Barishali Ilish | Hilsa dipped in grated coconut and yogurt-mustard gravy


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Hilsa is known as “Queen of fishes”. Ilish (Hilsa fish) is very popular in South Asia, especially among Bengalis and Odiyas. It is the National fish of Bangladesh. In North America, Hilsa is not always available. So, they sometimes use Shad fish as a substitute. It is also popular in Andhra Pradesh (India) and is called Pulasa in Telegu. It is popular among Sindhis as well.

According to most of the Bengalis and Odiyas, including me, Hilsa is the tastiest fish in this world. The reason for its popularity is its unique taste and texture. During some special occasions, Hilsa is often bought pairs in many Bengali houses. When it comes to Ilish (Hilsa fish), I can go on and on because I am a die heart fan of it.

There is an eternal bonding between Hilsa fish and Bengalis and as a Bong, I completely agree with it. For Bengalis, fishes are much more than a food ingredient and it’s a significant part of any celebration. Hilsa fish converts any occasion to festival with its unbeatable flavour and taste.

Whether it’s Annaprasan or Marriage ceremony or a Matshamukhi (after death ceremony), any occasion is almost incomplete without Ilish macher recipe. In many Ashirwad ceremonies, Hilsa fish is also used as “Tattwa” gift in Bengali weddings.

First time I had Barishali Ilish was in a very renowned restaurant of Kolkata named Bhojohori Manna and I had fallen for the recipe. After doing some research on the recipe, I got to know more about the Bengali fish curry.
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Ilish Borishali or Borishali Ilish is an exemplary Ilish mach recipe prepared with mustard paste, coconut and yogurt with lots of green chillies. The combination of these ingredients with Hilsa fish goes heavenly. I always pair up the dish with steamed Basmati rice. Hilsa fish itself has a unique flavour and flavoured rice recipes may overpower the flavour of the Bengali fish curry.

When I have come to London, my husband bought a large Poddar Ilish or Hilsa fish caught in river Padma, from a Bangladeshi shop and asked me to prepare something special. After looking at the fish, the first thing came to mind was Barishali Ilish recipe. My husband just loved the preparation and couldn’t stop himself to devour. Barishali Ilish is a huge hit in our house and one of the most frequently prepared bengali fish curry on any special occasion to make it some extra special.

Barishali Ilish recipe or Ilish Barishali is super easy to prepare. It requires minimal ingredients to get prepared. It is a full proof recipe, and nothing can be wrong with it. Bengali spices can create magic and make any fish curry taste outstanding. But Borishali Ilish is an exceptional recipe. No other spices are used in this recipe, other than a tiny amount of Mustard paste. The best part is it gets prepared very quickly without investing much effort. So, it can be a great option for sudden dinner party or small get together.

Barishali Ilish step by step photos and instructions have been provided in the ‘Instructions’ section of the recipe. But before directly jumping into the recipe, let me share few interesting facts about Bengali fish curries and the recipe.


Bengali Fish Curry

West Bengal and Bangladesh are both surrounded by many rivers. They have been a great source of fresh river fishes from ages. The availability of fishes is the key reason behind the popularity of Fish Curries in these regions. This is the secret behind the huge variation of Fish curries in Bengali cuisine. Our old ancestors have left behind many supreme and simple varieties of fish curry recipe for us.

Fish Curry recipes have exceptional contribution to the Bengali cuisine. The huge varieties of fishes and the fish preparations make this cuisine rich and unique from others.

Not only in occasions or celebrations, a Bengalis normal meal is almost incomplete without fish curries. In this case, Rui, Katla, Ilish, Talapia, Mrigal play the most important role to complete any Bong’s regular meal. Macher patla jhol and bhaat is the most desired food that a Bengali can have almost daily without a single complaint. So, they are also known as ‘Mache Bhate Bangali’.


Recipe of Hilsa Fish

Many traditional and authentic bengali fish curry recipe that are prepared with Ilish mach (Hilsa fish). Each recipe is a masterpiece and they are frequently served in almost every special ceremony like marriage, annaprasan etc.

Ilish mach (Hilsa fish) can be prepared in many ways like frying, steaming, roasting or baking and very preparation tastes amazing. Barishali Ilish, Shorshe Ilish, Ilish Bhapa, Doi Ilish, Ilish Macher Tok, Ilish Macher Paturi etc. are the finest examples of Hilsa fish recipe.
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What kind of Mustard seeds to be used in this recipe?

Normally, two types of Mustard seeds are used in cooking, yellow and black. Black mustards have strong pungent flavour as compared to yellow mustard seeds. Yellow seeds have mild flavour.

Note: Sometimes few black mustard seeds have bitter taste.

Most of the people use yellow Mustard seeds for this fish preparation. I have also used yellow Mustard seeds for this preparation.


How to cook Ilish fish?

For the recipe of Hilsa fish, I have taken four pieces of the fish to cook. First, I have scaled and washed the pieces nicely and then marinated the pieces with Turmeric powder and Salt for 15 minutes. Then I have lightly fried the Ilish mach in mustard oil.

Mustard oil is one of the biggest secrets behind the unique taste of Bengali fish recipes. Yes, Bongs always use Mustard oil for cooking fishes. It will give the best taste and flavour to the dish.

The three most important component of Barishali ilish recipe is grated coconut, whipped yogurt and mustard seeds paste.

I have made a smooth paste of mustard seeds and green chillies. I had soaked the mustard seeds for some time before preparing the paste. It reduces the time of preparing the paste.

In Barishali Ilish, green Chillies play an important role to flavour up the dish. The flavour of fresh green Chillies pair up amazingly with the pungent flavour of Mustard paste and grated coconut.

I have used Nigella seeds for the tempering of the dish. Nigella seeds work great in mustard flavoured preparations. I have not used any other external spice to flavour up the dish.

Many Bengali fish curry have already been shared in my previous post. You can check few of them


..And Many more…
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Ingredients:

To Marinate the Fish
  • 4 pieces of Ilish (Hilsa fish)
  • ½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • ¾ teaspoon Salt

For the Mustard seeds paste
  • 2 and ½ tablespoons Mustard seeds
  • 3 green Chillies
  • 2 tablespoons Water

Other Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons Yogurt
  • 3 green Chillies, slit
  • ¼ cup Coconut, grated
  • ½ teaspoon Nigella seeds (Kalonji)
  • ¾ teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Mustard oil for cooking
  • 1 cup Water, for Gravy



Instructions:
  1. Wash the pieces of Hilsa and marinate them with salt and turmeric powder for 15 minutes.

  2. Wash the mustard seeds and soak it in water for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the mustard seeds and transfer them into the jar of a grinder.
  4. Add 3-4 green chillies into it and close the lid of the jar.
  5. Grind them for couple of minutes till smooth paste. Keep it aside.
  6. Add Mustard oil into the pan and wait until the oil becomes hot.
  7. Add the fish and fry them very lightly for half a minute in low flame.
  8. Turn the pieces and lightly fry the other side too.
  9. Take the pieces out on a plate and keep it aside.
  10. Add Nigella seeds (Kalonji) into the pan and allow them to crackle.
  11. Add Mustard paste (Step 5) into the pan and mix it well.
  12. Cook it in medium flame for couple of minutes.
  13. Add Salt, Turmeric powder into the pan and stir it nicely.
  14. Cook it in medium flame for 2-3 minutes until it starts releasing oil.
  15. Add Coconut, green Chillies into the pan and mix it nicely.

  16. Cook it in low flame for another minute. Stir in between.
  17. Add water into the pan and give a nice stir. Adjust the amount of water according to your preferable consistency. I have added 1 cup of water for the preparation.
  18. Add whipped Yogurt and mix it nicely.
  19. Cover the pan and cook it in high flame until the gravy simmers.
  20. Put the flame in low and add the Hilsa pieces (Step 9) into the pan.
  21. Cover the pan and cook it in low flame for 8-10 minutes. Flip the fish pieces when its halfway done.
  22. Switch off the flame and put the pan down.


Serving Instruction
Transfer the Barishali Ilish on a serving plate or in a serving bowl. Serve hot or warm to enjoy its best taste. Pair up the Bengali fish curry with plain rice and enjoy the Bengali delicacy.

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