Mourola machh'er tok

Tiny sweetwater mourola fish in a light sweet-sour stew with tart green mangoes—a Bengali fish recipe for the hot weather

  • Cooking time
    1 hour
  • Calories
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This mourola recipe is a typical ambol—a sweet and sour dish served at the end of a Bengali meal, either after the regular fish course, or in place of it, just before mishti (desserts). Ambol can be both niramish (vegetarian) and amish (non-vegetarian). Mourola is a very tasty tiny fish (less than 8 cm) that is full of nutrients. Cutting the tiny fish one by one can appear daunting, but once you get into the groove, it is a highly meditative process—and at the end of it, you have this delicious dish to look forward to.

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5 servings
  • 300 g mourola machh (200 g after cleaning)
  • 30 g mustard oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 pcs dried red chillies
  • 100 g kacha aam (unripe mangoes)
  • 1 tsp total turmeric
  • 10 g total salt
  • 40 g sugar
  • 400 ml hot water


How to cut/prep Mourola fish

Picture of a mourola fish held out on the palm of a hand with green mangoes in the background
How to cut & clean mourola fish
  1. Use scissors to cut the tail fin.
  2. On the fish head locate the gill plate. This is a hard flap that covers the gills (bright red in colour). Pull to remove the gill plate. Repeat this on both sides of the fish head. This should expose the gills.
  3. Remove the gills on both sides of the head.
  4. Make a small incision in the belly of the fish about 1 cm below the fin under the head. Watch the video for a clearer understanding.
  5. Press gently on the belly above the incision and pull out the intestines, etc. Do this gently to avoid disturbing other parts of this delicate fish. Be careful not to press on the belly below the incision—this may remove the fish roe (egg) if there are any. You don't want to lose the roe!
  6. Rub fish along the length of the fish on a perforated dish or a rough surface to remove the tiny scales.

Cooking steps

  1. Marinate the cut, cleaned and washed fish with salt and turmeric.
  2. Peel the green mangoes and cut them into 2-cm thick wedges.
  3. Heat a kadai or wok until very hot. Pour the mustard oil and let it come up to smoking, then reduce the flame.
  4. Fry the fish in small batches for one minute. Don't fry it longer as the delicate fish will become hard. Reserve the fried fish.
  5. In the same oil add the phoron of dried red chillies and mustard seeds. Wait until the mustard seeds start crackling.
  6. Add the green mangoes, and salt. Cover and cook for 4 minutes.
  7. Add the turmeric. Stir to mix. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or until the smell of the raw turmeric goes away. If the turmeric sticks, add a splash of hot water.
  8. Once the mangoes are soft, add 400 ml hot water. Add the sugar. Bubble on medium heat for 2 minutes.
  9. Not all green mangoes are equally tart. Taste the jhol. If it is not tart enough mash a few of the mangoes against the side of the kadai to increase sourness.
  10. Add the fried mourola fish. Cook only for a minute or so. The fish is delicate and cooking it for too long will make it tough.
  11. Serve warm or chilled with plain rice at the end of the meal.

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