Hot and Sour Fish - Climbing Perch

Hot and Sour Fish Climbing Perch: Tok Jhal Koi Machh recipe

Tok Jhal Koi Machh recipe - Hot and Sour Fish Climbing Perch

This sour fish recipe comes from my grandmother. Even while I prefer to follow a recipe exactly as it is written, it can be fairly expensive to make a daily dish that has been served for more than a century today. Because of its uniqueness and taste, it has a higher status, and as a result, its price reflects this.

It is one of the best side dishes for the Bengali who adores fish and rice to the core. One of these dishes is so delicious and light that it makes you want to eat more than normal, both consciously and unconsciously.

Even though I didn't like to eat kwoi fish as a child because of its blackish hue and jagged bones, my family laughed at me when they saw how eager I was to eat this dish more than other of my favourite dishes.

5 stars based on 135 reviews, Calories per serving: 250,
Prep time: 10 min, Cook time: 15 min, Total time: 25 min,
Yield: 4 [4 servings], Serving size: 1 pc,


  • Fresh Koi/Climber Perch fish [the koi fish is eaten whole] : 400g
  • Mustard oil: 50g
  • Turmeric powder: 2 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 2 tsp
  • Yellow raisin: 10g
  • White and black mustard seeds [1:1] paste [added salt, green chili paste, and mustard oil]: 1 tsp each
  • Fresh tamarind juice: 1 cup, light
  • Salt and sugar: to taste
  • Bay leaves and whole red chili: 2 each


  1. Clean and wash the fish with lukewarm water and salt. Season the fish lightly with salt, turmeric, and 2 tsp mustard oil. Keep aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Mix sugar, salt, and red chili powder with tamarind juice. Grind water-soaked mustard seeds with salt and green chili, add 1 tsp mustard oil and keep covered for 10 minutes.
  3. In a deep pan heat the oil, add 1 tsp salt and one pinch turmeric powder to the hot oil. Now fry the fish carefully until slightly dark in color, but do not fry much. Keep aside.
  4. In the same oil add bay leaves and whole red chili, mustard paste and cumin powder, add raisin, now add fish, soon after that pour prepared tamarind juice. We make this dish somewhat sweeter than other Bengali fish dishes. Boil the fish on medium-to-high heat for 5 minutes then boil for another 10 minutes on simmering heat. Now switch off the heat. The fish should then be left covered till serving time. This hot and sour fish item is best to be served with piping hot boiled rice. It may be garnished with fresh coriander leaves.
  5. Recipe Tips:

    • If fresh fishes are unavailable one can add one tbsp onion paste in this recipe and fry a little until translucent before adding mustard paste to the oil.

    • The only tough part of making this dish is that the fish becomes very slippery while cleaning with water and gets somewhat difficult to be scaled and cleaned thoroughly and while discarding the gills. Lukewarm water with salt can makes it easier to deal with. And the best trick to avoid splutter oil while frying the fish is to add some oil during seasoning of the fish with salt and turmeric and also by adding slight salt and turmeric to the hot oil while frying the fish.

    My father was naturally knowledgeable about fish. What kind of behaviour does a fish exhibit? Where does it choose to live? What foods does it like? When does it have a special flavour? My father claims that once consumed, the roughly hand-sized koi fish from Chalanbill, Bangladesh, are impossible to forget.

    He would buy a lot of good-quality koi fish and keep them in an earthen pot with water. Because it is the only fish that can be maintained alive for a long time (apart from Singi and Magur Jeol fish, which have supplementary breathing apparatus). Koi would leap while being cleaned. Even my mother's hand suffered numerous cuts while chopping the fish. Because of its slickness, it needed to be kept extremely thoroughly covered with ash during cutting. It leapt a lot, even after being left in the hot oil of the pan.

    After a few days of rain in the Jaistha month's heat, hundreds of koi fish from the pond would sprint to the ground. Fish used to be grabbed and thrown into the pond by certain individuals. They hated koi fish and did not eat it during the Chaitra month or the first few days of Ashad. Koi are typically covered in soft algae at this time. Also, when Kartika draws to a close, fish in the field locate safe havens and subsequently return in great numbers with new fry.

    Koi fish may move from one pond to another using their head fin. If the water level rises during the cloudy Chaitra-Baishakh month, the koi fish will lay eggs in the hole. A single koi fish can produce anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 hatchlings. If it notices a fish or a threat, it will conceal the spawn in its mouth.

    Fish were readily accessible at the time. When the first monsoon rains begin, the Pushkarini pond overflows with water, and hundreds of fish leap to the surface in response to the call of the clouds. Egg-filled koi from the dry season didn't have any appeal for Bengali people. Due to the harsh summer, koi fish tended to have protruding heads and slender bodies. Bengalis used to make jokes about "chait maisa kai maachh" around thin kids with chubby heads.

    Koi fish from the Jessore region is renowned for having a huge head and a thin body. The "Yesure Kai" fish is found in the Jessore region of what is now Bangladesh. Bengali proverbs refer to those with large heads as being in the Yesure koi, akin to the Jessohar kai macha.

    With the morphological characteristics of this kind of koi fish, the pupils saw an uncanny likeness to one of their classmates. In contrast to his lean and skinny body, the classmate's head was fairly enormous. They called him "Yesure Kai" to catch him because of the manner he used to stroll to school while carrying a large umbrella on his head and likened him to a koi fish.

    He would stutter and add, "Kosure Jai," which would make him even angrier. Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar (1820–1891) himself is the "Yasure Kai" in question. A tenacious man, a teacher, a man of great character, a man of such a strong attitude, always going against the grain.