top of page

Fish Kalia

This typically Bengali fish curry cooked in an onion, tomato yogurt base is totally the bomb. Grew up eating it on special occasions and feel grateful to be able to make it for the family when I have a little extra time.

The entire reason this dish, or type of dish is a labor of love because it requires careful treatment of all the individual components before bringing them all together. While this may look like stew, the way this dish is cooked is nothing like stew.

Each main ingredient, the potatoes and the fish, are first seasoned and heat treated in some way.

There are many local variations to this is how I do it. I cut the potatoes, and then lightly fry after seasoning it. This process of lightly frying it before cooking it in the curry preserves its form and prevents it from disintegrating as it is cooking. This process gives the potatoes the yummiest texture.

As in traditional Bengali cooking with fish, I seasoned the fish with turmeric, chili and salt. Historically, treating the fish with these spices was was one way of disinfecting the fish; turmeric is a great disinfecting agent. It also is an effective agent in getting the fishy smell out, a main reason many people avoid fish.

I fry the onions and garlic before grinding it into a paste. This really helps with thickening the sauce in a restaurant style manner.

To flavor the oil, I add the the whole spices or garam masala to the hot oil. The onion paste is brought back into the wok and I carefully fry it so all the water evaporates. The layman's indicator for this is the bubbling of the oil bubbles at the edge of the wok.

Then, I add the tomato pure to deglaze the pan. Again, I carefully evaporate the water before adding the spiced yogurt mix. I cook the masala till the water evaporates again. This dish is truly a labor of love because at every step, one could want to speed up the process resulting either in burnt masala or undercooked masala. Not desirable either way.

Once the bubbles appear on the edge after the yogurt mixture, I put the potatoes back in. I add water to make the gravy and then cover the wok in a seal-proof way to cook the potatoes and thicken the gravy. My go to method is to add a layer of aluminum foil before covering the wok.

Once the potatoes are fork tender, I remove them from the gravy, slip the tilapia filets back in and then add the potatoes back. This last step is something that my mom was very particular about to flavor the fish with the gravy while preserving it's form. If you cook fish, you know how delicate it can be so handling it with respect is critical as we navigate this dish from wok to plate.

If you feel like you want to put together a well rounded Bengali lunch, just add the Hasslefree Basmati Rice, the Arhar Daal (Pigeon Peas) and the ALOO KOPIR CHECHKI | POTATO CAULIFLOWER STIR FRY


  • 2 filets of tilapia

  • salt

  • 2-3 tsp tumeric

  • 1-2 tsp chilli power

  • 1/2 cup vegetable/canola oil

  • 2 white potatoes, cut into quarters

  • 1-1/2 medium yellow onions

  • 3-4 cloves of garlic

  • 2-3 pods of green cardamom

  • 1 pod black cardamom

  • 2-3 whole cloves

  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1 bay leaf

  • a small bark of whole cinnamon

  • 1 tsp sugar

  • 1 medium tomato, pureed.

  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger

  • 3-4 tablespoon yogurt

  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder

  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder

  • 1 tsp chic pea flour


  1. Thaw the tilapia filets and bring to room temperature. After that, dab the filets with paper towels to remove any excess moisture and place on a baking tray. To make it more convenient, you can also cut the filets into smaller pieces.

  2. On each side of the filet, sprinkle 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder. Drizzle about 1 tsp oil. Use a kitchen brush to coat the filets. Flip. Repeat on the other side. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.

  3. While the fish is marinating, peel and prep the potatoes by cutting them into fourths. In a wok, add about 2 tablespoons of oil and heat on medium high. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes to the oil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder and lightly fry the potatoes till they are reddish brown. Remove from wok and set aside.

  4. Turn on the broiler. Broil fish filets for 8 minutes on one side. Take out of broiler and let sit for about a minute or so. This makes it easy to flip the fish filet without breaking the fish. After flipping the fish, put it back in the broiler for another 7-8 minutes. Once done, take the fish out and leave on the tray.

  5. Now to work on the base. Chop onions roughly, peel the garlic cloves and give a rough chop.

  6. In a wok, add about 1 tablespoon of oil and heat on high. Add the onions and the garlic; saute till reddish brown and remove from heat and let cool for few minutes.

  7. In a food processor, add the onion and garlic. Make a paste.

  8. In the same wok used to fry the onion and garlic, add another tablespoon of oil and heat on medium high.

  9. Add the whole spices - green and black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds and bay leaf to flavor the oil.

  10. Add the onion garlic paste in the wok.

  11. Add the teaspoon of sugar.

  12. Fry the onion garlic mixture for about 5-7 minutes till it turns reddish brown and onions caramelize.

  13. Add the tomato puree and cook for another 2-3 minutes till the masala has little bubbles of oil on the periphery or edge of the masala.

  14. While the tomato is cooking, make a mixture of the yogurt, grated ginger, chic pea flour, cumin and coriander powder.

  15. Once the oil bubbles appear in the wok, add this mixture and cook for another 5-7 minutes till oil bubbles appear again.

  16. At this point, we are now ready to make the gravy. Add about 2 cups of water. Not too much because we want the gravy to be thick.

  17. Add the potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes till potatoes are fork tender.

  18. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove the potatoes from the curry.

  19. Slip the fish into the gravy and add the potatoes on top.

  20. Cover and let sit. This fish curry is best served after the fish has had time to rest in the gravy. At least an hour. Longer is better.

  21. Serve with warm rice or shredded cabbage.

Please email me at if anything is unclear or if you have any questions. If you try this recipe and it works for you or made modifications, please leave a comment to let the community know.


26 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page