Bengali Koi Tok Jhaal Recipe, A Summery Healthy Perch Fish Curry
Image Credit: Facebook/Manami's Kitchen

Think about fish curry and most people across India would imagine a generic gravy-based and spicy fish curry. Ask a Bengali to imagine a fish curry, however, and their mind might just explode with the immense possibilities something as simple as a fish curry can offer. In case you didn’t know, Bengal is well known for its plethora of fish curries. From mustard-based ones to Mughlai-inspired ones to the simplest of veggie-packed Maacher Jhol, there is no end to the kinds of fish curries Bengalis savour. 

Among this vast host of Bengali fish curries though, there is one kind that stands out for being perfect for summers. We are talking here about a fish dish called Tok Jhaal, which is prepared with a variety of fish ranging from Koi or perch to Mourala or carp. In Bengali, Tok means sour and Jhaal means spicy—so obviously, Tok Jhaal is a blend of both flavours. But the third element that is added to this fish curry is the Mishti or sweet element, usually derived from the simple addition of sugar or jaggery. 

Wondering what makes this dish so popular apart from the delicate balance of Tok-Jhaal-Mishti or sour-spicy-sweet flavours? It is the fact that eating sour foods in summer is associated with a healthy digestion. During summers, our metabolism slows down due to the increased temperature. Eating sour foods during this season boosts healthy gut bacteria growth and also cools the body down. 

Video credit: YouTube/Bong Eats

So, cooking up a Koi Tok Jhaal curry for lunch or dinner during summers is a great way to ensure you stay healthy during summers while enjoying a brilliant Bengali fish curry. Here’s the recipe for Koi Tok Jhaal. 


4 Koi fish 

1 large onion, chopped 

2-3 green chillies, chopped 

½ tsp ginger, chopped 

1 tbsp tamarind paste 

1 tsp turmeric powder 

½ tsp coriander powder 

½ tsp cumin powder 

½ tsp garam masala 

Salt, to taste 

1 tbsp sugar 

1 bay leaf 

½ tsp panch phoran 

1 cup water 

2 tbsp mustard oil 

Coriander leaves, to garnish 

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1. Wash, clean and pat dry the Koi fish. Use a sharp knife to make slits on the Koi fish. 

2. Sprinkle some salt and turmeric powder on the fish, rub well and rest for half an hour. 

3. Meanwhile, take the onions, ginger and green chillies in a mixie jar and grind into a fine paste. 

4. Now, heat the mustard oil in a wok. 

5. Once it starts smoking, add the fish and fry until golden brown on both sides. 

6. Remove the fish from the wok and set aside. 

7. In the remaining mustard oil, add the panch phoran and bay leaf. 

8. Once these stop spluttering, add the onion-ginger-chilli paste. 

9. Stir fry the paste on a medium flame until the raw smell of the onions is gone. 

10. Continue cooking the onions until they start turning slightly brown. 

11. Now, add the turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, garam masala and salt. 

12. Mix well and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. 

13. Add the tamarind paste, mix well and then add the water. 

14. Once the gravy comes to a boil, place the fried Koi fish back into the wok. 

15. Adjust the salt and let the Koi Tok Jhaal cook for another minute. 

16. Add the sugar, stir lightly and mix well. 

17. Sprinkle fresh coriander leaves and switch off the flame. 

18. Serve the Koi Tok Jhaal with hot rice and enjoy.