Machher Jhol (Traditional Bengali and Odia spicy fish stew)

Machher Jhol or Machha Jhola is a traditional Bengali and Odia spicy fish stew (curry). It is in the form of a very spicy stew that is served with rice. Machher Jhol is liberally seasoned with turmeric, garlic, onions, and grated ginger. Potatoes are added to the stew as a thickening agent. Tomatoes are also added to impart the dish with a reddish color which is preferred by the people of Bengal.

The kinds of fish that typically used in Bengali and Odia households are Hilsa (called Ilisi), Rohu (called Rohi), and Catla (called Bhakura). Apart from these, there are some famous small sized fish that are normally flavored over others.



  • 2 pcs Katla Fish, Each piece weighing 80-100 gr (Freshwaterfish, also known by some other names such as katol fish, catla fish, Indian carp etc) 
  • 1/2 tsp Kalo Jeere (Nigella Seeds or black onion seeds) 
  • 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 5 -6 Green Chilies, slit.
  • 1 no Tomato, medium sized, Cut into small pieces
  • 1 no Potato, medium sized sliced into 4 longitudinal slices.
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsps Mustard Oil for frying the fish and potato slices 2 tbsps for the curry.

Powdered Spices:

  • 1.5 tsp Turmeric Powder for coating the fish pieces. 1/2 tsp for the curry.
  • 1.5 tsp Cumin Seed Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder (Sukno Lanka)


  1. Coat the fish pieces with the turmeric powder and sprinkle salt on the pieces.  Keep aside for 5 mins.
  2. Heat mustard oil in a wok/pan. When the oil gets hot, fry the fish pieces, under oven set to low for 3-4 mins. Ensure that the fish pieces is fried on all sides.
  3. Coat the potato slices with 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and sprinkle some salt to taste. In the left over oil, fry the potato slices for 2 mins and keep aside.
  4. In a wide pan, add the mustard oil (meant for the curry) and wait for it to become hot.
  5. Once the oil is hot turn the heat to a low. Then add the Nigella seeds, cumin seeds and slit green chilies. Wait for the spices and chilies to release their flavor – the heat of the green chilies is quite vigorous and sometimes leaves the cook coughing and sneezing.
  6. Then add tomato slices and powdered spices (Turmeric powder, Cumin powder, Red chili powder).
  7. Stir for 5 mins. Then add a little (50 ml) of water.
  8. When the water begins to simmer, then add the fried fish pieces and potato slices.
  9. Add warm water depending upon the amount if soup desired.
  10. Add salt to taste.
  11. Give a final stir and put a lid on the wok.
  12. Let the fish cook for 12-14 mins.

The dish will acquire a reddish color by then. Remove from the wok and garnish with 2-3 more slit green chilies.
serve with steamed rice.

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Post Author: dvd

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