Loitta Machher Jhuri

A dry, fudgy, spicy preparation of loitta machh (Bombay duck)

  • Cooking time
    60 mins
  • Calories
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Loitta, or lotey fish in Bengal, is known in western India as Bombay Duck or bombil. While loitta in its shutki (dried) form has a cult following, the fresh fish is also savoured for its unique flavour and soft, gelatinous texture. This particular preparation of loitta is very popular in our family. It is made in a variety of consistencies, ranging from a soft gravy (that we set aside for my father), all the way to a dried fudge-like paste (that almost everyone else in our family seems to prefer). If you are still at a stage where you are hesitant to eat shutki (the dried form), fresh loitta can be a very good entry point.

It is also our duty to add that according to one theory, dried loitta used to be transported to Bengal (where it was more popular at the time) by the Bombay Mail, stinking up the post (letters, newspapers, etc.) on the train. The fish earned notoriety among the British as Bombay Daak (the Bangla word for ‘mail’). Hence, the name ‘Bombay duck’.

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6 servings

To marinate the fish

  • 500 g loitta machh (Bombay duck)
  • 5 g salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric

For cooking

  • 50 g mustard oil
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 1 pinch kaalo jeere (nigella seeds)
  • 125 g onions (thinly sliced)
  • 20 g garlic (pasted)
  • 30 g tomatoes
  • 10 g green chillies
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1½ tsp kashmiri red chilli
  • 3 g salt


  1. Clean the fish by snipping off the tail and fins, removing the head, and discarding the swim bladder. Wash well and dry it as much as possible.
  2. Coat with salt and turmeric, and set aside while you prep the other ingredients.
  3. Thinly slice onions, chop green chillies, dice tomatoes, and make a garlic paste.
  4. Heat mustard oil in a kadai. Temper it with dried red chillies and kaalo jeere.
  5. Add onions and sweat them on low heat for 10 minutes until slightly fried. Add the garlic paste and continue frying for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes and salt, and cook on low heat until the tomatoes have softened (about 5 mins or so).
  7. Add the powdered spices: turmeric, red chilli and kashmiri red chilli. Braise until the raw smell of the spices has dissipated (about 10 mins).
  8. Now, lay the fish on top of the onions in a single layer. Do not stir or mix at this point. Cover and let it cook for 5 minutes.
  9. Once the fish has softened slightly, it gets very easy to use a pair of cutlery to pick out the central bone.
  10. Once you have removed all the bones, mix everything together and let the fish braise with the spices.
  11. Continue cooking until you reach the consistency you like (we're making ours today dry and tight), and turn off the heat.

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