Koi Komola

Koi fish cooked with fresh orange juice and seasonal tangerines.

  • Cooking time
    1 hour
  • Calories
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Koi komola may at first appear to be a modern dish, an inspired take of a quirky chef; but it's not. It is a fairly old dish found in some of the oldest recipe books published in Bengali. In fact, the recipe keeps resurfacing in many recipe books, seen most recently in Chitrita Banerjee's Bengali Cooking: Seasons & Festivals, where she recounts a memorable koi komola she tasted at her friend Nusrat's home in Bangladesh.

To us, this makes sense because (a) citruses, according to some recent genetic studies, appear to have originated in the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas—present day Northeast India, Sylhet and Chittagong of Bangladesh, which would explain the diversity of citrus fruits in that area, and (b) Bengali cuisine has a whole class of dish called "ambol" where fish, fish roe, fish head are cooked with sour fruits.

Even though this dish is not an ambol, it is more of a kaliya or jhol flavoured with orange, but the taste profile (savoury-sour-sweet) is familiar. This recipe is best made in winter because that is the tangerine season in Bengal, and koi, the fish, are at their prime in winter.

🌾 We've served koi komola today with Raniakanda rice from Amar Khamar.

Books in this recipe

Bengali Cooking: Seasons & Festivals
Chitrita Banerjee
Our note
Our note
Bengali Cooking: Seasons & Festivals
Chitrita Banerjee
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5 servings

Marinate the fish

  • 400 g koi fish
  • 6 g salt
  • 2 g turmeric

For the curry

  • 35 g mustard oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cardamom
  • 1 cinnamon
  • 4 g turmeric
  • 2 g kashmiri red chilli
  • 60 g onions (boiled and pasted)
  • 12 g ginger paste
  • 160 ml fresh orange juice
  • 160 ml hot water
  • 2–3 crystals citric acid (optional)
  • 8 g salt
  • 16 g sugar
  • 8 green chillies (whole)
  • 12–15 orange segments (opened up and seeds removed)


  1. Coat the fish with salt and turmeric and set it aside until you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Quarter the onions, and set to boil with a little water. Once softened, grind to a smooth paste.
  3. Shave the peel of an orange and reserve it in a bowl for later.
  4. Squeeze about 160 ml of fresh orange juice.
  5. Peel one last orange and separate all the segments. Remove all the fibres as best you can, then slit down the middle to open it up. Remove the seeds. Set the segments aside for later.
  6. Heat a kadai thoroughly. Add mustard oil and wait for it to smoke gently and change colour to a pale yellow.
  7. Fry the fish in batches, about 90 secs on each side. Set aside.
  8. Temper the same oil with bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon.
  9. With the heat turned very low, or OFF, add the turmeric and kashmiri red chilli powder directly to the oil. Fry for about 30 secs.
  10. Turn the heat back on and add the boiled-onion paste. Fry on medium heat for 5 mins.
  11. Add ginger paste, salt and sugar, and continue cooking another 3 mins or so until the raw smell of onion and the spices has dissipated.
  12. Add hot water and half of the orange juice. Taste the gravy to check how tart your orange is (you can increase the tartness by adding a couple of crystals of critic acid).
  13. Add the fish and simmer on medium heat for 6 mins, or until you have the desired consistency of the gravy.
  14. Turn off the heat before adding the remaining fresh orange juice, whole green chillies and the orange segments we opened up and de-seeded earlier.
  15. Optionally, just before serving you can express the oils from the orange peels that we had set aside at the start.

Recipe discussion

Other courses you can serve in winter

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🧣 Winter 🫛

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Posted on
December 21, 2023
Bong Eats

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