Ilish Macher matha die Chalkumro’r Tarkari (Ash gourd curry with or without fish head)

12:40 PM

Do you believe India and Bharat are two different nations? I DO. Whatever we see or experience in the big metros or towns are mostly unheard of in the remote villages. Take for instance Education. When we get to choose from a variety of good play schools for our hardly 2 years old infant, in many parts of India students have to walk miles after miles to reach a basic educational institute. Leave aside the problems like bad infrastructure or medical facilities, even Safe drinking water is a big hurdle in most of the villages. I have many relatives living in villages in and around various parts of West Bengal and most of them have migrated to bigger towns for the basic amenities for their kids like education or medical amenities, or have send the kids away to Kolkata for their studies.

My Maternal aunt lives in a big town in Midnapore district with her husband (my uncle or Mesomashai as we call in Bengali). The two grown up kids are working and studying in Kolkata. Recently, my uncle experienced vigorous pain in his left chest. Immedieately they assumed heart problems and took him to a  renowned doctor (with 3 very important degrees from foreign Universities). He checked him and said its not heart problem but normal indigestion and acidity. Gave him some antacid. Next day after lunch he again had pain in the same area, this tim it was excruciating. Again the same Doctor checked him and gave him more antacid with some de warming medicine. But my family wasn’t happy with these circumstances and decided to transfer him to Kolkata for a good check up. On Arrival to a good multi specialty hospital in the metro he was diagnosed with several heart attacks and severe artery blockages. He was put into the ICU the very moment and remained there till he was finally transferred to the operation theater for an open heart surgery.

Though we all are thankful to God for giving us another chance to safely take him to the doctor but what if we have believed in the previous doctor’s observations and had kept him there. And this also raises the question of what happens to others who do not have the means to come to bigger cities for medical needs. Not everyone is blessed enough to spend such huge fortunes on treatments. But isn’t it the basic amenities that we all need? Why cant we make it sure that everyone is getting minimum facilities to live a healthy life. Is it really difficult to upgrade the govt run hospitals and health centers with proper facilities, equipments and good Doctors? I do not have any answer to this. But am scared to think of all those people living in the villages, without any resource depending on the health centers there.

This curry that I am sharing today is a no nonsense no fancy everyday dish which is sometimes cooked with Hilsa head for suitable special occasions. Though this looks very similar to the bottle gourd but has a very distinctive flavour. Which is more noticeable when cooked. Mostly it is cooked with simple spices like ginger and cumin or with fish heads. I never cooked this dish as it was difficult to get tender ash gourds in Bangalore which is a prerequisite for this dish. Mostly ripe varieties were available there for adding to sambar. Also the Chalkumro (ash gourd) plant I had in my Bangalore house never rewarded me with fruits. It gave me ample amount of leaves and stalks to cook this and this but it never bore any fruit.

So this time when after the operation of my uncle my masimoni chopped the gourd to cook I dint waste any time and was ready with my camera. It tasted delicious with steamed rice and since then I have cooked it twice in 2 weeks. Just today I made it without fish and trust me its still delicious. Am not much of a fish eater and being a Bengali I should be ashamed to declare that I liked the vegetarian version more (now my hard core non vegetarian family will disown me for sure).

Chalkumro’r tarkari with or without fish head


Tender ash gourd: 1 medium (5 cups when chopped)

Whole cumin: 1 tsp
Ginger paste: 11/2 tsp
Cumin powder or paste: 1 tsp
Coriander powder or paste: ½ tsp
Dry red chillies: 2-3
Bay leaf: 1 big
Mustard or any refined oil: 2 tbsp (if you are using Hilsa then try to use mustard oil or use 1 tbsp each of mustard or refined oil)
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Sugar: 1/3 tsp

Head of one hilsa fish


Potato: 1 medum


Wash, Peel and finely chop the gourd in thin long pieces. Keep this submerged in water.

If you are using hilsa head, smear it with turmeric and salt and keep aside.

If you are using potato, peel and cut in small cubes.

Mix the ginger paste and cumin-coriander powder in ¼ cup water and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a kadhai or pan and fry the hilsa head till golden on all sides. Take out and keep aside.

In the same oil add the cumin seeds and red chillies (torn in two pieces). When the splutter add the potatoes if using. Fry till they are golden. Or directly add the spice paste. Keep on frying on low till oil oozes out at the sides.

Drain the excess water from the chopped gourds and add this to the spice mix with salt and turmeric. Give it a good mix to coat everything with the spices. Break the fish head in chunky pieces and add to the gourds. Mix and cover. Let it cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes.

Lot of water will come out and the gourd will be cooked in its own juice. Don’t add any water just keep on checking from time to time and give it a good stir.

When all the water evaporates, check if the potatoes have cooked. Adjust the seasoning and fry it for another 3-4 minutes till you see oil coming out from the sides. The gourds will be soft but not mushy as seen in the picture.

Once done, mix in the sugar, adjust seasoning and serve with steamed rice.

That day my family had it with macher dimer bara (fish roe fritters), aam dal (Red lentil soup with raw mangoes) and Ilish macher patla jhol (hilsa in light gravy). A simple and satisfying meal to remind ourselves how beautiful life is.

A homemakers Notes:
For variation you can also cook it with soaked black gram or chola. Add this along with the chopped ash gourd and cook the curry as mentioned above.

If you plan to cook it with fish head you can use head of any big fish like katla or rui (rohu).

Bottle gourd could also be cooked in the exact same way. For variation try adding musur daler bori (fried red lentil dumplings) or soaked black gram.  

chalkumro, ash gourd, white pumpkin, bottle gourd, bengali style gourd curry, curried ash gourd, ash gourd cooked with bengali spices, ash gourd and panch foron, ash gourd with hilsa, ilish macher matha die chalkumror tarkari, chalkumro'r ghanto, dal die chalkumro, chola die lau ghanto, lau chingri, macher matha die lau ghanto, niramish lau ghanto, amish chalkumro ghanto, how to cook ash gourd, what to do with white pumpkin, benagli style cooking, bengali curries with fish head, no onion cooking, no garlic recipes, indian vegetarian recipes, indian bottle gourd recipes, east indian curries.

You Might Also Like


  1. Gorgeous looking curry. Enjoyed reading your take on India and Bharat.

  2. that plate looks delightful no one will stop munching on it!!!! lovely click!!!!
    EVent-Quick & Easy Recipes-FBN
    Event-Healthy Snacks-GFR

  3. U r right about the medical facilities in small towns in INdia,:( platter looks so yum ,,,

  4. Awesome looking curry...Nice clicks...

  5. So true abt the systems in India.hope your meshomoshai is doing well now.I am bookmarking all your recipes .will try them as soon as I get a chance.

  6. I miss ash gourd in Delhi, you get only the red pumpkin and very rarey this gourd....

  7. Curry looks amazing. Great preparation.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  8. Sayantani
    Kemon achho?
    You are fully settled in Cal now, I guess. I have a Ilish machher matha in let me see if I can get a chal Kumro here. Cant wait to make this. Will be in Calcutta in December 1st week...Will meet out a menu well in advance for my approval ha ha
    Bhalo theko tomra sabai

  9. Thats one yummy platter. Nice curry.

  10. Sayantani,
    ki darun lobh lagche dekhe.oshadharun hoyeche ranna and picture dui to he..hope your meshomoshayi feels better soon..hugs and smiles

  11. Flavorful and yummy preparation with fantastic presentation.

  12. Awesome curry..flavorful and delicious..yum

  13. iisssh paturi dekhe mukhe jol ashe geche. And I agree with you on Bharat and India.. totally diff and I hope someday we become Indians :)

  14. Amar favorite curry with rice, both veg and non-veg version..mesomasai bhalo achen to ekhon..even amader kolkata sahare erokom anek doctor achen, we should always take atleast two opinions from two doctors.clicks gulo beautiful, Sayantani

  15. the difference b/w india and bharat quite informative the dish too

  16. I'm not familiar with this dish but your clicks tell me it's flavorful and simply delish!

  17. I like the vegetarian version and would love to try out this spicy ash gourd curry!

  18. My my isn't it looks gorgeous ....I can't shop drooling though I dont eat fish ....gud one

  19. Amazing curry and lovely presentation,looks so tempting.

  20. Awesome looking curry and very beautiful clicks...

  21. without the fish head :) Your dish looks delicious! great presentation dear.

  22. Nice write up .... How have you been doing ? Some dishes can never go wrong .... especially those which are inherited from the family tree .... Simply drooling here :)

  23. Nice write up .... How have you been doing ? Some dishes can never go wrong .... especially those which are inherited from the family tree .... Simply drooling here :)

  24. Loved the curry I am happy there is a vegetarian alternative for fish used in the recipe.Will surely try this and let you know the results.

  25. Loved the fist click very much! Nice recipe,the whole spread in that plate makes me hungry!!

  26. Totally new recipe to me and nice write up....

  27. I love that plate sayantini...looks so delicious!

  28. Uffffffff dekhe jibhe joleshe gelo. Kotodin ilish machh khaini. Opurbo baniyechho r kheteo oshadharon hoyechhe bujhtei parchhi. Ichhe korchhe tomar barite chole ashi ilish machh diye chalkumror torkari khete. Khub shundor presentation.

  29. Sayantani - sending speedy recovery vibes to your meshomoshai. can't imagine how docs can be so darn careless and irresponsible. ekhane holay sue kore dito!

    ur blog is a store house of authentic bangla recipe. amar eshei ei shob dida ar ma r khabar dekhe khide y peye jaye ar mon kharap o hoye jaaye..I ate so much in India, but really missed ma as I did not get to eat any of these kind :(

  30. Looks delicious, love simple curries. Hope your uncle doing well now.

  31. looks amazing!
    please check out my event:

  32. being a bong, i know this one is much sought after dish, we sometimes use kumro also, your prep is really looking fantastic, btw I am hosting a hilsa festival at my space, would love to receive some yummy ilish recipe form u


  33. Dear Sayantani
    Ilish machher matha ready...ebar chalkumdo jogaD kor-te jachhi!!!Hopefully I will get it in the Basti market...they normally sell exotic bong vegetables , not available in the up Market.

  34. Finally cooking today...I also saw I missed many great recipes...I am trapped in Facebook and will get out soon and back to food blog ...

  35. Hi Sayantani, Found you in the web land googling Chal kumro recipe. I am in California. I found this vegetable in my friend's garden who is out of town...I think this veggie is a chalkumro and I am going to try your recipe. Hope your uncle is doing good. Anindita.


Popular Posts