Ele Bele Maachh - Bengali mustard fish recipe

Bele Maachher Jhaal - Spicy Goby Fish

Bele Maachher Jhaal - Spicy Goby Fish

Bele fish [Glossogobius giuris] is a kind of fish that likes to lie amidst the sand or sandstone, found in streams and rivers usually associated with streams having gravel or sand substrates. It feeds mainly on filamentous algae and and also small fishes and crustaceans. The tank goby, বেলে Bele of Bangladesh,  Scribbled goby of Sri Lanka, Weligouva or Bia of Philippines found in the rainy season in the rivers, streams and beels. It cannot live in muddy water for long.

The real test one has to face while cooking this recipe is to keep the fish from breaking since it becomes very brittle while cooking within a few minutes and it becomes a matter one's patience that determines the succces of producing this recipe as a whole. When this is accomplished the dish is given a particular name "Bele Machher Jhaal". While one can take pride on passing the test on the other hand one does not need to feel like a loser if one doesnt. Given the success ratio to be less than 20% there happens to be another form of this dish in which the fishes are in scrambled form and the dish named recognised as "Bele Machher Jhuri". This recipe holds its special place in the heart of a Bengali and none can be found to even hesitate before having it. I personally have always tried to produce the classic tougher form of this dish and is now an expert at it. This is why this recipe is named "ELE BELE" which means nonchalance.

By Barnali Dutta Published: February 21, 2015, 4.0 stars based on 15 reviews , Prep time: 15 min, Cook time: 10 min,
Total time: 25 min, Yield: 8 pcs [4 servings], Serving size: 2 pcs, Calories per serving: 150


Fresh Bele fish: 500g, Black mustard paste: 1 tbsp, Green chili paste: 2 tsp, Turmeric and red chili paste: 2 tsp, Mustard oil: 2 tbsp, Hung curd: 1 tbsp, Salt: to taste, Sugar: one pinch, Silted green chili: for garnishing


  1. Clean and wash the fish, season with slight salt, turmeric and red chili powder.
  2. Mix mustard paste, 2 tsp mustard oil, salt, turmeric, chili powder and one pinch sugar, keep covered for 10 minutes.
  3. Marinade fish with mustard paste and hung curd for 5 minutes. Take a nonstick fry pan. Arrange marinated fish in a row. Put the pan on medium-to-low fire. Do not stir, just roll the fish on the pan a little while one side of the fish is done, add mustard oil by the side of the pan and try to roll the fish on the other side. Cook for 10 minutes. The fish will be cooked properly by then. Serve with hot rice.
  • This fish dish can duet [it has very less and soft thorns] with Mustard Hilsa Fish [quite similar to taste].
  • “Ananta bends over the boat’s edge to look into the crystal water. First he sees the reflection of his own small face. As he keeps gazing into the transparent water he sees the sandy bed, shallow near the bank. He sees the silver tracks left by a snail or two that moved along the sand, and a group of small bele(bay-lay) fish resting still on the sand, so still that he imagines he can pick up a few by dipping a hand in and leave the others unmoved. The sandy bottom gradually dips away from the shore. “……... from A River Called Titash  [Titash Ekti Nodir Naam] by Advaita Mallabarmana

    Country roads, take me home to the place I belong...

    While reading the novel, it dipped my mother in a journey into her world of a far faint picture. From what she narrated it threw light upon some bright cheerful days of her life. As the rainy season began, she used to sit down on the side of the canal, jumping with splashes [jhapang dub] into the rain water. The flood water used to rise up about 6 yards [manush saman ghola jol]. All the fish used to get drawn into the flooded fresh water. Bamboo panniers, which were called ‘dwair’ by the local people were spread at the mouth of the canal. Within few hours these panniers trapped prawns, bele and other varieties of fresh fish that were found dancing in the dwair. She felt fish changes its color when eggs are developing inside it. She liked the eggs of the bele fish. Still she likes bele fish very much though she never found the eggs after leaving her “Desher Bari” [country home].

    Bele contains least niacin about 0.3mg/100g.
    Fish name in the Local Market Language
    Tenk-dikkop Afrikaans
    Gabus hitam Bahasa Indonesia
    বেলে, Bele, Balia Bengali
    Bakla, Batug, Sagunayon Bikol
    Nyaguna Bunubaa
    Ka-tha-bo, Nga-sha-poe Burmese
    Lam go ue Cantonese
    Tank goby English
    Whitegoby, Bunog, Pidianga English
    Jättitokko Finnish
    Gobie French
    Flachkopfgrundel German
    Abbrony, Bhangi-sidda Kannada
    Phursandi Konkani
    Kurudan, Pooan Malayalam
    Kharbi Marathi
    Bullam Nepali
    Gulah Oriya
    Gel-ye Mahi Chshm Noarye Persian
    Chokole Pokomo
    Boulla, Gooloowah Punjabi
    Nullatan, Uluvai Tamil
    Isakee doondoo Telugu
    Buhin Thai
    Cá Bống cát Vietnamese