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Friday, November 4, 2011

Ilisher (Hilsa) Patla Jhol

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Ilish or Hilsa is the favorite Bengali fish and makes it into the favorite top 3 food list of a lot of Bongs. My husband keeps telling me the story of his classmate who always ate a whole Ilish on his birthday. Apparently it used to take him 3 hours to battle all the fish bones, but at the end he’d always emerge victorious.

Ilish is the national fish for Bangladesh and provides for the livelihood for thousand in the lower Ganges delta. These fishes are anadromous and lives mostly in sea water but swims up the great rivers in the Bangladesh delta to spawn. Those from the Bangladesh river of Padma are considered to be the tastiest and the hardest to come by in India. In our childhood we’d mostly contend with the “lesser” Rupnarayan river’s Hilsa (also called Kolaghater ilish). The weird part is that being in US we get easier access to Bangaldesher-r ilish at our local desi store (International Food Bazaar in Bellevue, WA). 

Ilish is cooked in many different styles. However, for the best Ilish the simplest cooking method provides the best taste. The trick is ensuring that no strong flavor or masala is put in, so that the natural flavor of Ilish comes out.

Ensure that when you buy Ilish try to hit the sweet spot of around 2lbs (1 kg). Also wash the fish as less as possible.

Ingredient

  1. 5-6 slices of Ilish
  2. 1/2 teaspoon Kalonji/Nigella seeds
  3. Turmeric
  4. Mustard oil
  5. 5-6 Hot Indian Green Chilies

Procedure

  1. Lightly wash and pat dry the fish slices and smear them with turmeric and salt.
  2. Heat mustard oil in Kadai/deep-pan . Once it starts smoking gently slide in the fish pieces. Be careful of the oil splatter!!
  3. Fry them till light golden yellow. You need to be very careful not to brown them. Remove the fish slices from the oil and keep them aside.
  4. We need to reuse the oil used for frying the fish since it already picked up the precious flavor of hilsa.
  5. Dissolve 1/2 tbsp of turmeric in a cup of water and keep it aside.
  6. Temper the oil in the pan with Kalonji and green chilies. When the spices starts popping up add the turmeric water and salt to it.
  7. Once the water starts boiling, gently slide the fish pieces into it.
  8. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

This light ,soupy, golden yellow gravy tastes best with hot steaming rice.

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