Mourola Maach er Tok Jhal


A tok is a light sweet-and-sour dish served at the end of a typical Bengali meal. It is usually served either after the regular fish course or instead of it, and just before the mishti (dessert). Due to the cooling effect that a tok is thought to have on the body, it is usually consumed during the harsh summer months. 


This recipe by Dolon is slightly different from the usual tok that you will find in most Bengali households. Usually, a tok is meant to be light and dilute, but this one is rich, thick, and spicy. Dolon’s mother first learned this dish from one of her sisters, later adding her own flair to it by introducing lime leaves to the recipe. The lime leaves give this dish an additional layer of citrusy freshness. Whenever Dolon has this tok, she is reminded of the countless summer vacations she spent with her dadu. Dolon’s grandfather loved small fish and would often get mourola fish from the local market. His daughter, Dolon’s mother, would cook the fresh fish into a gorgeous tok for him. Over the years eating this mourola maach er tok has become a way for Dolon to remember her dadu.

Mourola fish 200 grams
Mustard oil 2 tablespoons
Raw tamarind 25 grams
Mustard seeds ½ teaspoon
Dry red chillies 3
Green chillies 4
Kaffir lime leaves 3-4
Salt To taste
Sugar 4-5 teaspoons

Tamarind water, made by soaking the tamarind in one cup of water for 10-15 minutes.

Remove the gills and clean the fish thoroughly. Make sure to gut the fish carefully to avoid a bitter taste.

Marinate the fish in salt and turmeric for 10-15 minutes.


In a kadhai or a wok, heat the mustard oil until it starts smoking. Once this point is reached, reduce the heat. Fry the fish for a minute. Make sure that the fish doesn’t overcook as it is delicate and tends to become dry and tough very quickly. Remove the fish from the wok and set it aside.


In the same wok add the dried red chilies and mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start crackling, pour in the tamarind water, without the tamarind pulp.


Add the salt, sugar, and red chilli powder, and half a cup of hot water and continue cooking on medium heat for 5 minutes. The quantity of sugar can be adjusted depending upon how sweet or tart you want it to be.


Add the green chillies and the fried mourola fish. Cook carefully for another minute.


Transfer the tok to a serving bowl. Tear the lime leaves, and sprinkle them on top. Cover with a lid for 10 minutes and allow the flavour of the lime leaves to infuse into the tok.


Serve warm with plain rice at the end of a meal.

Dolon Dutta Chowdhury is a banker and a content creator from Kolkata. She has a keen interest in history and is extremely passionate about preserving her city’s rich heritage. This led to the creation of @kolkataclassics, a project that aims to create a repository and preserve stories and memories of the heritage eateries of Kolkata for posterity. 

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