Malabar spinach with hilsa fish head

A dish made out of fish head… I am sure it sounds pretty weird to most of you 🙂 Well, the head is the most neglected part while making a dish out of fish. Very few people know how to eat it, but trust me once you try it out, there is no turning back.

Fish heads are supposed to be good for vision and memory and are fully packed with omega-3 fatty acids. With all these benefits and some amazing preparations in mind, there is no reason why a Bengali mother would not teach her children all the special techniques required to eat one. This is how I have been brought up as well.

The “favorite quotient” for hilsa is so high for me that whenever I get hilsa home, I prepare an entire meal out of it. Starting from ilish mach bhaja (Hilsa fry), ilish mach bhapa (Steamed hilsa) and this one right here. This medley preparation is one of my favorite for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the use of “panch phoron” and mustard oil gives an aromatic hue to it which I absolutely love. Secondly, the bitterness of the pui-saag (Malabar Spinach) balances out the sweetness of the pumpkin in an excellent way. And thirdly, the addition of fish head adds a third dimension to it altogether. The crunchiness of the fish along with its unique flavors gives the climax it totally deserves.

Also you can prepare the same dish in a “vegetarian version” by removing the fish head from the ingredients list. If you happen to do so, remember to top it with some lemon. The citrus-y effect gives it a good savory touch.

Malabar spinach with hilsa fish head

A medley prepared with fish head and veggies. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Hilsa, Ilish, Pui-saag
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 122kcal
Author: Anindita Das


  • 1 quantity fish head
  • 250 gms pumpkin
  • 4 sticks malabar spinach
  • 1 quantity large onion
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 6 quantity green chillies
  • 0.5 inch ginger
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil
  • 2 quantity bay leaf (tej patta)
  • 2 quantity whole dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp panch-phoron
  • 0.5 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt (as required)


  • Chop both the veggies - pumpkin and malabar spinach. Cut big pieces of pumpkin else it will get completely mashed in the gravy. You can also add brinjal to this dish. 
  • Rub the fish head with salt and turmeric and fry it in the mustard oil.
  • Next, temper the oil with bay leaves, dried red chillies and panch phoron. Panch phoron is a bengali spice mix prepared by adding nigella seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and mustard seeds in equal proportion.
  • Add chopped onion and fry it until the onion turns translucent.
  • Make a paste out of the green chillies, ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander powder and add it to the pan.
  • When the masala is fried, add the pumpkin and the malabar spinach.
  • Once the gravy is almost cooked, add the mashed fish head onto it and fry for 2 more minutes.
  • Serve with hot steamed rice.


You can also prepare a vegetarian version of the same by omitting the fish head. Although do remember it to top it with some lemon for a nice citrus-y aroma.

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