Padma Pabda Fish Curry

দই পাবদা Doi Pabda Fish Curry

Pabda: nowadays even pabda fish has become another ceremonial dish and has lost its status of one of the important staple dishes. It has high nutrient value containing protein 19.2g%, fat 2.1 g%, carbohydrate 4.6 g%, energy 114 kcal, calcium 310 mg%,phosphorous 210 mg%, moisture 73 gm%, mineral 1 mg%, and iron 1 mg%. Nutritive value / 100 g of raw ingredients. Ingestion of this fish helps in increasing cholesterol metabolism. Other than this it also has the good traits of other nutritious ingredients. Callichrous pabda flesh is demulcent, cardiac, stimulant, and carminative.

Padma Pabda - The Historical Story

"In Abul Fazl’s Ain-e-akbari [1596-97] it is mentioned that near Kajihata the river Ganga gets divided into two and one of the channels flew eastwards and entered the sea by the name Padmabati [commonly known as Padma]. For the last 400 years the course of Padma in Bangladesh appears to have frequently changed and has shifted southward to the present Padma. Once this river used to flow beside rajshahi Rampur and boalia then crossing Dhaleswari and Buriganga it used to touch Dhaka and join with the river Meghna. Even in the 18th century the minimal slope of Padma towards the sea was quite southwards from the present course. It used to cross the districts of Faridpur and Bakharganj and join with the Meghna north of the island Shahbazpur situated about 40 kms away from the present Chandpur.

Many of the smaller rivers and streams of that time had also gone through quite some changes. For e.g. The rivers Bhairav and Kumar is also drying up in recent times while on the other hand the rivers Madhumati and Arial kha has got a new life. The effect of time is maximum in the district of Madaripur in Bangladesh. On the banks of the river there flourishes ports which are important trade and commerce locations. The river Padma and Meghna meets at Chandpur in Bangladesh. The Hilsa of Chandpur is world famous not only Hilsa various other fish species like famous Pabda fish are found in the Padma.

Nostalgic niche

Whenever Bangladesh come to their mind the beauty of nature is no sooner open upon and is immediately viewed with their inward eyes of the post-colonial people who migrated from east Pakistan to west Bengal and left the bank of river Padma settling by the river of Ganges. The vivid blue sky and the figure of mango tree, the banana and the palm trees distinguishes the fair and shapely, the sound of rowing boat and the smell of water, a faint music from the distant the bhatiyali [the song sung by the boatman] or the majhigaan from the fishermen boat, banyan tree by the side of river bank swinging to and fro on those hanging banyan tree roots having the mango seeds whistling between two lips. Though my parents agreed from the bottom of the heart to the gentrifications of their neighborhood yet missing the peace of natural life, which was quite evident while from their narration of past life that spread to our mind as well.

This is also felt while reading the narration of writers which is a keen to the narration of my ancestor such as in Srikanta, Indranath and Annanada Didi dwelling in "Srikanta" storied by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhya, Pramathanath Bishi in Padma, and Kopabati, Subodh basu in Padma Pramatta Nadi, Icchamati of Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay, Antarjali Jatra of Kamal Majumder, Jalangi of Shoukat Osmal, Jal Jangal of Manoj Basu, Padmanadir majhi by Manik Bandopadhyay, Tarashankar bandopadhyay in Hansuli banker upokotha, and I still remember two prose from Sahaj path the first book of a Bengali, Amader chhoto nodi and Abdul Majhir Galpo by Rabindranath Tagore...a yet never ending list is there.

Lower Bengal‘s rivers are the most crucial geographical elements that determine psychological responses, culture and religious practices of its people and the regional identity of this river- centric landscape the result of which is that man and his environment evolves among the four different components of nature, land, river, tree and human. The man was there as a child of the rivers and now as if they are like fishes out of water indeed.

"Those days - an imaginary eyeliner"

I never experienced fishing, but I think I know every detail about how to hook and catch a fish. I can see within my closed eyes how my little father was having fun. It was always not enjoyable getting stuck at home during water logging which was quite frequent then especially during the monsoon season, but that young one did not feel the same. What I came to know about fishing through his story was always so lively that for the moment I always felt I am doing the same.

Me mum Fishing:

There was once a lifetime experience of course a fancy fishing fantasy when I was in the fourth standard. It was raining and I was grounded at home, and a 2-day long power cut was there to accompany me. We tried to spend our time by playing bagh-bondi [Bagh bandi is a two-player abstract strategy board game named tiger hunt game from Lower Bengal, India and similar to Chinese checkers game uses an alquerque board] with colorful legume/pulses, chess, ludo, and UNO cards which became quite boring after a few hours. Then baba started telling his childhood stories as usual in a very interesting way.

“It was quite usual in the rainy season, that he woke up to find that floodwater around their house had swelled up even more. Two or three large sized ponds used to surround their house. I surprised after learning how they used to move from kitchen to boithokkhana [outhouse or drawing room area] using small boat, dingi. Merchants went about on boats hawking hot jilapi,khaja, goja, batasha and other tasty sweets to feed villagers during the rainy seasons.

The firm land around the village was cultivated with mostly rice and jute as water reached up to almost the top of the plants and jute plants rise a little over the water as always. What I felt that he described as it was like a game between jute, paddy and the rain water to try and catch the top of the crop plants.

Amidst the gaps of the rice fields, villagers set up fishing nets [দোয়ার পাতা dwar] to catch fish. Fishing nets often trapped the abundant koi fish. The koi became thick, fatty, and tasty after getting plenty of nourishment thriving in the floodwaters. Hot rice with fried koi fish was a popular delightful meal at both noon and in the evening meal.

courtsey : Fishing tips at ""

The young boy took a fishing hook to catch fish and kept sitting on the barandha ( দাওয়া daowa) the whole day to catch fish. It was always a thing of great fun for him. He remembered Pabda fish was particularly foolish. It used to swallow the bait almost immediately. However, the same was not so with Bele fish. The thread needs to weight a little more with the help of lead or shisha buttons to raise and drop continuously during fishing. The clever fish would take its time sniffing before it took the bait, constantly teasing him.

Freshwater fish of Bengal is getting fast extinct due to drying up of rivers and ponds by both man-made and natural causes. More or less 250 varieties of freshwater fish can be found in the water bodies of Bengal at present. Firstly I would like to discuss about the most common way of fishing that is by a fishing hook because many of us cannot even know the names of such fishes and our generation doesn't even think if we could preserve our natural fish species.

Fishing with a hook: a rod/hook shaped curved trap is the principle of a fishing hook. There are different types of fishing hooks. Different hooks are used for fishing different species of fishes. While fishing with a hook the bait is of great importance. Which fish loves what as a bait is known to regular fishers naturally. For e.g. earthworms are used as bait for fishing Tengra, Pabda, Taki, Baro Baim, Shol, Boal, Gojar, Koi, Magur, Singi, Bhetki, etc.

The dried up shutki fish mixed with a small amount of wheat flour is used as bait for the fishing of koi fish. This is used in still water.

Another type of bait is prepared by burning/roasting small prawns and is used for fishing pholui fish. Other fishes also give into this bait but if pholui is present the horde consists of the latter in larger numbers.

Fermented Sugar syrup mixed with methi is used as bait for Catla Catla or katala fish. Some use stale guava or jackfruit in place of sugar syrup.

Actually the bait is not a food for the fish. The smell of it attracts fishes which get trapped to the hook then while trying to explore the source of the smell.

The Seasons also plays a major role in fishing. Like in winter one doesn't go fishing with a hook since fishes reside in the warmer lower portions of the water then and are not susceptible to the hook.

Two methods are used for fishing with a large fishing hook, one, during the interval of monsoon to spring. A medium sized bamboo net [khadim খাদিম ] is stuck into the ground in the water near the shore of a pond or any such water body. A strong thread fixed with a hook is attached to the bamboo to which a small fish that is alive is fixed by the back and released in the water. The fish moves along the surface of the water attracting larger fishes like Shol, Gojar, Boal etc . The larger fishes try to eat the small fish and get trapped by the hook [টেটা tayta].

Fish knowledge tells us that some species of fishes are sensitive to particular sounds. Some fishes get excited and closer to a particular sound source while some others move away from it or start jumping erratically. Such knowledge helps us in devising new techniques of fishing. Such technique is used even while fishing with a simple fishing hook. Just after throwing the hook into the water sound is made with the head of the hook in the water which helps in attracting fishes like Tengra etc. Actually we already use a lot of science from early times as a process of our living which we come to know later formally.

Fishing from Script

Early references found in Ramayana tells us that Lakshmana was advised to use an arrow for catching fish in the crystal clear water of the Pampa Lake and to have the scales cleared and the fishes roasted in an iron pan over the fire. Rama and Lakshmana were advised to cook rice and fish with salt and red pepper on reaching the ashrama on the west bank of the Pampa Lake.

The second method of catching fish is referred to by means of a baited hook or angle. In Aranyakanda, Jatau is said to have told Ravana, when he was running away with Devi Sita to the following “You have come in contact with a deadly snake where from you will not get any relief, just as a fish cannot escape and is ultimately killed when it swallows an angle baited with meat.”

I found one book about art of Angling “The Compleat Angler” written by Izaak Walton first published in 1593 so good yet the text of ‘Matsyavinoda’ in ‘Manasollasa’ titled Abhilashitarthachintamani’ unrivalled even in modern works on the art of angling, a very interesting description of fishing for royal recreation in the 12th century in Sanskrit authored by King Someshvardeva (the son of King Vikramaditya VI) in 1127 A.D. is the first known treatise on the art of angling in India. Chapter XIV of Manasollasa shows every details includes description of 35 kinds of marine and fresh water fishes, each with a distinct name, the feeds provided to fishes and only half a dozen of these were nurtured for the royal game of angling. It is evident that considerable knowledge of fishes was gathered almost 900 years ago, but was ignored in subsequent centuries. The text also includes a brief description of cooking fish as he had acquired knowledge of many arts of sciences.

The Portuguese traveler Fernao Nuniz noted in Vijayanagar the availability of fish in large quantities like varal, aral, horned valai and prawns, which was eaten fresh and sometimes salted. French physician and traveler François Bernier observed in Bengal 'fish of every species whether fresh or salt in profusion. Babar wrote: "The flesh of Hindustan fishes is very savory, they have no odor or tiresomeness".

The royal food: fish preparations from earlier script

Sadhale and Nene have provided a very interesting description of fishing in the  translation of verses 1524–1536 (Manasollasa: Section III, Chapter 13) 
  • In the preparation of scaled fishes, the scales must be first removed with effort. Then if the fish are big they should be cut into pieces. If small, they can be used in the same (natural) form.

  • Heads of fishes must be cut away (like the tail-part of birds). Intestines should be removed after cutting open the belly.

  • Rub oil and salt on fish so that they become slimy and the odor fades away. Afterwards wash them with water mixed with turmeric paste. Tie them in a piece of cloth and press to squeeze out all the water inside. Then mix them with the anakas (?) previously cooked thoroughly and kept ready for the purpose. After some time the cook should put down [from fire] the earthen dish and add seasoning.

  • Cut fishes into pieces and wash them well. Cook along with tamarind juice. Sprinkle well with wheat flour. Fry in heated oil till brown. Add rock salt. Sprinkle powdered cardamom and pepper.

  • Cook fishes as per test, in anaka, oil, or smokeless fire as per the method described earlier.

  • Cut fish into pieces, measuring four angulas (breadth of four fingers) each. Mix salt and store in earthen jars. These are called kharakhandas (salted pieces) that can be preserved for a long time. The cook should roast them in fire at the time of meals.

  • Take out the scrotums of a fish and roast them in fire. When hard, cut into pieces and fry in heated oil. Add powdered cardamom, pepper, and rock salt and season with asafoetida.

  • Samaraichchakaha, directs that the skin of Rahu fish be peeled off, the fish marinated in asafoetida and salt, and then dipped in turmeric water before being fried.
Some regional specialities of cooking fish in India
  • In Bengal except the soup-style lightly spiced tasty fish curry "macher jhol" there are different exclusive recipes under heavier spicing categories from steamed to braised, burned to baked, fresh fish paturi to dried fish shutki in lunch to dinner or in snacks or tea [fry, fritters, kabab, croquettes, kaviraji, cutlet] etc.

  • In Orissa, a morning meal of boiled rice covered with water [fermented rice] and kept overnight, is eaten with fish.

  • In Assam, a favorite curry is an alkaline salty extract of bananan roots cooked with fish.

  • In Kerala the Syrians have a deep red fish curry speciality cooked with the sour kokum fruit [kodampuli] and another sweet-sour dish cooked in coconut milk with tender mango pieces. Oily fish are frequently grilled in their own fat.

  • Goa has the golden caladine curry with turmeric. A green masala Mackerel and the the roe of the Kingfish, lightly salted and fried asa breakfast delicacy.

  • The Kodavas of Karnataka state cook tiny whitebait fish called Koylay-meen, bones and all to a dry spicy fish.

  • Kashmiris cook fish with lotus roots Nandri and a garlic-flavoured fish dish is called gardmuf.

  • Parsi cuisine has two specialities, one is Patra in which the fish cooked in a thick strong masala steamed in a banana leaf packet and the other is Pomfret cooked in a dark vinegar sauce.

  • One very exclusive preparation of Pondicherry is called poisson capitaine a dish of steamed fish served with mayonnaise and garlic paste.

Fish Fiesta Left and Right in Indian Cuisine

পদ্মা পাবদা Padma Pabda Fish Curry : A Bengali recipe for celebration

"Anybody can eat Pabda. It can be cooked light with less spices like kalojeera, halud, kancha lonka jhol [onion seeds, turmeric and green chili tempering] and with rich spices like doi sorshe makha [mustard seed paste and sour curd gravy] for very special occasions."

Today I am cooking my mother's one of the exclusive Bengali recipes "Doi Pabda". Cooking fresh Pabda fish did not take much time, within 10 minutes one can have a mind blowing sumptuous dish a never forgettable one.

  1. Fresh Pabda fish, 4 to 5
  2. Sour yogurt, 2 tablespoon
  3. Black and white mustard seed, 1 tablespoon
  4. Turmeric powder, 3 teaspoon
  5. Red chili powder, 3 teaspoon
  6. Mustard oil, 1 tablespoon
  7. Onion paste, 1 tablespoon
  8. Green chili, 3
  9. Salt, as per taste
  10. Sugar, one pinch to balance the taste.  


  • Clean and wash fresh pabda fish. Season the fish with salt and turmeric, keep aside.
  • Make a fine paste from black and white mustard seeds with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 green chili. Add 1 teaspoon mustard oil to the paste and keep aside.
  • Heat oil in a wider flat skillet, fry fish lightly until slight change in color is noted, keep aside. Mix yogurt, salt, turmeric and chili powder, add one teaspoon hot cooked fish oil from the skillet, mix well.
  • Heat the same skillet with the rest of the oil, add onion paste, fry a little until raw onion odor is gone, add mustard paste, stir and add fish, coat with the spices on both side carefully, add yogurt mix on the side of the skillet, stir and mix lightly in the oil, now mix all with of it with a featherlight hand. Add one pinch sugar and adjust salt to taste. Sugar to balance the sourness of yogurt and pungent taste of mustard seeds. Cover to cook for 5 minutes or until the fish curry releases the oil. Add green chilli just before closing the heat and give a resting time for a minute or two. Doi pabda is ready to be served with pipping hot plain boiled rice.

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Prep time: | Cook time: | Total time:
Yield: 4 | Serving size: 50g | Calories per serving: 80kcal | Fat per serving: 20g

Why fish is the ultimate source of protein for an animal.

100g of any kind of fish contains 14-15g of easily digestible, high biological value protein and some vitamin-A, B, D, E, calcium, phosphorous, iodine and zinc on average. The biological value of fish protein is 80 i.e. almost the entire amount can be used up by the body.

Since it’s easily digestible white fleshy fishes mainly constitute the diet of a patient and since the total Fat and Cholesterol content is quite low in fish it can be had without much concern.

The percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acid and saturated fatty acid is 2, whereas this percentage is 0.2 and 0.9 in red meat and chicken respectively. Therefore the content of polyunsaturated fat being higher than the content of saturated fat in fishes there is no other element better than fish in keeping diabetes, heart disorders, high pressure and hyperlipidemia under control.

Sea fishes are an important source of iodine. Generally fishes are good for health because of the amount of sodium being low and potassium being high.

The protein bonds in fishes being easily breakable they can be cooked and digested with ease. It has observed in a survey that Bengalis eat about 60 different kind of fishes. Since there are different varieties of smell and taste different fishes can be cooked using various recipes bringing variety in the diet of a person and also creating variety of health benefits.

Small boned fishes and canned fishes are one of the best sources of calcium. Some sea-fish species contain fish liver oil and omega-3 fatty acid which are adept in combating asthma, cancer, skin diseases, dementia, diabetes, obesity, and age related macular degeneration etc.

Although fishes have high protein content one should not consume more than 100-150g of fish in a day.

Maharshi Sasruta not only enumerated a number of fish species that have food value but also gave the relative medicinal properties possessed by different fishes. It is remarkable that the ancient Hindus had a fair knowledge of the involvement of both the anterior and posterior parts of the body movement of fishes. The fresh water fishes are grouped into four ecological ‘formations.’

1. River fishes, bulky in the middle (wedge-shaped). 2. Lake and tank fishes, bulky in the middle but with relatively smaller heads. 3. Spring and pool fishes, lengthening of the vertical axis. 4. Torrential fishes greatly flatten and depressed form