How To Pre Prep Fish

Sauted fish ready for cooking

When bengalis cook fish what usually follows is the tedious task of fish prep!

Its a prelude to cooking a fish curry. In west Bengal fish is usually sauted first for 2 reasons. First to illiminate the raw fishy smell. Secondly it firms the fish so to prevent it breaking up during the cooking time in the curry. This sauteing process is called ‘shathlaying’ or to ‘shathlaye’.

There are some recipes where fish do not require pre prep and sauteing but they tend to have a unique method or its only for a specific type of fish.

There is a move towards fish being sauted in Bangladeshi cuisine in recent years but fish is generally cooked without any pre prep or sauteing traditionally.

How to saute fish!

The sauteing has a trinity of spices used. Salt, chilli powder and tumeric. Only the quantity varies.

Bewarned though! Often there can be spitting of oil if there is alot of water when the fish hits the oil. Try pat dry and remove as much water as possible and add a drizzle of oil to the fish so the spices will adhere to the fish.! Also oily fish will splutter and spit. You will do good to invest in a splatter guard. It will save your surface and walls but mostly you! So be armed, just in case!

The technique is essentially the same for all fish. Fish is treated with much respect and diligence. Care and gentle handling is required to keep the fish intact.


Method for fish prep:
Fish of your choice
Clean, pat dry and place your fish in a bowl.
Add 1 tsp turmeric.
1 tsp chilli powder.
Half tsp salt.
Mix well with spices/salt then shallow fry the fish in frying pan on both sides, gently, till just golden. Drain and put aside.

How to saute Keski fish:

In a clean bowl add your keski, half a teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of chilli powder. Mix this up and put aside.

Trinity of spices

Next in a pan add some oil and when the oil is hot place your marinated keski in the oil and let it gently cook on a medium heat. Do not stir this just move your pan and jiggle it until will the keski looks opaque.

Hot oil and non stick pan

Next gently turn the keski over with a palate knife or fish slice and you will now cook it for another few minutes without stirring it again.

Gently fry oneside then other

Next remove your keski with a slotted spoon and place in a dish and set aside.

Remove and keep aside

Marinate the fish with ½ tsp each of salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder.

How to saute Ilish fish:

Sprinkle with saute trio
salt, chilli and tumeric powder

Keep it aside for 5 min.

Let it stand in spices

Heat the pan and add a little mustard oil in it.

Heat oil
Gently place in oil but be wary of any spitting oil

Lightly fry the fish gently. First on one side then flip over with palate knife to the other. You just want a slight char on both sides.

Get a light char

Remove and set aside.

Set aside
Mrigal fish sauted same way
Sauted in frying pan

How to saute Kajoli Fish:

Rinse the fish clean once defosted.
Add  1 tsp each of tumeric, salt and chilli powder.
Mix in and set aside.

Add spices
Mix and let it stand for few minutes

In a pan drizzle some oil, heat thid then add the fish. The fish is extremely delicate so leave it and just turn once. Wait till the edges look like they have crisped and oil is fizzing. It does not matter if they stick to each other, just give a few mintes on each side.

Place in single layer

Move your pan to shuffle them and use a palate knife to turn.

Jiggle pan
Fold over with palate knife

Once lightly fried remove and set aside

Sauted Kajoli fish

How to airfry/grill fish:

Use airfryer if you have one. Add 1 tsp of oil to the trinity of spices and cook on 200 deg till fish has fried and gone golden brown. You can use grill too but keep close eye on them. Place on greaseproof paper or airfry liners. This prevents from sticking.

Mrigal fish sauted under grill
Turn over half way
Keep close eye on them


Sauted fish freeze well and will be good to use within a month. You can also keep some in the fridge but use within the week.

Freeze in a container to prevent fish getting broken.

Batch fry fish. I sometimes do a few different fish to use through the week. I keep 1 in fridge to use within a week.

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