I am a die hard romantic. Even though I dont like wading through rains, when I am running errands, I surely do enjoy the rain drops on my large patio door. I have the comfort of being curled up on my couch as they rain drops choreograph themselves. And I do enjoy my Ilish Maach Bhaja , a bit more , when it rains. I am a Bengali and a Foodie, and this connect , is pretty promiment in my food lovin soul.  Ilish Maach, or Hilsa is a favorite of the Bengalis. Come Monsoon, or the rains, and our cravings feature Ilish Maach . 

I have fond memories of going to the lcal fish markets in India, and picking up Ilish, when it was in season. Yes, the monsoons are the time, when Hilsa catches flood the market. I learnt how the shape of the Ilish was important, and the pinkish and silver tones of its skin. And then there's the entire controversy of Ilish with roe or without roe. There are families, who love their Ilish with roe, and there are those that prefer their fish without. I dont mind either. 

Me and my husband might be polar opposite when it comes to most things, but we are pretty unanimous when it comes to our choice of food. So the love for Ilish continues. We pick up our stash of river water fish, once a month, from the local Bangladeshi or Pan Asian stores. A Rui or Katla , is always on the cards, and when in season, Ilish . While the Bangladeshi store owner and his Pakistani Meat Cutting employee are adept in scoping out the Gada(Back) and Peti(Belly) pieces, it was a different story with the other stores. I remember, once I was in tears, when a Ilish(Hilsa) which I had fondly picked up, was cut into cubes. The husband took note of the mess which happened at the meat cutting station. Then started the saga of elaborate instructions, and finally teaching the Mexican meat cutter, at the local Pan Asian store, how to master the art of Gada- Peti. So the love of Hilsa(Ilish) has truly brought together so many different global citizens. 

Whenever we buy a statsh of  Ilish, we make sure, we cook it a few different ways. Each of which is iconic, in its own regard. Kancha Lonka Kalo Jeere diye Ilish Maach - Hilsa cooked with Nigella seeds and Green Chilies , Shorshe Bata Ilish - Hilsa cooked in a Mustard Sauce and last but not the least - Ilish Maach Bhaja

Ilish Maach Bhaja always used to be first course at my maternal home, followed by Ilish Macher Jhol. My daughter, who is picky eater, and is not fond of curries in general, loves her share of Ilish Maach Bhaja. Steaks of Hilsa are marinated with salt and turmeric. Then they are shallwo fried in mustard oil. Trust me, the mustard oil, is a key ingredient in this seemingly simple dish. The fish is fried , till its firm and golden brown. Its served with steamed rice, and the oil, with which its fried. If you prefer heat, like I do, you can miss out the green chili. 

I can literally have an entire plate of rice, with it. And happily settle down in a food coma later. 

So when it has been raining almost every evening, here in the Midwest, I could not help but dream about Ilish Maach Bhaja. Its the weather, which invokes these food memories, which we are only happy to indulge. Now for a quick drive to the Pan Asian Store , and check out their stock of Hilsa. Hoping they do have some decent ones, I can bring home. Yes, its always two , which come home. The iconic Bengali imagery of the Jora Ilish  ( Two Hilsas). 

Enjoy the rains and enjoy your Ilish Maach  ! 

Ingredients : 
Ilish Maach(Hilsa Fish) : Cut into Gada/ Peti Steaks : 4 to 6 
Turmeric Powder : 1 tsp
Salt : To taste 
Mustard Oil 
Green Chili(Optional) 

Wash and pat dry the fish pieces with a paper towel . 

Add salt and turmeric powder. Use your fingers to rub the spice mix into the fish pieces. 

Heat mustard oil, in a non stick pan. When its just before smoking point, add the fish pieces and shallow fry on both sides. 

Reserve the oil from the pan. 

Serve with warm steamed Basmati rice, fried Hilsa, the cooking oil , and some salt and chili on the side. 

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