Ilish Macher Matha dea Chanchra (Mixed Veg and Malabar Spinach Mishmash with Hilsha Fish Head)

‘Chanchra’ is an inevitable side dish for any festivals or occasion of Bengali. Be it a Marriage Ceremony, Annaprashon (First Rice Ceremony), lunch platter of any Bengali Cuisine Restaurants specially during Puja or Poila Boisakh (Bengali New Year), you can’t get away without tasting this recipe. ‘Chanchra’ with ‘gorom bhat’ (hot steamed rice) is a delicacy. It is prepared mainly with Malabar Spinach or Climbing Spinach or ‘Pui Saag’ in Bengali, along with potatoes, brinjal, ridge gourd, radish and pumpkin to increase the taste.


There is a vegetarian version of this which though not widely cooked but exists. Different types of lentil fritter or ‘vadi’ or ‘bori’ are used along with the vegetables (the detailed recipe will be posted later). The use of the malabar spinach and the fish head (here I have cooked with Hilsa Fish head but other fish heads of any Carp can also be used) gives the distinct smell and taste of this particular dish. Though this dish is a little tricky to prepare, and doesn’t look much appealing too, but the taste of it is what counts.

Since it is the season of Hilsa Fish, I prepared ‘Bhapa Shorshe Ilish’ and ‘Illish Macher Matha dea Chanchra’ on Sunday lunch. Undoubtedly both the preparation was super super hit! Sharing the recipe of ‘Chanchra’ the way I cooked.

  • Pui Saak or Malabar Spinach – 4 cups (chopped with the stems)
  • 1 (cut into strips) Potato
  • ½ (cut into strips) Radish
  • 1 (cut into cubes) Eggplant
  • 1 (cut into cubes) Ridge Gourd
  • ¾ cup Pumpkin – (cut into thick strips)
  • one Hilsha Fish Head – Of fish
  • 1 tsp Ginger Paste
  • ½ tsp Garlic Paste
  • 1 (chopped) Onion
  • ½ tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • ¼ tsp Red Chillie Powder
  • ½ tsp Sugar
  • 1 no Dry Whole Red Chillie
  • ½ tsp Panch Phoran (Bengali Five Spices)
  • to taste Salt – According
  • 4 Tbsp Mustard Oil


  1. Cut and clean the pui saak or Malabar spinach first, cut the leaves and then chop them, also cut the danta (tender stalk) approx 2 inch long pieces and slit them in between. Thoroughly clean them in running water. Cut all the vegetables as said above.
  2. Smear some turmeric powder and salt to the fish head and marinate for 10 minutes. Now heat up oil in a kadai and fry the fish head. Keep them aside.
  3. In the same pan add oil if required and temper it with Panch Phoran (Bengal Five Spices) and dry red whole chillie.
  4. Next add chopped onion and fry till onion changes it colour. Add all vegetables and sauté it on medium fire.
  5. Add ginger paste, garlic paste and all the dry masala powders, salt, sugar. Fry them at low for 5 minutes.
  6. Now add chopped pui saak or Malabar spinach and fry a little, cover and cook till the vegetables and spinach cooked thoroughly at low heat. Add water (just a little bit is sufficient) if required. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes or slow the process of making it, it will add up to the flavor.
  7. Add the fried fish head. And mix very well. Cover and cook for another 5-6 minutes.
  8. Take out after it is completely cooked and water is evaporated and have it with steamed rice.


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