Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Bengali Yellow Lentil with fish head - Macher matha diye Moong Dal



We, Bengalees are fish lovers and we use all the parts of fish for cooking. This traditional Bengali recipe is made of fish head especially River catfish or Catla head. This yellow lentil (moong dal) with fish head is one of the most popular Bengali cuisine. If you are trying to impress your guests, this is one of the recipe to make. That is why this preparation is there in wedding lunches, first rice ceremonies, or anytime you invite guests over for an afternoon feast. You could use any large freshwater fish head for this, but the Bengali favourite is the head of a large Catla fish—a delicious freshwater catfish.

Let’s start the recipe without any delay:-

Preparation Time: - 10~15 min

Cooking Time: - 30~35 min

Servings: - 4~5 persons as per their capacity to consume


  1. 250 g Machh'er matha (fish head)
  2. 100 g or ½ cup Moong dal (yellow lentil)
  3. 2 Dried Red Chillies
  4. 1 Bay leaves
  5. 2 Cardamom
  6. 2 Cloves
  7. 1 inch Cinnamon
  8. ½ tsp Cumin seeds
  9. 1 medium Onion chopped
  10. 1 medium juicy Tomato chopped
  11. 2 tsp Ginger paste made from fresh ginger
  12. 1 tsp Cumin powder
  13. 1 tsp Turmeric powder
  14. ¼ tsp Kashmiri Red Chilli powder
  15. 2 nos Green Chillies
  16. 2 ½ cup approx water
  17. Salt as per taste
  18. 1 tbsp Sugar (optional – if you are sugar toothed like me….most Bengalis are)
  19. 5~6 tsp Mustard oil (you can use any vegetable oil if the smell of mustard oil is too offensive for you but Bengalees like this only)
  20. ½ tbsp Ghee (clarified butter)
  21. Pinch of Garam Masala

Preparation: -

1.      Take a bowl and marinate the cleaned fish head with salt and ½ tsp turmeric powder for 15 min.

2.      Chop onion and coarsely dice tomato. Use fresh ginger to make paste.


3.      Take a thick bottomed kadhai / wok and dry roast the moong dal while continuously stirring on medium heat. Continue till the lentil is yellowish brown.

4.      Transfer to a pot and cool down.

5.      Wash the roasted dal, then drain the water. Add salt and water and set it to boil, partially covered with a lid until the dal is cooked but still holds shape. The dal should not break because it is going to cook again with the fish head.

6.      Heat 3 tsp mustard oil in a pan and fry the fish head on low heat until well browned on all sides. Keep aside the fried fish head on a plate.

7.      Now take a bowl and mix the rest of turmeric powder, cumin powder,  kashmiri red chilli powder, and ginger paste. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to create a smooth mixture.

8.      Heat rest of the mustard oil in a separate kadhai and temper with dried red chillies, bay leaves, whole cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and cumin seeds.

9.      Add the chopped onion and fry until golden brown. It should take about 2~3 min.

10.   Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they soften and water comes out from it.

11.   Pour the spice mix and fry until the raw smell of spices goes away.

12.   Add 2 slit green chillies and continue cooking.

13.   Now add the fried fish head. Mix thoroughly till the spices are coated the head pieces evenly.

14.   Add the boiled moong dal and some hot water. Add salt and  the sugar as per your taste.

15.   Cover and simmer on low heat for 2~3 minutes.

16.   Simmer until the dal thicken lightly—about 2 more minutes.

17.   Turn off the heat. Finish with one slit green chilli, ghee and a pinch of Bengali garam masala. Give it one final stir, cover tightly with a lid and rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Your Moong Dal is ready now with Catla head. Serve with boiled rice and a fritter like Begun Bhaja(Brinjal fry) or Alu bhaja as a side dish.

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As always please feel free to comment, criticize and seek if any help is required. I am all ears.

1 comment :

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