Machher Matha diye Moog Dal

Roasted moog dal cooked with fresh fried fish head: a Bengali delicacy!

  • Cooking time
    1 hour
  • Calories
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In the hierarchy of dals, this dal with fish head occupies the highest pedestal in Bengali cuisine. If you are trying to impress your guests, this is the dal to make. That is why it finds place in wedding lunches, first rice ceremonies, or anytime you invite guests over for an afternoon feast. To make this dal you need the freshest fish head you can find, and guess what is the best way to ensure the fish head is fresh? You buy a live fish! You could use any large freshwater fish head for this, but the Bengali favourite is the head of a large katla fish—a delicious freshwater carp. This is commonly served with a bhaja (any fried dish) such as beguni or jhuri alu bhaja. If you are buying good quality fresh fish and not eating the head, you are missing out.

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5 servings
  • 250 g machh'er matha (fish head)
  • 100 g moog dal
  • 25 g mustard oil
  • 2 pcs dried red chillies
  • 1 pc bay leaves
  • 2 pcs cardamom
  • 2 pcs cloves
  • 1 pc cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 12 g onions (finely chopped)
  • 15 g tomato (diced)
  • 12 g ginger paste
  • 3 g cumin powder
  • 1 tsp total turmeric
  • ¼ tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 3 pcs green chillies (slit)
  • 575 g total water
  • 12 g total salt
  • 20 g sugar
  • 8 g ghee
  • 1 pinch gorom moshla


  1. Clean the fish head thoroughly and marinate it with salt and turmeric. Set aside.
  2. In a kadai, dry-roast the moog dal while continuously stirring it on medium heat, until pinkish brown. Wash with cold water immediately to stop it cooking further.
  3. Boil the dal with 5 g salt and 500 ml water.
  4. Heat mustard oil in a pan and fry the fish head on low heat until well browned on all sides. Set aside.
  5. Temper the oil with dried red chillies, bay leaves, whole cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and cumin seeds.
  6. Add finely chopped onions and fry until golden (about 5 minutes). Then add the tomatoes and cook until they soften.
  7. Add the spices (ginger, cumin, turmeric and kashmirir red chilli mixed with water to form a slurry) and fry until the raw smell of the spices goes away.
  8. Add 2 slit green chillies. Add the fried fish head. Let it braise with the spices for a few minutes.
  9. Add the boiled moog dal, the remaining salt, and all the sugar. Cover and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes or until the dal thickens.
  10. Turn off the heat, and finish with one slit green chilli, ghee and a pinch of Bengali garam moshla.

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