Tandoori Tilapia - Ummmm....

My Whole Headless Tilapia from Jungle Jim's

I had introduced my Malaysian friend Kate in my last post. And my today's post is inspired by her. Last Christmas, Kate invited us to join them for their Christmas lunch and enthusiastically said that she is going to make "Steamed Tilapia". But I was not enthusiastic at all. It brought back very unpleasant memories. 

I was recovering after a severe bout of Hepatitis and the doctor told I can have fish but it should not be fried. Now back in the 80s, a bong mommy could not imagine, not frying a fish before putting it in a jhol. In a small town of Bihar, where electricity were available for only few hours a day, she neither had an oven nor a koylar unun/chulha (rustic coal-burning stove) nor non-stick cookware at her disposal. But she still adhered to the doc's advice. She used to marinate the fish pieces in lemon and onion juice for 15-20 min, and then wash them very well, to get rid of the asthe dondho (stinky fishy smell). Then she used to rub the fish with her spice rub of turmeric, salt, grated ginger, little cumin and then steam them. Her steamer was also innovative. She would place the fish pieces in a tight steel tiffin box and put the tiffin box in a pressure-cooker filled with water, which came halfway of the tiffin-box, and cook it till 2-3 whistles. The fish in questing was never a gourmet delight, but I used to eat it, just because my Ma had put so much effort in preparing it.

Coming back to Kate's "Steamed Tilapia", even the very experimental Sam was skeptical. But with a brave heart we went and was floored. The fish was delicate, juicy, flavorful, aromatic and NO asthe dondho. Next week, Sam brought a whole Tilapia home and asked, nay, ordered me to make Kate's Steamed Tilapia  and I obliged. And it was a Disaster.... my biggest culinary Disaster till date!!! I still cannot figure out what went wrong.... but something surely went wrong! As the fish was trashed, I vowed that Tilapia would never enter my kitchen. But as they say, "Never say Never", I found myself buying again a whole, cleaned and butterflied Tilapia. "I'll dare not steam it this time, I'll do it my Tandoori Style", I said to myself. This time I was determined to make it work and boy! how it worked!

What I needed
Tilapia Fish - Whole cleaned and butterflied
Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
Chili Powder - ½ tsp
Salt - 1 tsp

Greek or any Thick Yogurt - 4 heaped tablespoons
Ginger - 1 tbsp grated or paste
Garlic - 1 tbsp grated or paste
Turmeric - ½ tsp
Kashmiri Lal Mirch - 1½ tsp
Garam Masala - 1 tsp
Kasoori Methi - ½ tsp
Coriander powder - ½ tsp
Shaan Fish Seasoning- 1 tsp (optional)
Sugar - 1 tsp or Honey - 1 tbsp
Salt - 1 tsp
Canola/veg oil - 1 tbsp

How I did it:

1. Clean the fish well and pat it dry with a kitchen napkin.

2. Next in a plate mix the turmeric,chili powder and salt and rub the fish very well. The turmeric will overpower any fishy smell. Keep aside while you make the marinade.

3. In a separate bowl, mix all the items listed under "Marinade" and make a thick paste.

4. Place the fish in lightly greased aluminium foil lined baking tray. Smear the marinade thickly on the fish and even on the inside as shown in the pics bellow.

5. Cover the fish with large bowl and refrigerate it for minimum 2 hrs to 4 hrs.

6. Preheat the oven at 350F. Take the fish out of the refrigerator and stand at room temperature for 30 mins,  spray a little canola or veg oil on top of the fish, before placing it in the oven.  

7. The time taken to complete the cooking process depends on oven to oven. My brilliant oven takes 45 mins to bake a cake from box mix, which otherwise takes 20-30 mins. So please use your judgement here. My oven took 1 hr 20 mins to complete cooking. After 50 mins I opened the fish, like the second marinated fish pic and let it cook on the inside for 15 mins. Then I flipped the fish and let it bake for another 10 min. All   this to ensure, that no portion is left uncooked. Since we marinated on the inside, its critical, the the inside is well cooked, or you'll taste the raw marinade while eating. Last 5 min was on Broil mode. 

Note: The sugar or honey in the marinade helps the fish to bronze up. The red color in Tandoori recipes comes from the red food color, but its my psychological whim that I do not prefer using food color in my cooking. Hence I used a little more Kashmiri Lal Mirch, to impart its red color, without the heat. In case you want to used red food color, reduce the Kashmiri Lal Mirch to ½ tsp or use ½ tsp of regular Red Chili powder, if you want it hot.

Squeeze a dash of lime on your Tandoori Tilapia and sprinkle a little Chaat Masala and you are good to go. I wish I had clicked the remains of the fish after 10 min the dish was placed on the dinner table.

Diabetic Platter: Fish is an excellent lean protein option for diabetics, Study shows that they are potent in preventing cardiovascular disease and kidney ailments, which generally diabetics are prone to. Pair it with the Raw Mango And Pepper Salad, and it leave you begging for more.


  1. is the tilapia served in continental restaurants the same as the telapia of kolkata...tandoori is a great idea

    1. This is one question I always had when I came here. Both Tilapia and Telapia looks similar jodio US er Tilapia is way bigger in size. Telapia usually single serve khaoa jai, but Tilapia has to be chopped into two, if not three. Telapia is usually black in color, looks almost like a big Koi maach, here Tilapia is pretty"phorsha' than its Kolakata cousin. Kolkata te Telapia besi khai ni, coz amar Ma er racial problem aache, tini kalo maach khaan na...:) I guess the real problem is Maach ta te bodhoi ektu besi aste gondho aache. Correct me if I am wrong. But Sam, my husband bole, it tastes similar, texture o similar, white flaking fish. Tobe amar mote Tilapia ba Telapia, both tastes better if grilled or baked, than in a Jhol/Jhaal. Eikhane e eshe, I am in LOVE with 3 fishes, Tilapia and Salmon and Catfish, aka Magoor Maach. Tobe baki American der motom, eikhaner Macch gulo o XL size er!

  2. you make these yummy dishes look so easy & do able...blog porey porey khide pei jacchey!!

  3. Yes i also have tried the tilapia u are talikng about in your recipie....i was in Uk for long n used to buy Jamaican tilapia fillets....they were awesome and it made Bangalis lovely fish fry....comparitively kolkatar telapias r black n do have some smell....though my hubby too says that both taste the same except the look....i dont totally agree on this point,but wud like to try your recipie.....but here in india i dont have a oven,can do it in the microwave with combination.....

    1. Thanks Sunita for visiting... you are so right bout the difference between US Tilapia and the Indian Telapia. I have never done Tandoori in Microwave... but if your one has Convection mode, tahole problem hoar kotha noi... tobe ei recipe r jonno ami kolkatar telapia suggest korbo na... Promfret should be a better option. And jodi Telapia e koro takole 5 min white vinegar ba lebur rosh e bhijile rekho... then wash with water and then proceed with the recipe. tobe 5 min er beshi vineger e bhijio na.. maach ta stiff hoye jabe... Good Luck....


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