Tarela Boomla

Image Credit: Aneesh Bhasin, Indian WineList

Image Credit: Aneesh Bhasin, Indian WineList

If you’ve stopped by to my blog before you will know that most of my recipes have strong memories attached to each one of them. Memories of times spent with loved ones amongst food are the best as it’s something tangible you can re-create when they are gone. The same goes with this one of Fried Bombay Ducks.

As a child, cooking fresh Bombay Ducks – or ‘Boomla’ as the Parsi’s call them – was the domain of my Grandpa. For some strange reason, our family only had Boomlas during the monsoon season. I know now that many people don’t eat fish during the monsoons because the fish are breeding but my grandpa had some other philosophy altogether and so from June – August it was a weekly tradition to get and cook Boomlas.

I don’t use the word tradition lightly because for Grandpa his Boomlas were precious. The day would start by him taking my small hand in his big paw and us going on his blue kinetic to the Grant Road market. Here he’d proceed to get a killer bargain for the Boomlas using his grand daughter as the negotiating pawn. Fish in our hands, we’d both stop at the watermelon juice wala in Grant Road for a quick drink after which Grandpa would come home and start cleaning them right away.

I’ve spent hours by his side listening to his stories and getting away from housework on the pretext of learning the best way to clean Boomlas. Once they were clean, he’d marinate them in the afternoon and then no one was allowed to touch ’em till dinner time. The only work that the ladies could pitch in with would be the slicing of the Brun Pav and the chopping of the lemons – two ingredients without which the meal was incomplete.

In the evening, as soon as I came up from playing, Grandpa and me would lay half the kitchen floor with newspapers and he’d get out his old kerosene stove that he used only to cook Boomlas – he believed they didn’t taste the same when cooked on the gas stove! Then, one by one each member would get their share of Boomlas – the sanctity of the Boomlas had to be maintained and Grandpa wouldn’t allow any other dish should be served alongside. It was the only time family members were allowed to start their meal alone, as we couldn’t risk the Boomlas getting cold and soggy.

Here’s how you can make them at your place too. Bombay Ducks taste best when they are fried fresh and served on the plate. If you keep them for a while, they will absorb the oil and become soggy so I recommend you keep that in mind before you start cooking. Ingredients at the bottom of the post as always.


After washing and draining all the Boomlas, marinate them in turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt. Let the Bombay Ducks stand for atleast an hour or you can store them in the refrigerator for a bit longer (but remember you will need to bring them back down to room temperature before frying)

Boomla Marinating

When you are ready to fry make a small pile of the semolina and rice flour and mix both the two coatings well. This will ensure that all your Bombay Ducks get an even layer and come out crispy as well as crunchy

Mixture of Rice Flour and Rawa

Once it’s all mixed, taking one Boomla at a time coat the semolina mixture all over the Bombay Duck taking care to ensure all sides are coated well. The mixture tends to stick to the fish and become soggy so once you’ve done this step they need to go into the frying pan at the earliest. I therefore recommend only coating six at a time as they go into the pan

Boomla coated

In the pan of hot oil, now lay all the boomlas in one at a time leaving enough space for you to turn the fish without breaking any of them.

Boomla Frying 1

When the bottom side starts looking crispy, carefully turn each Bombay Duck at a time and cook the other side as well.

Boomla Frying 2

If you’ve made sure the dining table with the lemons, Brun Pav and plates was all set, now is the time that you start serving them up to the family. Oh, I am hungry just looking at all these pictures again – thank you Grandpa for handing down your legacy to me.

Boomla Final small

For 4 servings of boomla as a semi-main course you will need:

24 fresh Bombay Ducks
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 cup rice flour
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

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  1. Ayesha says

    This is a lovely tribute to your Grandfather. And now I am hungry too! Congrats BB – I am so pleased that your business is flourishing.

  2. Ari says

    I slit a green chilly halfway and push it into the boomla’s stomach tunnel and then proceed to coat and fry them as usual …..when they’re done golden crisp I place each boomla onto a soft fresh roti and roll it up like a frankie and bite into it. Mmmmm heaven!!!

  3. Moti Bisney says

    In your recipe for Tarela Boomla you state ” make a small pile of the semolina and rice flour and mix both the two coatings well” yet in the You will need section you only mention rice flour and not a word about the Semolina Why

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