Hilsa as a fish holds immense significance in Bengal, I mean we live for fish, fish is everything over anything, anytime. With that, comes today’s hot menu – Hilsa or Ilish in Bengali. Honestly, having this fish once in every year during monsoon season makes our heart swell with immense joy and excitement. But did I tell you guys how I almost landed up in the hospital with a Hilsa fish bone stuck in my throat? Well, that was one hell of an experience I had with eating Hilsa while watching Television and Bam! the fish bone got stuck in my throat. The only mistake I made was not paying attention while savoring this fish on the dinning table and that’s what this fish demands! It demands your full ‘Attention’. But on a serious note, Hilsa fish due to its limited availability and deliciously supreme flavor makes this fish a very popular and expensive not just in Bengal but all over the place.
So, meet hilsa (Ilish), the beloved fish that connects Bengali to its root every once a year. Despite its widespread popularity, fresh hilsa comes at a very high price due to its naturally oily texture and its rich, tender flesh. In fact, fresh hilsa can cost upto 1800-2000 rupees a kilo. Also, what’s the mark of a good catch? It says, “the more bones hilsa has, the tastier it is” but, then good luck with trying to remove the nearly-invisible bones that this fish has, its crazy seeing how Bengali’s are so patient with this particular fish that has gazillions of fish bones in it but then after all, at the end of everything it all comes down to its heavenly delicious taste that is being cooked in mustard and curd paste that adds a rich and pungent flavor to your fish for your morning lunch while its drizzling outside . A very rich and popular Bengali recipe of cooking Hilsa is Bhapa Ilish. It is cooked with curd, green chilies, mustard oil and mustard seeds, the combined flavor adds a very powerful and strong flavor and aroma which is so tempting that it can make your tummy thunder in hunger and make you forget all your pain while you enjoy relishing this cuisine on your dining table! No Kidding! It’s a drool worthy recipe.
The main ingredients used to make this particular recipe are very standard and can’t be changed or replaced with another ingredients. And it requires very basic ingredients that are mostly always available in your kitchen- white mustard seeds, black mustard, mustard oil, green chilies, turmeric powder, curd and salt. The pungent and sharp aroma of green chilies and mustards should be well balanced and perfectly measured while making this fish, otherwise it can either become too much to handle or too dull in flavor. This recipe might seem very easy at first glance but I’ll be very honest, it’s not that simple. There are certain rules that needs to be followed while you make this cuisine. What my mom does is, she completely stops talking to everyone and gives her full concentration while making the mustard paste of this dish. Phew! But all said and done, Bhapa Ilish is a very classic Bengali dish with its standard ingredients. So avoid any experiments if you truly want to enjoy the authentic and regional fish cuisine of Bengal- Bhapa Ilish (Hilsa).
Course : Main
Cooking Time : 20 minutes
Taste : Spicy
|Hilsa fish (Ilish)||8 pieces|
|White Mustard Seeds||3 tbsp|
|Black Mustard Seeds||3 tbsp|
|Curd||1 large cup|
|Slit Green Chilies||8-9|
|Turmeric Powder||2 tbsp|
|Salt||2 tbsp/As Per Taste|
|Mustard Oil||2-3 tbsp|
How To Prepare and Marinate:
Step 1 : Wash and cut the fish pieces properly, prepare the ingredients that needs for marination as listed above.
Step 2 : In a jar, add white mustard, black mustard, salt, 4-5 slit green chilies and curd. Coarse Grind. Note: The final texture of this paste should be rough and not completely smooth.
Step 3 : Now, in a mixing bowl, add the fish pieces, sprinkle turmeric powder, pour 2-3 tbsp mustard oil, rub evenly. Add in the grounded mixture gradually mix them with the mustard paste and marinade. Add slit green chilies one for each fish pices Cover and keep aside for 5 minutes.
How To Steam/Cook : (Two Ways)
Using Microwave Oven: Keep the covered microwave safe bowl in the microwave and autocook for 6-7 minutes (Don’t overcook). Take out the bowl from the microwave and give 10 to 12 minutes of standing time.
Bapa Ilish in a microwave is ready to be served now. Enjoy the recipe with steamed rice.
Using Vessel or Handi: Take a deep vessel or Handi, pour water and bring it to a steady boil over a high flame. Transfer the marinated fish pieces in an air-tight steel tiffin box container and place it slowly inside the vessel, the water should reach the base height of the container but make sure no water seeps inside the container while you steam the fish pieces. Cover and steam over a medium heat for 15 minutes. Don’t overcook the fish pieces. Once done, remove and Serve hot with white rice and green chilies.
One handful of Bhapa Ilish with plain white rice in your mouth and you are all set for a happy evening nap!
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