Fish and rice

By Kaushik Das Gupta
Published: Sunday 31 October 2010

The hilsa in Bengali memory is associated with the rousing back to life of all creatures after a searing summer. The joyful banter over fish delicacies while listening to the pitter-patter of rains evokes nostalgia

All recipes serve four

fish and rice Shorshe Ilish


500 gm of hilsa peti (the belly)
½ tablespoon of black mustard
5 or 6 green chillies
4 tablespoon of mustard oil
A pinch of turmeric

Grind the mustard with a pinch of salt and one green chilly. Bengalis believe the chilly removes the bitterness of the mustard. Slit the remaining green chilly down the middle. Rub the fish with salt and turmeric. Heat mustard oil in a wok and add the mustard paste with turmeric powder. Stir for a few minutes and add a glass of water. As soon as it comes to boil, put in the fish and green chilly. Cover and cook on a medium flame. After 10 minutes, the water should have evaporated sufficiently to leave the fish coated in a thick yellow gravy. Remove from fire and add a little mustard oil. Cover and leave for a few minutes. Serve with plain rice.

Ilish Paturi

500 gm of hilsa fillets
A pinch of turmeric powder
2 tablespoons ground mustard
Two or three green chillies
2 tablespoons of mustard oil

Clean the fish and mix with salt, turmeric, mustard paste, green chillies and a dash of mustard oil. Wrap the mixture in banana leaves and tie the packet with a string and toast it on a flat pan, turning the packet several times. By the time the top layer of the leaf is burnt black, the fish should be ready.

Ilish with coconut milk

500 gm of hilsa fillets
A lemon, 7-8 onions
250 ml coconut milk
5 green chillies,
2 red chillies
100 ml ghee
3 sticks of cinnamon
4 whole cardamoms

Wash the hilsa. Peel two of the onions and the ginger and grind them to a paste with red chillies. Finely chop the remaining onions. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into the bowl. Heat the ghee in the wok and add the cinnamon sticks and the cardamom. After a couple of minutes add the chopped onions and green chillies.

Fry till the mixture becomes reddish brown and add the onion-and-ginger paste and two teaspoons of salt. Add a quarter of the coconut milk and fry a little longer. When the contents start sticking to the pot, pour in the rest of the coconut milk and add the pieces of hilsa. Simmer for 12-15 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and remove from fire. Goes well with steamed rice.

imageDoi Ilish

500 gm hilsa
¾ cup yoghurt
4 teaspoons paste of mustard and green chillies
1 teaspoon ginger paste
5 green chillies
A pinch of nigella seeds (kalaunji) for tempering
A teaspoon turmeric powder
Two tablespoons mustard oil

Wash the fish well, pat them dry and rub the pieces with about half teaspoon of turmeric powder a little salt and keep aside. Heat oil in a wok. When it is piping hot, reduce the heat and slowly slide the fish pieces into the oil. You will be greeted with a lot of sputtering; be careful.

The fish pieces should not be on top of each other, they should remain side by side in the hot oil. Do not add all fish at the same time. Once you have tipped in the pieces, raise the heat. Once the fish is fried to a light golden yellow (hilsa needs very little frying, be careful the fish does not get fried too much) take it out.

In a bowl mix the yoghurt with the mustard paste. Discard the fishy oil if you wish and heat some fresh oil. With hilsa, however, the mustard oil in which the fish is fried holds a special value for most Bengalis. Heat oil now, for tempering. Temper with nigella seeds and green chillies and wait for the spices to pop.

Add the fresh ginger paste. Lower the heat and add the yoghurt-mustard mixture. Add salt and let it simmer for a couple of minutes and add a cup of water. Add the fish pieces and cook till you get a gravy of the right thickness.

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