. Drop the Puti Maach in a bowl. Sprinkle half of the salt and half of the turmeric powder. Give it a massage and let it marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Pour the tamarind paste to in a different bowl along with 1 cup of water. Give it a mix and keep it aside to be used later.
  3. Place a non-stick pan on medium high heat and pour oil till ½ inch level. Place a kitchen towel on a plate and keep it ready. Once the oil heats up, very carefully drop the marinated fish. It will start to sizzle and crisp up the fish. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, take the fried fish off the pan and place them on the kitchen towel.
  4. Take a heavy bottom pan and place it on medium heat. Pour 1 teaspoon of oil. When the oil heats up, carefully (as it will splatter) sprinkle the black mustard seeds along with the green chili. After a couple of seconds, sprinkle the turmeric powder, give it a stir and then, pour the tamarind water mixture. Give a stir and cook for a minute.
  5. Then pour the taramind water and the sugar. Cook for 3 minutes. Then drop the fried fish (save some fried fish to enjoy as an appetizer) and cook for 2 minutes. Check for salt and add any if you need.
  6. Switch off the gas and sprinkle some finely chopped cilantro. It’s ready to serve.
Puti Maach Er Tok (Small Fresh Water Fish in Tangy Stew) | Playful Cooking Puti Maach Er Tok(Small Fresh Water Fish in Tangy Stew) | Playful Cooking

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Comments are closed.

  • Rosa
    August 15, 2017 at 12:26 AM

    A mouthwatering fish stew and lovely clicks! The crispy fried fish looks amazing too.



  • angiesrecipes
    August 15, 2017 at 10:50 AM

    The crisp fish looks really great and you know what? I LOVE fish head 🙂

  • heather (dng)
    heather (dng)
    August 15, 2017 at 7:35 PM

    i’m chinese, and it’s definitely common to see a whole fish (head intact) served at restaurants (: not to say that i love the head (no thanks), but as long as the eyeball isn’t looking towards me, i can deal with it (; this sounds delicious, even if i haven’t seen this in any restaurant! guess it’s time for me to convince my indian friends to cook for me!

  • Meg | Meg is Well
    Meg | Meg is Well
    August 15, 2017 at 8:54 PM

    Your pictures are phenomenal and look like art! I would love to give this a try!

  • Kelsie
    August 16, 2017 at 9:42 AM

    Your photography is so incredible–I never thought a picture of a whole fish could look appetizing, but I found myself staring. This stew sounds wonderful. I’m so glad you’re able to find the tastes of home here in the US! Have a great rest of your week, Kankana!

  • shobee
    August 16, 2017 at 2:55 PM

    Awww, those are cute little fishes. I lovee eating the heads too,specially when they are crispily cooked .

  • Krista Bjorn
    Krista Bjorn
    August 21, 2017 at 12:39 AM

    Your pictures are so beautiful. 🙂 I’m delighted by how the stew makes the bones edible.

  • Easyfoodsmith
    August 23, 2017 at 5:00 AM

    I started eating fish after getting married to my Bihari husband. The family would insist that smaller the fish, the better it tastes. But I could not manage to go beyond tengda fish. This one is new to me.

  • 2foodfreaks
    August 25, 2017 at 11:09 PM

    Yummm!! Recipe is nice, and the pictures are too good! Which camera do you use?

  • GiGi Eats
    GiGi Eats
    August 26, 2017 at 7:42 PM

    I love fish so so so much, I would so give this dish a go! And then probably eat it all!

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