Fragrant Bengali Fishcakes


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes 16 Small Cakes, Enough to Serve


Appears in

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Classic Recipes from the World's Favourite Chefs

Around the World in 80 Dishes

By David Loftus

Published 2012

  • About

Pushing on towards Bengal, the cuisine of this landscape is known for its subtle yet sometimes fiery flavours and for its use of fish plucked from the fresh-water rivers of the Ganges delta. Sarah Tildesley, probably the best food stylist in the world, makes a chilli-free version for me, but our friends love these hot balls of spicy Bengali deliciousness.


  • 300g/11oz floury potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 300g/11oz boneless, skinless, sustainable white fish fillets
  • Groundnut oil, enough for shallow frying
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1—2 fresh green chillies, seeded and very finely chopped
  • A piece of fresh ginger, approx. 3cm/ inches, finely grated or crushed
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A small bunch of fresh coriander, stalks finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon of plain flour


First, put a steamer over simmering water so it can get nice and hot. When it’s ready, put in the potato cubes (keeping a piece back) and cook for 5 minutes, lid in place. Add the fish fillets for a further 3 minutes, or until both are cooked through. Remove and set aside to cool a little. Drain any excess moisture.

Gently heat a glug of the groundnut oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic, chillies, ginger and onion, and sizzle together. Then add all the spices, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and the finely chopped stalks from your coriander.

Once the onion has softened, add the potato and fish to the frying pan, with another splash of oil if needed, and cook until the ingredients are dry. Mix well to combine, then mash everything together in the pan with a fork. Add the egg, the coriander leaves and the flour and shape into 16 walnut-sized balls.

Heat your groundnut oil for frying — you should aim for the oil to be about 2cm/¾ inch deep in an accommodating frying pan. To test when the oil is ready, take a piece of potato and gently drop it into the hot oil — if it starts to fizz, you’re good to go.

Gently squash each ball to form a patty. Don’t worry if they break up a little around the edges; it will make the cakes crispy. Fry the patties, very carefully, in batches for 1–2 minutes on each side until golden, then remove with a slotted spoon to transfer them on to kitchen paper.

To serve

Shredded white and red cabbage and sliced red onion, dressed with lime juice and toasted coriander seeds