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! :-)
This bhaja goes to Indrani's event on Fish.