Katla Macher Kalia (Kaliya) or Macher Kalia is a popular Bengali dish where large chunks of river fish (particularly katla or catla) are cooked in an onion-based coarse gravy with various spices. Fish Kalia is commonly served at Bengali weddings aka biyebari or any other special occasions. Hence, it is also known as biye barir katla macher kalia.
Even though we refer to it as a Bengali recipe, its background is rather different. Fish Kalia is believed to have travelled to Bengal. There are many stories about its origin. According to two articles published in Vikhrolicucina and Goya Journal, macher kalia had an influence from Awadh cuisine from the time of Nawab Wajid Ali.
Like other Bengalis, it is our family favorite. Therefore, if we get a large size fresh fish (paka mach), I prepare this spicy and delicious kalia.
Ingredients for Macher Kalia
Fish: Fresh water fish is must to cook this dish. Preferably, large size catla or katla fish is the best choice. However, you can also use rui mach or Rohu to make rui macher kalia in similar way. If you ask, what do I mean by large size then let me clarify that fish should not be lesser than 3 to 4 kgs in size. Use larger fish chunks for this curry. You can use either peti (oily belly part which contains less bones) or gada (bony part from the back side).
If you are in Bengal, getting a fish of choice is not a problem. However, nowadays people who resides in other parts of India (other than Bengal) also gets larger size freshwater fish. If you are outside India, then you have to rely on nearby Bangladeshi stores for this kind of fish. You can also try this dish using Rohu fish.
Onion: Fish is cooked in onion-based gravy and the nature of the gravy should be coarse. Hence, I always use a portion of grated onions or chopped onions and a portion of onion paste, which give this kind of texture.
Ginger-Garlic: Ginger is must for this gravy. I use homemade ginger paste. Earlier garlic was a big no for this dish, but over the period of time it has become almost mandatory for kalia. I use garlic paste for this recipe.
Tomato: It adds the tangy taste in the gravy, and I prefer to use tomato paste for the same.
Powdered Spices: Turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, and cumin powder is predominantly used in this dish. You can also add garam masala powder. I avoided using garam masala powder since I used whole spices.
Whole Spices: It includes bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom, and clove.
Oil: I always use mustard oil for any Bengali fish recipe, and I would not suggest any alternative for this.
Others: Apart from the above major ingredients you need salt and sugar to balance the taste. I also use green chilli.
How to cook Macher Kalia Recipe Step by Step
Macher Kalia is an easy to cook Fish recipe and you can cook the complete dish under 45 minutes to 1 hour. Unlike macher jhol, kalia is all about rich spicy thick gravy. Many prefer to add potato chunks in the gravy. However, I avoid potatoes in kalia. Many kalia recipes also calls for yogurt however, I don't add it. Sometimes I add raisins and it gives a nice flavor to the gravy.
To make the easiest and best macher kalia, simply follow the step-by-step recipe.
Once you get the fish from the market, wash and clean them well. If you have stored fish in freezer, then you must thaw it properly before marinating it.
Now take fish pieces in a bowl and add salt and turmeric. Then rub them on both sides of the fish well and allow to marinate for 10- 15 minutes.
Now heat oil in a pan and fry both sides of the fish pieces until they turn golden brown. After that, take out the fish pieces and in the remaining oil add whole spices. Once the oil turns fragrant, add chopped onion and cook until translucent. Next add onion paste and cook really well until the raw smell disappears.
After that add ginger paste and garlic paste and sauté for few minutes. Add green chillies followed by all the powdered spices including turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander, and cumin powder. If require add little water at this time to avoid burning of spices.
After mixing the spices add tomato paste and cook until the raw smell of tomato is gone. Add salt and sugar and mix well. Once the masala is well cooked, you will observe that oil starts separating. Next add 2 cups of warm water and allow to boil the gravy for few minutes. Now taste the salt and adjust accordingly.
Add the fried fish pieces in the gravy. Cover the pan and cook under low flame for few more minutes. Switch off the flame and give a standing time of 5-8 minutes before you serve the fish kalia.
How to serve Macher Kalia
Fish Kalia is best paired with plain white rice. You can also try this dish with Bengali style Basanti Pulao or Misti Pulao.
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- 4 nos Katla Fish Pieces nearly 500-600 gms
- 1 no Onion, medium chopped
- ⅔ cup Onion Paste
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Paste
- 2 teaspoon Ginger Paste
- ½ cup Tomato Paste
- 2 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- 1 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder
- ½ teaspoon Cumin Powder
- 1 no Bay Leaf
- 1 inch Cinnamon Stick
- 2 no Cardamom
- 2 no Clove
- 2-3 no Green Chilli
- ⅔ cup Mustard Oil
- Salt to taste
- ½-1 teaspoon Sugar
- Take cleaned fish pieces in a bowl and add salt and turmeric. Then rub them on both sides of the fish well and allow to marinate for 10- 15 minutes.
- Fry the fish pieces on both sides in hot oil until they are golden brown.
- After that, remove the fish pieces and add the whole spices to the remaining oil.
- Once the oil turns fragrant, add the chopped onion and cook until the onions turn soft.
- After that, add onion paste and cook it thoroughly until the raw scent is gone.
- Then, add the ginger and garlic pastes and cook for a short while.
- Add the green chillies next, then the spice powders such as cumin, coriander, turmeric and red chilli powder. If necessary, add a little water now to prevent the burning of the spices.
- When the spices are well combined, add tomato paste and cook until the raw smell disappears.
- At this time, stir in the sugar and salt.
- When the masala is thoroughly cooked, you will see that the oil begins to separate.
- After that, add 2 cups of warm water and let the gravy simmer for a short while. Now taste the salt and make the necessary adjustments.
- Add the fried fish pieces in the gravy. Cover the pan and cook under low flame for few more minutes.
- Switch off the flame and give a standing time of 5-8 minutes before you serve the fish kalia.
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