How To Prepare: Bombay Duck


As you may already know ‘Bombay Duck‘ is not actually from duck, but is a type of fish called Lottiya or ‘Bummalo’. It can be eaten fresh or dried and is very popular in India and other parts of Asia, especially Bangladesh.

In the UK, Bombay Duck was made famous during the 80’s & 90’s when the growth of Bangladeshi ‘Indian’ Restaurants would serve fried dried Bombay duck as a starter often alongside poppadoms or eaten crumbled over curry or rice. This salty snack is quite an aquired taste that not everyone likes. Lovers of Bombay Duck are many, with many more newbies joining the Bombay Duck followers to keep this great traditional delicacy alive.

The name ‘Bombay Duck’ is said to originate from the Days of the British Raj, with comparison being made to the strong pungent smell of dried uncooked bombay duck as we know it and the smell in the Bombay mail trains that moved dried fish from coast to cities. In India ‘Daak’ or ‘Duck’ translates to ‘Mail’, hence ‘Bombay Daak’.

When cooking dried Bombay duck you will have to spend some time preparing the fish in order to use it correctly. When you first open the pack you will be hit by a strong pungent fishy smell that can be off putting. Do not worry this will lessen once soaked and and again once cooked. The final dish will still have a distinctive smell but that is part of the enjoyment for many.

With a pair of kitchen scissors, take off the head and the tail about a cm in. At first sight you may be shocked at how vicious looking the Bummalo fish is, they are pretty mean looking with huge shark like teeth and big jars in comparison to body.

bummalo head    head offtail off    trim side

Now it is important to cut away the fins and thick black scaly bits. Just trim down the sides, pulling away any twisted bits to straighten and trim. With some parts like the fins, it may be easier to use your hands and simply pull these bits off. Be careful not to waste too much, but also be aware that it is best to remove as much of these parts as you can, to get the best flavour from your final dish. Its time consuming but definitely worth it, as they can otherwise leave a bitterness that can ruin your work.

side trim 2    side trim 3trim finished

Once trimmed, cut into approx 1 & half inch pieces. You are after quite thin pieces, so anything too bulky and wide should be cut thinner or into two. I usually prepare a whole pack or two and store ready to use next time, so its done and out the way.

finished trim 2    finished trim 3

The Bummalo fish only has one main bone which is the spine running down it. Once cooked, this is quite soft and normally chewable [for adults], but it can be left in or removed to your preference. To remove, it is easiest once soaked and soft. I find it depends on how you are cooking it. If its fried then you don’t really notice as the whole things crispy. It may be worthwhile doing for the dry curry [unless you are flaking the flesh off, as this will separate the bones anyway.]

Now to clean – wash thoroughly in water and then leave to soak for about 20 mins. This will soften and reduce the saltiness.


You will be left with soaked prepared Bombay Duck.

There are many ways to cook Bombay Duck. I will run through a couple of my favourite ways including the classic fried style as served in British Indian Restaurants.


Classic Fried Bombay Duck.
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste [Ground pepper if you like]

Take the prepared soaked Bombay Duck and pat dry with kitchen towel.

pat dry

Now mix the chilli powder and turmeric powder together and place the Bombay Duck in, to cover and lightly marinade.


Heat oil in a frying pan and once hot add the Bombay Duck, a few at a time, frying them off till golden brown.


Now take out onto kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt [season with pepper if required]. Enjoy hot. Some enjoy it more ‘well done’, simply fry for a bit longer. Experiment and get the balance you like.

ready crispy

Bummalo Chilli [Dry Shutki Bhuna]
3 or 4 pieces soft Kokum [washed]
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 onions [finely sliced]
2 tomatoes [sliced]
2 green chillies [sliced]
6 cloves garlic [minced]
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
half tsp of salt [plus salt to taste]
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp water
1 tsp Jaggery Goor
A good handful of coriander [roughly chopped]
1 tsp tomato paste
To Cook:
Add oil to pan and heat. In hot oil, fry the garlic until golden. Add onions and green chilli and salt. Fry until lightly brown and onions soften, becoming translucent.


Now add the tomato paste, turmeric powder plus the chilli powder and stir in.

tomatoes    kokum

add bombay duck

Add water and cook for few mins and then add tomatoes, Kokum and Jaggery Goor. Stir and Cook until tomatoes soften.

Now add the washed soaked Bombay Duck, stir and cook for a few mins and then add the lemon juice. Simmer and cook for 8-10mins – the sauce should thicken, cook a little longer if required.


Stir in coriander leaves and salt to taste. Serve hot with Indian Bread or Rice.

finished 5    finished 3

This dish can also be prepared with diced potato, add about 5 mins before Bombay duck as they will need more time to cook and soften.

Another option referenced earlier is to flake the Bombay duck , once soaked it will be soft and you can take out the spine then break the flesh up and add to the dish.

Great results, give it a try.

Buy Bombay Duck here: Bombay Duck


Chef @ the asian cookshop




28. September 2014 by asiancookshop
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