Ilish or Hilsa, a fish that brings happiness, as fish that is an emotion, a fish that hold a very special place in every Bengali’s life, a fish that brings taste, flavour and aroma along with it, a fish that is expensive but worth every penny, a fish that is the Queen of all fishes. Bringing Ilish home is like bringing home a celebration. Bengalis across the world may have different preference and taste, but there is hardly any Bengali alive on earth who doesn’t love Ilish.
I hail from Silchar, a place situated in Northeastern part of India and quite near to Indo-Bangladesh border. Which means, when the season is on, we have Ilish in abundance in the markets. As I moved to South India 8 years back, Ilish became almost a rare luxury. From past two years we have been deprived of this fish and could only relish if we pay visit to our native. It is two years now I have started this blog and could not manage to have a single recipe of Ilish because of its unavailability. That made me sad, very sad. Being a Bengali food blogger and that too a Sylheti Bengali, not having a single Ilish dish here has been disheartening. While, we the Bengalis never think of money when it comes to buying Ilish. But yes, money cannot always buy Ilish, availability matters.
The other day I luckily saw Ilish available online and my happiness knew no bounds. I showed the same to my husband and in no time we did what we are supposed to do, we placed the order. The price was high, quite high, but who cares! It is Ilish after all. The joy of bringing home the Queen is of different level altogether. And I knew what I am going to cook – Maa’s special and my all time favourite Shorshe Ilish. I just love love love it!! I have the recipe of Shorshe Pabda and Shorshe Tengra on my blog, but, nothing can be as good as Shorshe Ilish.
Shorshe Ilish is a super popular Bengali dish, the star you can say. Here the fish is cooked in a thick mustard gravy with a dash of slitted green chilli and gorgeous mustard oil. Ilish and mustard are kind of best friends and their combination is soul satisfying. The pungent strong flavour of mustard oil and mustard paste take the taste of Ilish to a different level altogether. Whenever cooking Ilish, always use mustard oil, it’s a must.
With all said and done, here’s the recipe of Shorshe Ilish for you all.
- 6 piece Ilish (hilsa)
- 1 table-spoon black mustard seed
- 2 table-spoon yellow mustard seed
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 7 green chilli (2 roughly chopped and 5 slitted from middle)
- 1.5 tea-spoon turmeric powder (1 + 1/2)
- 1/2 tea-spoon fenugreek seed
- 4 table-spoon mustard oil
- salt, according to taste
- 1 cup warm water
- Soak black and yellow mustard in water for 30 minutes.
- In a grinder, take the soaked mustard seeds and 2 roughly chopped green chillies. Grind to a fine paste and keep aside.
- Rub Ilish pieces with 1 tea-spoon turmeric powder and some salt. Heat 2 table-spoon oil in a pan and lightly fry the pieces on both sides (do not over-fry). Remove and keep aside.
- In the same pan add the remaining oil and heat. Temper with fenugreek seeds. Allow them to splutter.
- Add tomato and stir until mushy.
- Add mustard paste, remaining turmeric powder and required salt. Mix properly.
- Add water, cover the lid and over low flame, bring it to a boil.
- Now, add Ilish pieces one by one. Give a gentle mix. Cover the lid and and over low to medium flame, cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is properly done. Do not overcook.
- The gravy consistency depends on how you like it. But, it always tastes better with thicker consistency.
- Once you get your desired consistency and the fish pieces are done, turn off the flame. Cover and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Your Shorshe Ilish is ready to be served now.
Serve Shorshe Ilish with piping hot rice and enjoy this very authentic Bengali delicacy. Do drop me a comment giving your feedback about this recipe. You can also tag me on Instagram using the handle @when_a_bong_cooks.