Mackerel Dry Fry

Mackerel Dry Fry
A Bengali bhaji
Served with plain boiled rice and fried dry chillies.
A humble dish, just really simple

Mackerel dry fry is a fishy go to!
If you love fish, want something quick, then this simple dish will be up your street. It’s a bhaji style dish. No sauce, but you won’t need it!

We Bengalis love our humble simplicity when it comes to food. It’s about enjoying basic ingredients and produce without the cumbersome processes, faffing, and effort. This is where the Mackerel dry fry comes in!

When you live in a hot climate like India/Bangladesh, you sometimes want easy sustenance. Many don’t always have the privilege of a well stocked larder or often spices or selection of foods to choose from.

Before stoves you used a hole in the ground for a cooker and wood. On hot days speedy food with little preparation is the way to go.

Here comes a simple dish, a Bengali way of making best of what most people have. Fish from their reservoirs, dried chilli, garlic cloves, onion, fresh coriander, salt and sugar!
And that’s all you will need! Yep… that’s all, and you can feed a family with the staple rice. As I have said, it’s for fish lovers!

I’ve used tinned mackerel in brine.  Obviously, fresh fish would be the order of the day if I was back home…maybe caught by myself or with nets, but here we have boneless yummy fillets all prepared in a tin!

The brine helps cook the onions and the fish flavours to get incorporated fully.
I can happily eat a bowl of rice with this instead of the fancy curries I have at home. Its the kinda dish that is comfort food, so humble that it resonates with our past and history, our present and hopefully in the future.


1  tin mackerel fillets
Pinch of salt
1 onion sliced
1 tsp sugar
5 dried little chillies  or 1 red chilli torn
Large handful of fresh coriander chopped
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
2 cloves of garlic
Drizzle of oil


Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the whole chillies to a side, the garlic, and onion to pan. Let them sizzle until the garlic starts to colour and the whole chillies darken. Remove the dried whole chillies and sprinkle with a tiny sprinkle of salt. Keep this aside to serve with food.

Keep the ingredients separate this way the garlic and chillies will fry.
Remove the chillies when they darken and sprinkle with salt. This will keep then crispy.
Add sugar and dried chilli flakes

Now mix all the ingredients together. Add the sugar and chilli flakes, you will add the brine, so salt will be checked later.

Gently fry on low till the onions have softened and just starting to colour.

Gently fry till onions are soft
And just getting a little colour

Next, add the mackerel and the brine. Break up the fillets, and as this warms up and cooks, flatten the fish with the back of the spoon so it flakes flat.

Mackerel fillets in brine
Add brine and all

Continue to dry fry on medium/low heat until it starts to crackle in sound. The liquid will have dried up, and the onions will just start to turn caramel slightly at edges. When there is no liquid at all and you are dry frying, the smell will change to a more rounded toasty aroma of the mackerel.

Dry fry till no liquid residue
Flatten the fish with back of spoon
When you hear crackles, it’s done. Just get a little colour again on the onions.

Turn off the heat. Add in the fresh coriander, stir, and taste for seasoning. Adjust salt.

Add plenty off fresh coriander
Stir in, and it’s ready to serve

Serve with hot plain rice and the whole fried chillies on side to break in if you like.

If you want a taste of Bengal this is a sample! Enjoy a taste of village food!

Copyright © 2020 – Papli Rani Dey
All Rights Reserved.

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