Bhapa Ilish / Steamed Hilsa Fish Curry

One thing absolutely fascinates me about bengali food is to prepare a delicacy out of simplest of things and by the simplest of means. This steamed hilsa fish recipe is legendary. Hilsa or Ilish as it is popular in bengal and bangladesh is a herring specie. In fact it is the national fish of Bangladesh and rampantly flourishes in the Ganga delta called the Sundarbans. Ilish has hard and tough bones and is oily in texture. It is a great weekend lunch or a slowly cherished dinner delicacy best enjoyed with steamed rice which being bland further enhances the flavor of the fish. 

….need to know (food details)

  • Number of people served : 4 (with rice)
  • Preparation time : 30 minutes cooking + 2 hours marinate
  • Serving size : 2 – 3 pieces each

….and we need (ingredient)

  • Hilsa Fish or Ilish Maach (Bengali cut) 750 grams : Your vendor will do the bengali cut for you. Hilsa is oily, rich in omega 3 fatty acids. You need to savour it yourself to understand why it is a bengali obsession.
  • Mustard seeds 2 teaspoon (1 teaspoon yellow + 1 teaspoon black i.e. rai) : The sputtering of mustard seeds adds an aroma of mild roast to the dish.
  • Turmeric powder 1 teaspoon (1/2 for marinade + 1/2 for cooking) : Turmeric blends best in most Indian fish cuisine. It is a great compliment to mustard and fish and helps in detoxification too.
  • Green Chillies 2 to 3 : What’s a pungent fish without the heat and the Vitamin E of green chillies !
  • Ginger 1 inch cut piece : This brings the natural hot zest flavor to the dish. It is also a muscle relaxant and prevents nausea and inflammation.
  • Mustard Oil 2 1/2 tablespoon : Mustard oil is a natural choice for pungent cooking. This is also high in Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Salt to taste : I use moderate salt to not overpower the pungency of mustard which is most critical.

….time to cook ‘n roll cooking instructions)

  • Marinate the fish with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder and salt. Keep aside for 2 hours.
  • Grind the mustard seeds (both black and yellow), chillies and ginger coarsely.
  • Now boil 3 cups water in a heavy bottomed pan.
  • Place the fish in it and cook on medium flame till water reduces to half.
  • Now add the ground paste to it and mix well such that all of it goes deep and well into the fish. Now cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add mustard oil and turmeric to this now and steam covered for 20 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes check whether the fish is cooked well or not. If done then take off and serve hot with rice.

Storage : Can be refrigerated for 1 week easily but do not re-heat more than 1 to 2 time since the fish itself has lots of oils in it which will get spoiled and the fish will loose its texture.

Missing Something ? : Nothing can be changed in this, there are just too few ingredients to rethink. Only iteration allowed is probably using just yellow mustard instead of both yellow and black.