I belong to that part of India which is known for its cuisine and culture. And fish curry is the flagbearer of Bengal’s rich cuisine and culinary traditions!

This cuisine boasts of a never-ending variety of fish recipes. From ‘doi mach'(fish prepared in curd gravy) to ‘macher tok'(fish in tamarind gravy) and ‘bhapa mach'( steamed fish) – the list goes long! One such popular dish is “Tel-Koi”- an exquisitely rich and spicy fish curry.

Spicy and hot

Tel-koi is a signature Bong fish curry where whole Koi fish is prepared in mustard oil. I tried to find the English term for Koi, only to end up in loads of confusing information! Then I realised what’s there in a name? After all, a recipe is more defined by its taste and palatability than its title and tag!
It’s a traditional Bengali delicacy with different variations in preparation. Some prefer to make it with onion and garlic whereas some recipes insist on only ginger- cumin and tomato gravy. But one thing is common and that is the use of mustard oil! The strong flavour of mustard oil is the key feature of this scrumptious delicacy.



  • Koi fish- 6 pieces
  • Whole red chilli- 4-5
  • Whole cumin seeds- 4 tsp
  • Ginger paste, – 1 tsp
  • Tomato- 1 large, finely chopped
  • Turmeric powder- ½ tsp
  • Sugar- a pinch
  • Salt- according to taste
  • Mustard oil- ½ cup
  • Green chillies, whole- 3-4
  • Chopped coriander leaves- 1 tbsp
  • Hot water- ¼ cup


Wash fish thoroughly by changing water many times.

Marinate fish with turmeric powder and salt for 1 hr.
Soak whole red chilli and cumin seeds in ¼ cup of warm water for ½ hr.
Grind red chilli and cumin to a smooth and fine paste.
Put oil in a heavy bottom wok.
When the oil reaches smoking point, reduce heat and fry the fish in batches on medium heat till they turn light brown.
In the same oil, put the ginger paste and sauté.
Add chopped tomato and cook till tomato becomes mushy.
Add turmeric powder.
Add the red chilli and cumin paste and cook on low flame till the oil separates.
Add sugar and adjust salt.
Add ¼ cup of hot water.
Put the fried fish carefully one by one in the gravy.
Cook covered on low heat for at least 15-20 min.
Take it out on a flat serving dish and decorate with whole green chillies and chopped coriander leaves.
Serve with piping hot steamed rice.

Serve with steamed rice


It’s a traditional Bengali fish preparation with very few ingredients.

While washing fish be careful so that it doesn’t break. Wash carefully and thoroughly by changing the water a number of times.

Many use onion and garlic in the preparation. But I prefer it this way without onion and garlic to retain the typical flavour of this particular fish.

This recipe demands a lot of oil, as is evident from its name itself. Tel-koi, tel means oil only. So do not compromise on the oil issue.

This preparation tastes great in the winter season.

In the original and traditional recipe, no water is added in the gravy and the fish is prepared only in oil and spices. But keeping the health issue in mind, I have added some water. That’s how I have maintained a balance between taste and health!

Every cuisine undergoes a lot of changes over a period of time. Still, a few dishes remain unchanged and continue to reign for generations. Tel- koi is one such recipe which continues to tickle the taste buds of people for centuries. I am happy that I could try my hands on this traditional preparation and could do justice to the recipe!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s