December 16, 2018

Recipe: Bengali lemon coconut fish

Gandhoraj Maach (Bengali lemon coconut fish)

This delicate fish dish is traditionally made with the Bengali lime, called Gandhoraj. I have adapted this recipe using lemons and Kaffir lime leaves, offering a delicate and simple dish perfect for spring and summer.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings


  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut (about 1/2 regular coconut)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 piece fresh ginger, 1 1/2 inches long, peeled
  • 1 or 2 green chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 fresh lemons
  • 2 Kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 2 to 3 dried red chilies
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • 2 pounds halibut or any other firm-fleshed fish
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Banana leaves (if available) for steaming



Place the freshly grated coconut in a blender with the hot water and blend until smooth.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.

Return the coconut mixture to the blender, with the liquid strained off. Add in the ginger, green chilies and turmeric and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl.

Zest 2 of the lemons and add the zest to the coconut mixture. Cut one of the zested lemons in half, remove the seeds and squeeze in the juice. Set aside the other zested lemon and thinly slice the third lemon for garnish.

Add the Kaffir lime leaves to the coconut milk and stir well.

Stir in the nigella seeds, red chilies and coriander leaves. You should end up with a pale yellow sauce flecked with nigella and coriander. Salt the fish, then add it to the coconut milk mixture and mix well.

Heat the oven to 300 F and prepare a large baking dish with about 2 inches of water.

Line a heat-proof casserole dish with banana leaves and pour in the fish mixture.

Cover with a piece of foil and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.

Cool slightly, remove and taste the sauce. It should be smooth and gently tangy. Depending on your preference, add in a little more lime juice.

Garnish with the remaining coriander and the lemon slices and serve hot, ideally with steaming rice.