If you ask a Bengali to name one of the most famous port breakfasts of ancient times, you’ll surely hear the name of Muri Ghanto. Made with fish head and rice, Muri Ghanto is a part of the ancient Bengali cuisine. Rustic, delicious and wholesome, Muri Ghanto is relished as a traditional dish in West Bengal these days. It’s a comforting meal for Bengalis and is often savoured either as breakfast or lunch. Did it suddenly hit you that this dish has fish and is eaten as breakfast? Well, that’s just a highlight of Bengali’s love for fish. 

Legend has it that a royal princess of Kalinga named Sahri once travelled to Thailand to expand her kingdom. Although the brave princess defeated the king, she faced death on her way back and drowned in the sea. It is believed that Muri Ghanto was her pre-war meal and she called it ‘the warrior’s fuel’. After all, Muri Ghanto is delicious, filling, wholesome and easy-to-make, especially on voyages where fish is abundantly available. After the demise of princess Sahri, many kingdoms started eating Muri Ghanto as a tribute to her sacrifice. Gradually, the dish was loved by many and was a regular port breakfast. 

The modern-day Muri Ghanto is quite different from the original one as the original Muri Ghanto was made with leftover fish head and tail and fish stock. The first flavour that one gets in the first bite is that of the pimpuri basana rice which is exclusively grown in parts of East India. The taste is followed by the gooey taste of whatever little flesh left in the fish head and tail. The delicacy has an after-taste of Shuddh Ghee, fishbone and garam masala on the palate. 

While the Bengali version of Muri Ghanto has ingredients like potato, tomatoes and onions, the Assamese version has vegetables instead of rice. The Biharis were the first to introduce Muri Ghanto that has moong dal instead of rice and this version is popularly eaten in parts of Odisha like Baripada and Cuttack. The Muri Ghanto made with varieties of dal is also a popular feast dish in Odisha known as ‘Chhinchada’. 

Although Muri Ghanto has evolved with time, the decadence hasn’t reduced even a bit. The aromatic fish along with the rice, dal and vegetables create a delicious amalgam of varied flavours, textures and aroma.