Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bhapa Ilish/Steamed Hilsa in Mustard Sauce

The month of Shrabon/Shravan, and imagine Ilish mach (Hilsa fish) found in abundance in the fish market. Little do the hilsa eaters mind the soaring price of this much wanted fish of the Bangali poribars (Bengali families). As I work with my fish in the kitchen, my mind swell with words so closely related with this month and the fish. And here come the words —

Shrabon maash-e eshe galo
Ilish macher bajaar
Tholey niye jai bajaar-e
Kine aante tai.
Ranna ghore kati takey
Aage chariye aansh
Gota mach dho-aa holey
Kori bhag-batara taar.
Kancha macher patla jhol-e
Kancha lonkar saad
Bhapa ilish korte holey
Daoo Sorshe batar bhag.
Ilish macher matha
Aah ki bhalo lage khete
Tai bole nache Pota.
Simple English version:

The month of Shravan has come, the fish market has bountiful of Hilsa. I go and buy some.

I clean the fish in the kitchen and wash it whole before cutting it into pieces.

You can get the taste of the green chilli in the Patla jhol (running gravy) and for the Bhapa Ilish (steamed hilsa) have to use the mustard paste for taste.

And in Bhaja Muger Dal recipe, add the hilsa fish head. Pota is found dancing after getting the taste.

I like to cut out the pieces like the way I want. The best thing about cleaning the fish at home and giving a relief to the fishmonger is; this fish needs to be washed whole after cleaning off the scales. Then it has to be cut, more so the reason being, the taste and smell of the Hilsa do not get washed away.  

Today’s recipe is about Bhapa Ilish. This is a special dish which everyone will relish once it comes up in the serving bowl on the dining table.

First part:

Cut the Ilish mach into pieces of your choice. Next keep it aside.

And next get the ingredients ready:

5-7 pieces of ilish mach
Haldi powder: 1 tsp
Red chilli powder: ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds: 3 tbsp
Green chillis: 6-7
Mustard oil (a must): 3-4 tbsp


Make a paste of the mustard seeds and 2 green chillies

Last part of preparation:

Take a container which has a lid.

In it put the fish pieces,

To this add the mustard paste, haldi powder, red chiili powder and salt.

Mix all the ingredients with the help of the hand.

To this add some water – enough for gravy.

Now add the mustard oil to it and mix well again.

Next slit the remaining green chillies and add to it.

 Close the container and wait for the cooking part to start.

Cooking part:

Take a big container, it is better to take a kadhai/wok. Fill it till halfway and place it on the burning fire.

Once the water gets hot, place the container into it.

Warning: should be careful the water level is an inch or so below the closed container. Place something heavy on the lid of the container so that it does not float in the water and remain seated and not dancing around.

As I didn’t have anything heavy around the time I was doing the cooking part, I grabbed the monkey pliers and placed it on the lid for the weight was perfect. Going in search of something like the nora of the sheel, I would have got lost in finding it. No harm when the work could be done. No monkey business with the cross my lips as I write these words.
As the water starts boiling it will get evaporated. Make sure to pour in more water for the cooking will take about 20 minutes.

Once the time is over, remove the weight, open the lid, be cautious as it is very hot and the steam may cause harm to your hand when you open the closed container.

Now press a piece of the fish and see if it has been cooked. It will be soft and the mustard oil can be seen floating on the top and the mustard paste cooked perfectly with that little flow.

Serve with rice and then feel the strong and sharp smell and taste of the mustard.

As for the fish head, fry it and add to your Bhaja Muger dal, and lo behold, you’ll say, “I Love it”.

© gouriguha 2013


  1. uff Gouri di ki dekhale !! not getting good size fish at all in for the time being let me relish this virtually

    1. shotti ilish mach khete ki bhalo lage. Hope you get some good ones as per your like.
      Thanks :)