Muri Ghonto Fish Head Stew Recipe

Muri Ghonto is a signature dish in Bengali cuisine that originated in the land of rivers during the early days of the ancient trade routes. In essence, it is a spicy fish head stew cooked with fragrant lentils or rice and slowly braised in a melange of spices and aromatics. It is very special to Bengalis both in Bangladesh and West Bengal.


Recipe by: Chris Scott

Prep Time: 1 hour

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Cook Time: 1 hour

Feeds: 4-8 people

Parts of Fish: Heads and frames


For the lentils:

• Moong dal (yellow lentils) – 3 cups

• Warm water – 3 cups

• Salt – ½ tbsp

For the fish:

• Fish – 1-2 (heads, frames, and any uneven pieces)

• Salt – 2 tsp

• Turmeric – ½ tsp

• Red chilli powder – 2 tsp

• Oil – 1 tbsp (for marinade)

• Oil – ¼ cup (for frying)

For the maśalā (spice mix)

• Oil – ¼ cup

• Bay leaves – 2

• Cinnamon – 2-4

• Cardamom – 4-5

• Cloves – 4

• Whole black pepper – 7-8

• Dried red chillies – 4

• Onions – 1 cup, diced

• Onion paste – 1/4 cup

• Garlic paste – 2 tbsp

• Ginger paste – 2 tbsp

• Red chilli powder – 2 tbsp

• Turmeric – 1 tsp

• Coriander – 2 tbsp

• Cumin – 2 tbsp

• Green chillies – 4, bruised

• Fresh coriander stalks – ¼ cup, chopped

• Tomato – 400ml can, chopped

Bringing it all together:

• Soaked grains (moong dal)

• Salt – 1 tsp

• Hot water – 1 cup

• Fried fish pieces

• Hot water – 1 ½ cups (adjust as desired)

• Roasted cumin powder – 2 tsp

• Ghee – 1 tbsp

• Coriander leaves – ¼ cup, chopped

• Fried onions (bereshta) – ¼ cup

• Green chillies – 2


Preparing the lentils:

1) Heat a cast iron skillet or a thick-bottomed wok over medium heat.

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2) Dry roast the moong dal while continuously stirring until it changes colour from yellow to golden brown.

3) Remove from heat and transfer the roasted dal to a pot.

4) Wash the roasted dal with cold water to stop the cooking process.

5) Drain the water and set aside.

6) Soak the roasted dal in warm water and add salt.

7) Let it soak for 30 minutes to hydrate the dal.

Preparing the fish:

1) Wash and pat dry the fish head(s) and other fish pieces.

2) In a bowl, marinate the fish with salt, turmeric, red chilli powder, and a little bit of oil.

3) Set aside for 15 minutes.

4) Heat oil in a sauté pan over low heat.

5) Fry the fish pieces until well browned on all sides.

6) Set aside the fried fish pieces on a plate.

Preparing the maśalā (spice mix):

1) In the same sauté pan used for frying the fish, heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat.

2) Add bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, and dried red chillies.

3) Temper the spices for 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn them.

4) Add diced onions and fry until golden for about 5 minutes.

5) Add onion paste, garlic paste, ginger paste, red chilli powder, turmeric, coriander, and cumin.

6) If needed, add a splash of hot water to prevent the dry spices from burning.

7) Fry the mixture until the raw smell disappears and oil starts to pool on the sides.

8) Add bruised green chillies, chopped coriander stalks, and tomatoes.

9) Sauté until the water from the tomatoes evaporates and the oil starts to separate.

Bringing it all together:

1) Drain the soaking water from the grains and add them to the sauté pan with the spice mix.

2) Add salt and combine the lentils with the masala base.

3) Braise the lentils over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 7-8 minutes.

4) If needed, add a splash of hot water to prevent sticking.

5) Add 1 cup of hot water, mix well, and cover the pan.

6) Stir occasionally until the water is fully absorbed.

7) Add the fried fish pieces and braise with the lentils for about 5 minutes.

8) Add 1 ½ cups of hot water (adjust as desired for stew thickness).

9) Mix everything, cover the pan, and simmer on medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes until the lentils are cooked.

10) Turn off the heat and add roasted cumin powder, ghee, chopped coriander leaves, fried onions, and slit green chillies.

11) Give a final stir, cover tightly with a lid, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.


The Kai Ika Project is a non-profit initiative bringing communities together to share previously underutilised fish parts, to reduce waste and feed the community while conserving fish for future generations.

This kaupapa [project] is a collaboration between the Outboard Boating Club of Auckland (OBC), Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae and LegaSea.

Since the project’s inception in 2016, over 300,000kg of previously unwanted fish parts have been collected from various sources and shared with appreciative families and community groups throughout Auckland.

Kai Ika offers a fish filleting service at Westhaven’s Z Pier in Auckland and at the OBC. Filleting services are available to events across the North Island by prior arrangement. This enables fishers to have their catch expertly processed whilst ensuring nothing goes to waste, and 100% of funds raised are reinvested back into Kai Ika.

We aim to demonstrate how people can respect the marine environment by using more of the fish they take, fostering improved behaviours that will enable us to take less.

Through sharing a variety of recipes that cater for a range of skill levels, we hope to empower home chefs to prepare less familiar secondary cuts.


Waste not, want not. For more information visit

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