Macher Muro Die Bhaja Muger daal (Dry Roasted Yellow Lentil Soup with Fish Head)

9:07 AM

Yellow lentil or Mug dal is like a special occasion dal for Bengalis. For everyday meals mostly red lentil or musoor dal is cooked, either in its plain soupy avatar or with sour mangoes or tomatoes. But on those special days when lunch or dinner needs an extra touch Mug dal is roasted on very slow flame with utmost care not to burn it and then delectable vegetarian and non-vegetarian version of Dals are made with it. Go to any Bengali marriage or party and the meal will start with this dal, begun bhaja (fried eggplant), Gandhoraj Lebu (Lemon) and some curry. Even in special occasion meals at any home this dal starts the show.

But not everyone is Bengali and not everyone can manage fish head with the expertise and élan in which Bengalis handle their ‘Macher Muro’ (fish head). If I understand it correctly then other than Asians (I am saying this as I have seen Chinese and Malaysians eat their fish heads too) no one cooks fish heads as a dish. Following this the obvious question rises…what happens to the fish heads then? If you have an answer please let me know. Anyways for us Bengalis Mache'r Matha or muro or fish heads are very coveted item. A new groom is always welcomed with a huge fish head, and on that occasion less is never more rather its ‘bigger the better’. Even on a baby’s rice ceremony (where the baby is introduced to real food) she is always presented with a fish head as an integral part of his first meal. 

Go to any Bengali household during the lunchtime and you will see fish heads are force fed to childrens. We have always been taught that eating a fish head makes us intelligent and we never doubted that or thought its fishy or made up. My fish loving family is a big believer of this fishy theory and love this thick, creamy dal for lunch. Even my 2 years old cant wait to have is meal and patiently sucking all the juices out of his share of Macher muro.

Even if you don’t eat fish, cook the dish without the muro and it still tastes great.

Macher Matha Die Bhaja Muger Dal.
Mung or yellow Lentil: 1 cup; use the smaller version known as Shona mug in Bengali.
Fish Head: 1 (of one 2 kg fish, if the fish is bigger then use half of it or increase the quantity of dal and spices and enjoy it more)

Turmeric powder: 2 tsp
Chilli powder: ½ tsp
Coriander powder: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: ½ tsp
Sugar: 1/3 tsp
Ginger paste: 1 tsp
Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp

For tempering:
Bay leaf: 2 small
Whole Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Dry red chillies: 3
Oil: 3-4 tbsp; Preferably mustard oil. but use any oil you like

Smear salt and turmeric to the cleaned and washed fish heads. Keep aside for 15 minutes.

Mix the turmeric, chilly, coriander and cumin powder in 2-3 tbsp water. Mix and keep aside.

In the mean time dry roast the mung dal on very low flame. Keep on stirring continuously to make it golden evenly. Once the beautiful aroma of roasted mung hits and the dals are nicely golden take it off. Rinse under running water. Pour in some fresh water (31/2 cups) and boil with little turmeric and the ginger paste. Make sure the dal is not over cooked. It should be soft but not mushy. You can also use a pressure cooker the way I do. Close the lid and cook it on medium high flame for one whistle. Let the steam release on its own.

Heat the oil in a big kadhai or heavy bottom pan. Fry the fish head till its golden. Drain and keep aside.

In the same oil add the bay leaf. After half a minute add in the cumin seeds and chillies torn in two. Fry till the aroma rises then add the spice paste. Fry on low ill oil oozes out.

Break the fish head in chunks, add to the pan with the boiled dal. Mix and cover. Let it soak all the aromas for a couple of minutes.

Mix in salt and little sugar to balance the taste. Boil till it thickens and the raw smell is gone. The dish would be thick but not dry so adjust the liquid accordingly by adding warm water.

Finish off with a final sprinkle of garam masala powder.

Serve warm with rice, alu bhaja (crispy fried potato) and a piece of lemon.

A Homemaker's Note:
if you are cooking for a crowd use finely chopped onions in this dish to make it fiery. fry the onions after tempering the oil and cook till mushy. onions adds a richness which is required when the food is cooked long before it is actually eaten.

with the similar tempering and spices winter vegetable dal could also be cooked. Cut cauliflower, carrot, beans, potato and pumpkin in big chunks. boil along with the lentil. make sure the vegetable only is cooked not mashed. add tomato and peas while the dal boils.

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  1. dal looks very tempting the clicks
    Super Yummy Recipes

  2. Looks very tempting with a bowl of rice flavorful and yummmy.

  3. Sayantani,Kemon acho?
    Monger dal r mach'er moro diye hole aro khete bhalo head keo khete chaye na well except for me it gets cooked occasionally..tobe ami dhone/jeerey goron na diye hi kori..hugs and smiles

  4. Quite a new day for me, super tempting,makes me drool..

  5. I am going to show this post to Arvind. He is from north so he doesn't eat fish much and head .. forget it! I crave for it a lot and this is making me drool

  6. Drool worthy curry,tempting me a lot..nice recipe dear

  7. delicious looking lentil soup looks wonderful

  8. Wow that looks absolutely tempting dal. gorgeous pictures that make anyone drooooooooooool.

  9. will try the dal without the fish head ! I just loved your post on baking bread...You are a baking guru now :) I think I will keep a print of it in my kitchen...never tried the version with milk powder, am so tempted to try it now...great great post that one, Sayantani !!

  10. This is a delicious dal! My MIL taught me the same one but without fish head (!!) Love the taste of the dry roasted mung dal, it is now my favourite kind of dal!
    P.S. I too, grew up eating fish to be more intelligent!! had even extra serving before exams ;-)

  11. Dal ta ja dekhte hoyeche na..I have no words to praise you, Sayantani...awesoem clicks

  12. Machher mudo diye daal is one of my favourite dishes. Felt at home at Mumbai only after I went to the market got a fish head and made it for the first time ever in my life

    I have the Malay fish head curry. Not a patch on ours

  13. Maacher Muro diye daal, aha, dekhte darun hoyeche :)

  14. ooof ki kando korecho tumi:) this was one of the many dishes that I LOVED when ma made. when i first came to USA, i had called her and written down the recipe and I cherish that and make it ditto. shottyi alu bhaja and gobindo bhog er bhaat is what I used to love having this with... jibhe and chokhe jol.

  15. Thanks everybody!
    @Jaya, haan thiki bolecho sabai mainly foron diyei kore kintu amader barite ektu masla day. macher muro'r nayto badda gandho beroy.

    @Kankana, ha ha let me know the outcome.

    @Arch, thanks! but trust me when I say you are one of them who inspired me to try and bake breads at home. so all thanks go to you.

  16. @Vanessa, Ha ha and then you acquired so much intelligence that you left eating fish. i never ate fish as a kid and now when I dont understand a point my father blames me for not eating fish heads.

    @Kalyan, I read about this at Pree's blog as you mentioned this incident there. and trust me I remembered it when I was posting this.

    @Soma, ami bishesh somoy paina tai rojkar rannai beshi post kori. maa didimader eisab recipe ektu ektu kore to harieyei jachhe. tomar bhalo lage dekhe khub anondo hochhe. ebarei bolbo bhabchilam kintu tumi byasto thakbe bole bolini, next time ele aboshyoi amar barite asbe ak bela. amar maa darun ranna koren. sab tomar pachonder dish banie khaoaben bolechen.

  17. dal looks fantastic and tempting, whenever I went to Kolkata, ma always prep it..darun kicchu lage na..

  18. The name n looks of that dish screams authentic Bengali cuisine to me ~ almost feel like I am in Kolkata :)

  19. You can definitely send archived entries for Hilsa Festival, just leave a comment in the event page that u have linked to us.
    thanx for taking interset in the festival...will be waiting for your scrumptious hilsa dishes


  20. Fish head is a favorite among mallus too...I always wonder the similarity between these two states...

    great to see so many authentic bengali recipes...I am a fan of Bengali sweets...

    Btw...Thanks for dropping in...Glad to follow u

  21. I've never tried dal with fish, ever. Sounds like I need to remedy that soon...!

  22. thanx for pointing that out dear, you can send me the links, being in WP, cant use the linky tools. I have rectified it in my post

  23. Lo ve the creamy rich looking gravy.. I am sure it tastes good too.. Sounds great :De

  24. hi again sayantani

    you know what I have almost read your entire blog..loved evry bit(I read while feeding my baby on my iphone, hence cud not express my joy that time ;))
    I too am a libran and relate to many things..
    loved the milk boiling saga :)) has the baby H started doing his part??

  25. First of all let me thank you for your kind words in response to my post.
    Being a probashi Bengali I remember when I first heard about dal with macher muro, Iwasn't too sure whether I would like it but once ma cooked it I was bowled over. Probashi or not my Bong genes are alive and kicking.

  26. Ja bolecho !! I think only we Bengalis know how to relish every part of fish :-)Macher matha diye dal ta oshadhoron lagche go
    Hamaree Rasoi

  27. Love the beautiful color of the dal..will like to cook my lentils your way soon.

  28. fish head OMG my moms fav...i must try ths dear...thx a lot

  29. Oooooh, looking at this makes me hungry even after having my lunch. Will have to give the recipe a try!looks so tempting..

  30. Came in through Indiblogger, Enthralled & Now following you.

    Kudos on a blog well maintained!


  31. This is just the recipe I was looking for before I venture on to cook for the 1st time the great Bengali's Macher Matha :)thanku :)


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