Sunday, 30 August 2009

Ilish Maach Bhaja / Fried Hilsa Fish

Come monsoons and Bengalis everywhere look forward to one thing ... the very favourite and a delicacy worth giving your right arm for ... the Ilish or the Hilsa fish.

This fish is so sought after that it's price is skyrocketing year by year . A must in every Bengali's plate this time of the year, Bengali cuisine is not complete unless a few Ilish recipes are mentioned or cooked and served.
Even if it is not the season for Ilish, it would still dominate conversations when food is the topic.

Ilish is enjoyed in a variety of dishes ..... starting from the plain 'bhaja' or fry that is usually had as a starter to a meal .... to the sour dish called 'Ambol' (recipe coming up next) that ends a proper Bengali meal.

One piece of a fried Ilish / Hilsa is enough to down a plateful of hot Khichuri while it is pouring outside ... yes ... khichuri and Ilish are a great and classic combo. :-)

My fishwala has disappeared without a warning .... again. So while I was busy directing homesick Bengalis new to the city as to where to buy good Ilish from, I had not got a look or a whiff of this fabulous thing ..... till last week.

The other half took me to Oh!Calcutta. We did not sit down for a meal this time, but packed a dish for myself. But nah ... I was totally disappointed. The fish tasted bad ... am sure it was frozen. So could not have more than a few spoonfuls of the greasy gravy.

A couple of days back, the hubby took me for a much needed short drive... something that was so common and has been so missed for almost a whole month. On the way, we saw a fish market on the roadside. And stopped to have a look. There were some great Ilish ... big sized ( read less notorious fine bones ) and also with roe.

Though I have heard my Thamma ( paternal grandmom) say that fish with roe ( maacher dim ) does not taste as good as they should, I went ahead and bought one ... who knows if I'll get one again. :-)

I asked for whole pieces ... hence the huge sized ones ... and got a brainwave. Asked the guy to cut it with the roe. That way I got a good chunk of roe in every piece. Now I'll be able to get to taste the roe in different flavoured gravies ( Kalyan, I hope this answers your question to some extent) instead of getting to make only Macher Dimer Bora / Vadas from fish roe ( will post it next ).

Phew .... where did all that rambling come from ... guess I haven't written for far too long a time. :-)

Anyway .... here I am .... starting a few posts on I lish .... with the fried one or Ilish Maach Bhaja.
Remember to enjoy this when the fish has been just bought and is fresh and not been frozen yet.

Need : Ilish / Hilsa fish pieces ( cleaned and marinated with salt and turmeric), mustard oil to deep fry.

How to : Heat enough oil in a wok / kadhai till it starts to smoke.

Gently let in the pieces .... remember to hold a cover in your other hand and cover it immediately ... else the oil and water create havoc .... you may burn your hand.

Cook till brown on one side .... turn it over and brown the other side too.

The health freaks can grill it too.

Serve hot with some hot steamed plain rice with some lemon, salt and green chilli on the side. One mouthful and you are in heaven! :-)

Enjoy !!
This bhaja goes to Indrani's event on Fish.


  1. Sharmila, top top kore jol porchey:-) amake ekbar ilish maach ebar niye ashteyi hobe, even if it means to throw away half of it. ( ami ekla khayi & i have to buy a whole fish here:-( )... my mind is so much on this now that i don't feel like eating anything else.

  2. its like the perfect piece of fish...ur picture sure is tempting..never had Hilsa, i guess its a very famous bangla fish, rito??

  3. Good to see a post from you after ages.

    So you will have a Hilsa festival too. So far we have made bhaaja, posto and shorshe bhaapa with the Ilish at home. Quality was much much better than Oh Calcutta.

    The roe in my fish was in the fish. Popped out while washing it. Its such an irony that we used to fight for it as kid. Now the cholesterol swords hangs over roe.

  4. Seriously that's making me hungry..nice pic

  5. Niye esho Soma .. bochore ekbar toh taste kortei hobe. Ar amar o tomar moton case .. gota kinte hoye ar dudiner beshi khete pari na. :-)

    Righto Rush. :-)

    Hoping to Kalyan .. don't know if I can make it. :-)

    Thanks Priti! :-)

  6. Sharmila,
    Oh! love ilish and the pics are really making me hungry!! we get frozen ilish here, havent got the courage to buy it as i dont know how it will turn out in jhaal/jhol recipes, or may be i shud try sometimes ..
    hugs and smiles

  7. Feeling very happy that you came back again ....
    Ilish mach bhaja dekhai thala theke tule nite icchha korche ... Amader ekhaneo same problem we have to buy a whole fish ...

  8. Ilish season eshe geche, mmmmmmmm

  9. Oh wow! This made my mouth water!

  10. Perfect bhaja, wish we got fresh fish here... Well I will enjoy the pix - its awesome...

  11. Hey.... thanks a lot... i found fom google... :-)... aro kichhu recipe pele khushi hobo... do you update dis regularly ??

  12. Thanks all! I did not realise I never replied to your lines till now ... but considering the tough days I had then, I hope to be excused. :-)

    Thanks Windtalker! Glad you liked it. :-)
    Yes, I do post regularly ... only right now am on a much needed break. Will be back very soon. Till then you can go thru my blog ... and if you want any particular recipe, do let me know. I'll definitely post it. :-)

  13. Wow.. dekhei khete ichha korche.. Will have to get Ilish Mach this weekend..

  14. Your post look yummy & delicious, I must try it. Thank you. Recipes.


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