Steamed Bhetki fish with mustard


Well, even as the name suggests, this is one of the most popular, authentic and  a delicious signature dish from the eastern belt of our country and is a culinary gastronomy delight.More commonly called as ‘ mustard fish’ in general terminology when associating with Bengali cuisine, ideally, the version with Ilish (Hilsa)fish is the signature dish, for its taste and texture. Ilish apparently signifies a taste that’s unique and distinct and pairs best with mustard ,so goes the saying. Although mustard based fish gravy attained its peak in popularity and fame in the state of West Bengal and is mostly associated with the Bengali dictionary of Fine cooking, in reality ,mustard fish is a famous dish across the belt not just West Bengal.  For me, growing up in Guwahati,Assam, this was one of our childhood’s favorite dishes that would go best with steamed rice, part of Assamese cuisine too.

Nevertheless, in the Eastern belt , especially Assam , West Bengal and Orissa, the river water fishes call for some great recipes and each variety of fish has its unique taste and flavor. The Rohu of course is the most popular, also coz of its economic viability and is considered affordable amongst the masses while the bhetkis and the Ilish are the premium ones and are considered royalty . And with royalty comes a certain taste as well. So is the case with Bhetki. Bhetki mostly as much as i know works best for fish fillet and cutlets more so coz of its meaty and flaky texture. The typical Bengali cutlets that you see are usually made from bhetki fillets.

And since  I was home for almost a month ,not been under really  great health conditions, mom actually parked herself 24/7 around me so that I come around fast. Really, moms bring so much of peace and relaxation in life just by their presence and of course “Mom’s food’. So ,for a month she did everything possible,and made some of the most amazing dishes. She had to actually work hard around her dishes ,making earnest efforts  to even attract my taste palate that seeked nothing and smelled nothing, my palate being almost ruined due to the hoards of medicines and the slow recovery process. So bhetki and mustard, bhetki with coconut , bhetki head with dal , etc  appeared in the kitchen in most of the meals  , the aroma almost intoxicating, not to mention the taste. Of course the freshness of the fish adds to the taste and flavor of the resultant curry as well.And I am really surprised to see the availability of fresh river water fishes in Mumbai


This by far is one of the most simplest of dishes that a I know. Its almost surprising that sometimes the most simplest of ingredients can work out to a a great dish. No extra spices, no additional flavor just a few ingredients and the royal flavor of mustard oil.. What you get is one of the most gorgeous fish recipes in the world, piquant and pungent, yet with a slight sweetness of the fish engulfed by the mustard sauce. Yellow mustard seeds paste and mustard oil is all that you ideally need to make an authentic steamed mustard fish curry.Of course enhancers like coconut is also used sometimes to arrive at a varied and delectable taste, But my dish today is the original recipe with just the basic ingredients although I loved the version with the mix of coconut as well

I have made a small video to explain the process.




Fish(Bhetki)- 2-3 peices
Yellow mustard paste- 2 tbsp blended with a little water
Green Chilli- 2 slit
Salt- As required
Turmeric- 1/4th tsp
Mustard oil- 2 tbsp
Ginger paste- 1/2 tsp


  • Soak the mustard seeds for some time
  • Now blend the mustard seeds and ginger together with little water to make a fine paste
  • Now add turmeric, salt and make a fine paste
  • In a steamer or a pan , add the fish, mustard oil and pour the paste over it and mix well.Add to green chilli over it..Steam it for about 10 mins
  • I used the pressure cooker hence put the ingredients in the pan, put some water on the cooker and put the pan on it.Cover the pan with a cover or leave it open but see that the water does on enter the pan
  • Steam without the whistle for 10 minutes
  • Open and add additional mustard oil if you wish
  • Serve your yummy steamed fish


Point to be noted: You will need to use only yellow mustards in this case. Dont even contemplate substituting the black ones in case you dont have the yellow mustard seeds at home.You could also add a little grated coconut to the mix for an enhanced flavor

The wonderful blend of the  mustard and the raw mustard oil is what gives the final taste. the slight piquancy of the mustard is actually quite enticing, rather pungent that scores well with the raw mustard oil. In fact the authenticity of the dish is the piquancy of the yellow mustard seeds paste and the oil. But the use of mustard seed paste is quite challenging as too much of mustard will spoil the dish turn it either bitter or too piquant. So you need to get the consistency correct for the right taste The mustard oil enhances the taste of the dish which transforms the dish suddenly to a dish of gourmet cooking.Steaming,  actually mellows down the pungent flavor of the mustard and what you get is a wonderful light yellow dish that gives you the most beautiful fillets of fish, flaky and soft, beautifully covered by the light yellow sauce that which is a beauty. Steamed rice alongwith  is just enough for a complete meal, nothing else.The same ingredients is cooked and not steamed gives out another fantastic variation which is more popular actually .I will write on that later in a separate post.

So ,for all you fish lovers, this dish definitely should be in your priority list of recipes to relish, not just because of the preparation or the taste of mustard ,but also for savoring the wonderful and distinct taste and texture of the river water fishes and savor the freshness. A fresh river water fish takes any dish to a different level instantly with its sweetness and soft texture. It definitely cant be written or explained but needs to be experienced. For me this dish has never failed to indulge me, of course it happens to be a part of my cultural roots. But for the rest am sure it will be a new find and a taste that will stay sealed in your list of favorite dishes

If you want to look at more such dishes from Bengali cusine or the eastern belt of our country you can read the following:

Chingri(Prawns) Malai Curry

Steamed Prawns in mustard Coconut sauce

Fish in mustard-curd Sauce

Fish with Lai Xaak(Mustard Greens)

Doi Mach

Fish in sesame seeds and coconut

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