Bangladeshis love their fish, which, traditionally, are collected from the fresh waters of lakes, ponds, estuaries and rivers. The fish are cooked in thousands of different ways, with kofte or "meatballs" being just one of them.






Skill level

Average: 3.2 (36 votes)

Tahmima, a renowned novelist, whose first novel, A Golden Age, caused a well-deserved sensation, lives in London and loves to cook Bangladeshi food, often following her mother's recipes. This is a dish she and her mother cooked for us. Instead of Bangladeshi fish, many of which are now available in London, frozen, she used coley, which she said was perfect for these. Do not substitute another fish. Tahmima would serve this with rice and a dry okra dish.



  • 600 g (1 lb 4 oz) fresh coley, skinned and finely chopped
  • 1 slice of white bread, soaked in water, squeezed and finely chopped
  • 1 small potato, peeled and very finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp very finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp peeled, very finely chopped root ginger, plus 1 tsp peeled, finely grated root ginger
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp finely grated or crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt


  • 4 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
  • 6 tbsp finely ground red onion (processed to a paste in a blender)
  • 1 tbsp peeled, finely grated root ginger
  • 1 tsp finely grated or crushed garlic
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 125 g (4½ oz) canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk


Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Place all the ingredients for the kofte in a large bowl and combine thoroughly. Roll into balls about 4 cm in diameter.

Now for the sauce. Set a karhai, wok or large pan, about 25 cm in diameter, over a medium heat. Pour in the oil and, when it’s hot, add the onion paste. Stir and fry for 2 minutes until it starts to turn translucent. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir and fry for 2 minutes. Add the cumin, turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Stir for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes, then spoon in the coconut milk and 120 ml of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Place the fish balls in the sauce. Cook for 10 minutes, turning them occasionally, then serve.