Fish Begum Bahar

Can you name the third begum of Emperor Akbar? Don't worry, you don't have to google it right away or rush for your old dusty history books. You are going to enjoy this post to the full even if you dozed off in your history classes. If you are an ideal Bong, you can hardly imagine your meal to be complete without fish. I don't know if the Mughals were fond of fish too, but I bet they were of their begums. May be that's the reason they named this exquisite royal dish after their beautiful begums. So if you are in a mood to pamper yourself, nothing should stop you from trying it. I borrowed this recipe from my mother-in-law who definitely knows the art of keeping things simple and healthy, yet make them look great and taste delicious. I made it with rui machh (rohu fish) but you could use any large fresh water fish or you could even try to cook it with boneless chicken (and let me know how it turns out).  There are three easy steps to this recipe. Firstly, the fish needs to be marinated with spices, coconut milk and yogurt. Then comes the frying. Finally, letting  it cook in the oven or microwave for a few minutes. And I am sure you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Fish lovers can also try Doi Rui/ Rohu with Yogurt , Crispy Fried Fish , Muri Ghonto/ Fish-head Pulao , Fish Balls in Honey and Lemon Sauce .

Fish Begum Bahar


Fish: 500 gms/ 1 lb
Turmeric powder: 1 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder: 2 tsp
Red chilli powder: 2 tsp (or to taste)
Garam masala powder: 1 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 2 tsp
Onion paste: 1 cup
Ginger-garlic paste: 2 1/2 tsp
Yogurt: 1 cup
Coconut milk: 1/2 cup
Oil (for frying)
Salt: to taste
Green chillies: 2 (for garnishing)
Ghee / clarified butter: 1 tsp (optional)


Take the pieces of fish in a large bowl, add all the dry spices, sugar, salt and mix well.

Then add in the onion paste, ginger-garlic paste, yogurt, coconut milk and mix it again.

Refrigerate the marinated fish for 30 minutes. Then take it out and heat oil in a non-stick frying pan for shallow-frying. Pick the fish pieces out of the marinade and start frying.

Fry both the sides of the fish (about 2 minutes on each side) on medium heat. Ideally, there should be some of marinade left in the bowl, keep that aside.

For oven: Pre-heat the oven on 350 F. Line a baking tray with aluminium foil sheet. Then arrange the pieces of fish on it. Put it into the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. (For microwave: Take a microwave safe tray or dish. Then arrange the pieces of fish on it and cook it in the microwave for 7 to 8 minutes.)

Take the left over marinade and cook in the same pan (add little more oil if needed) that was used to fry the fish. Once the mixture starts releasing oil add a little water (1/2 cup) to it and let it come to a boil. Add a pinch of garam masala powder and ghee. Give it a quick mix. Remove it from heat.

Place the fish in a serving dish and pour the gravy over it. Garnish it with the green chillies. Serve this dish with steamed rice or pulao. Enjoy as the Mughals did.

Photographs by Swakshar Ghosh


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