I scream, You Scream, We all scream for ILISH !! Yes, our Bong genes, will make us shout all the more, all the loudest, whenever someone mentions ILISH . Come Monsoon, and Bong households will make sure, that they bring this fish home. Times have changed, but the Bong psyche has not chnaged at all, when it comes to their favorite fresh water fish. So the Bong, be it in Kolkata, in New Delhi, or in Kansas City, will shop for ILISH, come Monsoons. Even if the concerned Bong, is currently in a part of the world, where there is no Monsoon, yet he/she will drive the few extra miles, to the Indian/ Bangladeshi store, and be the first one, to pick up JORA ILISH(A pair of Hilsa). There is a certain pride, a certain amount of bragging rights, on how well, the quality of Ilish has been purchased, and how well it has been cooked. This is a conversation which is so familiar to all Bongs. The love for Ilish unites Bongs across the world.While some Bongs debate over, whether it is a Bangaal  (East Bengali ) favorite, and with Ghotis(West Bengalis) preferring Chingri Machh(Prawns.) But that debate never did hold enough water. I come from a BA-TI hosuehold(Bangaal Mom and Ghoti Dad), but I have seen both my parents love ILISH equally crazily. So its obvious that Moi and Bhai(younger brother) grew up developing a keen taste for this delicacy.

It was yet another year, when I was away from Bhai on Raksha Bnadhan. At least during my Delhi stint, I could make sure, that I was around him on this special day. So this year, a day before Raksha Bandhan, I decided to make some Ilish Machher Jhaal , and dedicate it to my brother, virtually. When we were kids, Bhai had a special nickname for Ilish Machh. Well, if I did spill the nickname here, then he would be furious, so let that be a secret. Needless to say, it was his favorite, and continues to be so. So it seemed apt, that at least, I make Ilish Machh and share the pictures with him. That was my plan. And I stuck to it.

The beauty of cooking Ilish Machh is that, one does not experiment, a lot with the recipe. One does not cook Ilish Machh ever with Onions or Garlic or Ginger. That would be sacrilege. Ilish should be cooked in such a way, so that the natural flavour or aroma of the fish, is not altered by any of the ingredients, with which it is cooked. Hence everyone sticks to a few time-tested recipes, and it always works wonders for every Bong. Hubby however had some different ideas.He had been telling me stories of how his mother used to cook Ilish Machher Jhaal with MUKHI KOCHU. I had been refusing to do that for that last few years, So this Ilish Season, he decided to pick up JORA ILISH and Mukhi Kochu. He added that its a Bangaal recipe, and that it would taste awesome. So when I asked him for this said recipe, he smiled and added, that he had only eaten it, and does not know it himself. Well, I was not smiling for sure, as I had already, diced the Mukhi Kochu by then. So I stuck to my Ilish Machher Jhaal er recipe, and replaced the Aloo(Potato) in it, with Mukhi Kochu.I was after all dedicating the food to my brother, hence I did not want any variations to the taste, Bhai loved. Well, the results were quite lip smacking.


Ilish Maachh: 4 pieces
Mukhi Kochu: 2: peeled and cubed.
Green Chilies: 4-5, slit longitudinally(according to heat preferences)
Turmeric: 1-2 tsp
Red Chili Powder: 1 tsp
Sugar: 1/4 tsp
Kalo Jeere/Kalonji/Nigella Seeds: 1/2 tsp
Mustard oil: 6-7 tbsp

Clean the fish well, and remove all the scales. Wash it well, under running water, and then pat it dry with a paper towel. Coat the fish pieces with turmeric and some salt. Keep aside.

Heat mustard oil in a non stick pan. Don't substitute mustard oil, with any other oil, as it lends to the signature taste. So when you buy Ilish Maachh, ensure you also have Mustard Oil with you, on stock. Once the oil has just about started to smoke, carefully place the fishes in the pan, and shallow fry them, on moderately high heat. Ilish Machh tends to splutter, so keep a splutter guard handy. Turn the fishes after about frying them for 3 minutes per side, so that they are evenly fried on both sides.

 Remove the fishes from the oil, and add in the diced Mukhi Kochu. Fry them lightly and then keep aside.

In the same oil, add in Kalo jeere and the slit green chilies. Let them splutter.

Meanwhile, make a paste of red chili powder, turmeric powder, salt, sugar and around half a cup of water, in a bowl. Once you get the aroma of green chilies, from the oil, add this spice mixture. Mix well. Add in the fried Kochu, and cover and cook at about medium heat, till the Kochu is almost cooked.

Add in the fried Ilish Maach carefully in the gravy, and cook uncovered till the Kochu is totally cooked, and the fish has soaked up the gravy well. Reduce the gravy, so that it not too watery, but not too thick.

Check for seasonings ! Remove from Fire !!

Serve hot with some steamed Basmati Rice  !!!

Bon appetit !!! 

1 comment

  1. FB te dekhe chhilam ..ekon Porlam...Ilish stock e achhe ...must make it before leaving ...