Bengali Maacher Tel: Adopting The Nose-To-Tail Cooking Method
Image Credit: Prepared with fish entrails, Maacher Teler Boda is a no-waste recipe. Image Credits: Facebook/Arnab Ganguli

When cooking fish, most urban dwellers still go for two popular cuts—the fillet and the curry cut. Fillets offer the eater a boneless, fleshy fish-eating experience. For the more nuanced consumer, especially those who grew up eating fish, curry cut is the most regular choice. What both types of consumers often ignore are the other parts of the fish which are equally edible, if not the prettiest to look at. We are not referring here to fish heads, which have long been consumed in regional Indian cuisines as a part of the curry cut. We are talking about fish offal, the fishy guts and entrails, that are mostly thrown out by the non-discerning fish eater.

Cooking with offal is nothing new, but in recent years, the sustainability movement has slowly brought cooking fish entrails into limelight, thanks to globally renowned chefs like Josh Niland. The nose-to-tail use of fish of all types is now being promoted not only in restaurants and professional kitchens, but also by home cooks across the world. The idea is to not only consume the pretty parts of the fish, but also to transform offal—guts, eggs, stomach, lungs—into gourmet dishes that can be consumed for lunch and dinner, if not for breakfast.

For Bengalis of course, this is nothing new. The use of fish entrails or Maacher Tel in Bengali cooking, both in West Bengal and in Bangladesh, is an age-old tradition. The simple Bengali cook realized ages ago that fish entrails are not only packed with protein, but also with some of the most nutrient-intense, flavour-packed bits. Fish fat, liver, eggs and intestines are all definitely the fishiest-smelling bits, which might be a turn-off in the beginning, but they certainly taste great. 

In Bengali kitchens, Maacher Tel is used to not only whip up fritters that pair well with simple lentils and rice, but also curries. Maacher Tel Jhaal, for example, is a spicy curry often made with fish entrails, potatoes and spices. There is a simple Maacher Tel Chocchori, which is a dry mish-mash you can have with rice. Then there are the versions made with eggplant and other veggies, which can be served as a main course too. Here is the simplest Maacher Tel recipe anybody can start with, called Maacher Tel Boda or fish entrails fritter.


1 cup fish fat, liver and intestine

1 large onion, finely chopped

4 green chillies, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp cumin powder

3 tbsp refined flour or maida

Salt, to taste

Mustard oil, for frying


1. Wash and clean the Maacher Tel thoroughly, then chop them into coarse, chunky bit.

2. Place the chopped entrails in a large bowl. Add the onions, green chillies, garlic, turmeric powder, cumin powder, salt and refined flour.

3. Mix well to make a thick sort of fish pakoda batter.

4. Heat mustard oil in a pan or wok, then add dollops of the fish batter.

5. Fry the fritters on both sides until golden brown and crispy. Remove from the wok and serve.