Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shorshay Maach (Fish in Mustard Sauce) - With Video

Shorhay Maach or Fish in Mustard sauce is a Bengali favourite. We often talk about traditional cooking, traditional recipes and so on, but there is one thing that I have noticed, traditional or not each household has its own recipe, handed down from one generation to another. Sometimes each generation also adds its own touch to it thereby changing the recipe a bit, just as I have done to Shorshay Maach.

I loved it when mum cooked Bengal’s favourite fish the hilsa in mustard sauce. I did see how my mum cooked it, particularly the manner in which she handled the mustard sauce, but I did not pay much attention to the little details. There is therefore a slight difference between my recipe and my mum’s recipe. When mum was still with us I was planning to post mum’s recipe and therefore this photograph (see below) was taken at that time. There is a marked difference between my dish and my mum’s dish, you will notice that my mum has been able to grind the mustard to a very fine paste, mine is a bit coarse (I confess I have not been able to grind it as well as my mother did) and my mother has added tomato to the dish which I haven’t.

Mum's Fish in Mustard Sauce
Most Bengalis add poppy seed paste but as my mother only used mustard paste, I have done the same. Incidentally I had once noticed a friend dropping the idea of making this dish after tasting the mustard paste and finding it bitter. It is said that if you grind it the right way then the paste will not be bitter, be that as it may, my mother advised me to strain the mustard paste, this way I could do away with the problem of bitterness.


  • Pieces of Fish (Katla/Rahu/ Hilsa)
  • Mustard paste
  • A little turmeric powder
  • Red chilli powder or green chillies or green chilli paste
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard Oil 


Marinate the pieces of fish with salt and turmeric powder and deep fry them. If you are using hilsa then you do not need to deep fry them.

Grind the required quantity of black mustard seeds to a paste. The quantity of the paste will depend on the quantity of the fish and your taste. As I was grinding a small quantity of mustard, I used the mortar and pestle but you can use the mixer grinder. Remember to soak the mustard seeds in warm water before grinding them.

Watch the video below to see how I have strained the mustard paste, if you find that your paste is not bitter then use the paste as it is.

If you have no issues with chillies then grind some green chillies. 

Take some mustard oil; I used approximately 4 tablespoons of oil for 4 pieces of fish. Add the strained mustard paste along with the water, if you have not strained the paste then add the paste to the oil and also add water. See that the quantity of water is more than the mustard oil, or else as you heat the oil it will begin to pop up.

When the mixture comes to a boil add salt, turmeric powder, chopped green chillies as well as the chilli paste. I added some Kashmiri red chilli powder instead of green chilli paste.

I used the green chillies which do not have heat in them (To know more about chillies click here).

Stir and add the pieces of fish.

Let it cook, turn the fishes over.

When the mixture begins to thicken and the oil separates, you know the dish is ready. Taste to check whether the salt is right. Switch off the gas, give it some standing time before you serve.



  1. Oh, yummy. I am very, very fond of shorshay maachh, though I must confess the only times I ever get to eat it now is when I happen to visit my sister's home for a dinner party or something.

    And I must confess, also, that I've never tried cooking it at home because I'm scared of deep-frying the fish. (Long story behind this: many years ago, when my mother was newly married, she was frying fish for a dinner my parents were hosting. The kadhai full of hot oil toppled over and spilled on her arm. Even though I wasn't around then, just hearing that story frightened me. And even later, seeing the way fish splutters when it's put into hot oil for deep frying, scared me).

    But let me try this. Maybe with hilsa? (or is there any other more common fish I could use that doesn't need frying - would be healthier, too).

    1. Actually you can go ahead and cook rahu or katla or even bhetki without deep frying them, these things are really a matter of taste, there is no such hard and fast rule. I grew up seeing my mum frying these fishes, hilsa was the only one that she cooked without frying and when she cooked doi maach she did not fry the fishes. So go ahead try it out with any fish. You can also wrap the mustard seed paste and fish in a banana leaf and steam the fish, healthy and hugely yummy.

    2. I have had that banana-leaf steamed fish at Oh! Calcutta - it's really good. Thanks for reminding me of it, Shilpi. Yes, I think I'd prefer to do it that way. Now I must start looking for banana leaves....

    3. Yes Madhu, Oh! Calcutta's steamed fish is heavenly, they have this whole range of steamed goodies, oh goodness me, my mouth is watering.... HA! HA!

  2. Wow!!!nice one,,,delicious recipe really,,,i liked your blog,,Thanks for share the lovely recipe!!indian restaurant in panama