Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Steamed Hilsa aka Bhapa Ilish

The Bengali community in Portland was abuzz with the news that a middle eastern store had started selling Bengali fish!This would be the only store that sells good old Bangali maach, so I was quite excited. We had a Bangladeshi store a few years ago who stocked a pretty good variety of fish, but he seemed to have shut down. So I could hardly wait to go and buy some ilish for ourselves. It's been a few years since I had Ilish. It is available only during the monsoons even in India and it's been a while that I have been back home during the rains.

Hilsa is rich in fatty omega-3 and is full of very fine little bones. But it had a distinct delicious taste and sometimes I feel nature has given it so many bones to make you really work hard before a delicious meal! Ilish can be made in many ways but the most popular Bengali style is steamed Hilsa with mustard paste and mustard oil.

More information on Hilsa can he read here.

I am not sure what the weight the packet of fish I bought was. I would guess about 1 or 1.5 lb. it was about 10 pieces (mix of both small and large size pieces).

10 pieces of Hilsa
3 green chillies (or more if you can take the heat)
1/2 cup mustard seeds
pinch of turmeric
2 tbsp grated coconut
salt to taste

Soak the mustard seeds in some warm water for about 20-30 minutes before grinding them. Marinate the fish pieces in salt. Grind the mustard seeds, 2 green chillies and coconut to a fine paste. Remember to add some salt while grinding the mustard. Add water as needed to make it a smooth fine paste. Though I have never tested it, my mother says the mustard gets a bitter taste if you grind without the salt.

Spread the fish out in a single layer in the pressure cooker separator containers. Mix a pinch of turmeric with this paste and pour over the fish such that the pieces are all coated in the paste. The paste should not be very watery. Pour a generous helping of mustard oil on the fish and paste. Put in the pressure cooker and steam for 2 or 3 whistles.

Variation: A traditional way of cooking this is to wrap the marinated fish and mustard paste individually in banana leaves and grilling them in the banana leaves. Tastes delicious but I did not have banana leaves and the weather here in December is way too cold to think about outdoor grilling :-)



Blogger Asha said...

Looks great and I love all your photographs too!:)

Happy 2007!

January 4, 2007 at 5:15 AM  
Blogger SJ said...

Hi Asha, thanks and welcome to my blog. Wish you a very Happy New Year as well!

January 4, 2007 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Sandeepa said...

Love bhapa ilish...yummy

January 4, 2007 at 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Manisha said...

Hey! This is very interesting - cooking the fish in a pressure cooker for 2-3 whistles and it doesn't fall apart! I must try this!

I've never eaten ilish so I don't know what kind of fish I could use as a substitute. Any suggestions? My knowledge of fish is limited to what we got in Bombay and what we get in the stores here.

January 7, 2007 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger SJ said...

Hi Manisha, I have never pressure cooked any fish other than ilish. But you could try salmon steaks - I have never done that since I find the smell of salmon somewhat strong. However, I have done the following with salmon:
Use the same paste as in the ilish recipe.
Marinate salmon pieces with salt, haldi and lemon for 30-40 min.
Coat with oil (or use Pam spray)
Broil on high for 12-18 min or till it starts turning brown.
Stir a little bit onions (maybe 1/2) and a teaspoon on garlic paste.
Add the paste and bring to a boil. Then add salmon pieces and simmer for 12-15 min.

If you do try to pressure cook with salmon steaks, do let me know how it turns out :-)

January 8, 2007 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Sulagna said...

this is my favorite food! i just love hilsa. thanks for this recipe.

March 5, 2008 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous SG said...

Hi SJ,

I am also in Oregon right now, specifically in Hillsboro :) I happened to come across your profile and wonderful recipes. Can you tell me where in Portland do you find fish? Which mid-western place did you refer to ? :) I am dying to have fish :(



September 9, 2008 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger SJ said...

Hi SG, Ask your hosts about Beaverton Halal Shop, it is at the crossing of 217 and HWY-8 (next to the subaru car dealer). I have heard India Imports(In Hillsboro itself) also keeps frozen Ilish, but haven't been there in a while. For other fresh fish (not Ilish) try Uyajimaya or Dah Sing. Good Luck!

September 10, 2008 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger daniellec said...

My pressure cooker doesn't whistle...can you tell me what heat setting you set it at and for how long you cooked it?

June 26, 2009 at 8:15 PM  
Anonymous Zubin said...

I would love to make this!

We are new to Portland, and I was looking for stores that sell bengali fish. Do you know if the store you mentioned here is still open? If so, what is the name?

January 22, 2012 at 11:41 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home