Macher Jhol refers to fish curry in Bengali and there are countless different ways fish curry can be prepared. What I am sharing today is the simplest version of a Bengali fish curry recipe that includes just a handful of very basic ingredients. Believe it or not, the curry calls for just 1 spice and that’s nigella seeds. Typically, Bengali fish curries are prepared with fresh lake water fish, which is not easily available everywhere. But you can prepare the exact same dish with salmon and it’s delicious. Not to mention this salmon curry is really easy and quick!
Growing up, I never liked macher jhol (fish curry) and that could be because I was bored of eating it every other day. After I moved to US, I had prepared this exact curry using salmon few years back. I was not happy with how it turned out. For several years after that, I pretty much stopped making fish curries Bengali style. Then, when I was writing my cookbook – Taste of Eastern India, I came across a Bangladeshi store close by. They kept all these lake water fishes that I grew up eating, except it’s kept frozen. I couldn’t resist and gave it a go. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I missed Macher Jhol!
What ingredient goes in Macher Jhol with Salmon
You will need very few ingredients to prepare this salmon curry.
Salmon Fillets – I used skinless but you can use fillet with skin on too.
Onion – I would suggest red onion because that goes very well with macher jhol.
Tomatoes – Juicy red tomatoes and you should not replace it with canned tomato puree.
Nigella Seeds – The only spice that goes in this fish curry and you absolutely cannot substitute this spice. This spice has a mild bitter taste, a gorgeous pungent flavor that completely rules the flavor of the curry. Finding this spice can be a little tricky as it often gets confused with black sesame seeds, onion seeds or black cumin. This is definitely quite easily available in most Indian stores, but you can also get it online.
Salt, Sugar and Turmeric – Turmeric will add the gorgeous yellow color. Salt and sugar for seasoning.
Fresh Green Chili – Almost every Bengali fish curry calls for fresh green chili. I throw these whole just for flavor and because our kid is still not into spicy food. So, if you want it spicier, definitely chop the green chilies and sauté it with onion in the beginning of the cooking.
Like most Bengali fish curries, this too is prepared in mustard oil. Mustard oil gives a lovely pungent flavor. If you absolutely don’t want to use it, you can use your choice of vegetable oil instead.
As you can see from the list of ingredients, this Macher Jhol is extremely simple and very mildly spiced.
Traditionally, this fish curry recipe is prepared using Rohu fish (rui mach). It is a species of fish from carp family. The fish is deep fried before adding it to the gravy.
When preparing Macher Jhol with Salmon, you don’t need to deep-fry the fish fillets. Just a simple pan fry before adding to the gravy.
KEY POINT to remember is to not overcook the salmon or else, it will turn rubbery and definitely not tasty.
Here are few other seafood dishes you might want to try:
- 6 salmon fillets
- 1 and ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 tablespoons mustard oil
- 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 medium size red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 medium size tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 and ½ teaspoon all purpose flour
- 3 fresh green chili
- fresh cilantro finely chopped for garnish and flavor
- Marinate the salmon fillets with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon turmeric. Leave it aside for 15 minutes.
- Place a skillet at medium heat and pour the oil. Once the oil heats up, layer the fillets and fry for 1 minute on each side. Then, take it off the pan and keep it aside to be used later.
- In the same pan, sprinkle the nigella seeds and give it a few seconds to sizzle. Then, scatter the onion along with the salt, rest of the turmeric and sugar. Stir around and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and stir around. Cook for 1 minute. Then, pour 1 and ½ cup of water. Bring it to a boil, cover and let it simmer for 7 minutes.
- After 7 minutes, prepare a roux by mixing the flour with 2 tablespoons of water. This will thicken the curry.
- Pour it to the pan.
- Layer the fish fillets, drop the green chilies and let it simmer for 3 minutes.
- Finally, sprinkle the cilantro and serve it warm with steamed rice.