Fish Hilsa – The Jewel of Bengali Cuisine

Last Updated on December 23, 2023 by Amanda P. Brown

Fish Hilsa is the crown jewel of South Asian rivers. This fish is just a culinary treasure. This silvery wonder swims between legend and plate. It enriches hearts with its rich flavor and versatility.

Whether steamed to simple elegance or transformed into fragrant curries and crispy fritters, Hilsa is the star of countless Bengali dishes. Every bite is a trip of tradition and flavor.

From humble street food to royal feasts, Hilsa weaves itself into the fabric of culture, uniting families and sparking culinary adventures. So, let’s dive into this ode to Hilsa, discover its secrets, and savor 15 amazing Hilsa recipes.

What is the Hilsa Fish?

The Hilsa fish is also known as ilish (ইলিশ মাছ). This fish is a culinary treasure found in rivers and estuaries across South Asia and the Middle East.

It is Commonly referred to as Hilsa fish in English and by different names such as palla fish, hilsha, Ellis, ilish, ilishii, pallu machhi, pulasa, or polasa in different origins. Hilsa fish in Bangladesh is regarded as the national fish. Moreover, Bengalies often call it macher raja or king of fishes.

However, beyond its cultural importance, hilsa fish benefits for health are also mentionable. Moreover, it shines in various delicious recipes. From the popular Ilish Bhaja (fried Hilsa) to the tasty Ilisher Dim Bhaja (fried Hilsa roe), its soft, oily texture and delightful flavor enhance traditional Bengali dishes.

15 Traditional Hilsa Fish Recipes

  1. Ilish Macher Bhorta
  2. Ilish Bhaja
  3. Shorshe Ilish
  4. Ilish Bhapa
  5. Ilish Shukto
  6. Ilish Paturi
  7. Hilsa Curry
  8. Ilish Polao
  9. Ilish Maach Kochu Sak
  10. Shahi Doodh Ilish
  11. Ilisher Shingara
  12. Ilisher Cutlet
  13. Ilisher Dim Pakora
  14. Ilisher Kebabs
  15. Ilish Fish Fried Roe

1. Ilish Macher Bhorta

Ilish Macher Bhorta
Ilish Macher Bhorta

Ilish Macher Bhorta is a beloved Bangladeshi side dish. It showcases the country’s flavors. In Bengali cuisine, one of the popular recipes is bhorta, and ilish bhorta is an incredible fusion.

This recipe is made with fried or steamed Hilsa fish (ilish) mashed. The mashed ilish includes mustard oil, green chilies, onions, garlic, and optional ingredients like salt and green mango for a flavorful Bengali dish. When they are all properly mixed with the mashed, it turns into a flavorful bhorta. 

However, It’s a simple yet flavorful representation of Bangladesh’s culinary heritage. You can pair this rich and savory dish with steamed rice. This will offer you a pure Bengali flavor vibe.

2. Ilish Bhaja

Ilish Bhaja
Ilish Bhaja

Ilish Bhaja is a classic Bengali dish that celebrates the simplicity of Hilsa fish (Ilish). This beloved preparation is also known as Ilish Maach Bhaja and is so easy to prepare.

Just pick an ilish fish slice, coated it with salt and turmeric. Then, you can fry it in mustard oil. The mustard aroma will offer a traditional Bengali cuisine vibe. 

However, Bengalis are known for their love of fried fish, particularly savoring the rich and fatty Hilsa in its purest form. Often enjoyed on special occasions as a starter and at Bengali New Year celebrations with Panta bhaat traditionally. 

3. Shorshe Ilish

Shorshe Ilish
Shorshe Ilish

One of the popular and demanded Bengali recipe of ilish is Shorshe Ilish, which is known for its extremely rich flavor.

This shorshe ilish recipe features a mustard-based gravy made with simple ingredients like mustard, mustard oil, green chili, and spices. All the ingredients are used to marinate the ilish, and then the ilish is cooked in the mustard sauce.

Thus, the dish perfectly blends the unique texture of Hilsa with the tangy and spicy flavors of the mustard sauce. However, you can serve this flavored dish with steamed rice and a simple salad side. This meal will fill you with satisfaction.

4. Ilish Bhapa

Ilish Bhapa
Ilish Bhapa

Ilish Bhapa is an iconic traditional Bengali dish that means steamed hilsha. Sometimes, it is called shorshe illish bhapa. 

However, in the recipe, the hilsa fish is marinated in a mix of mustard, poppy seeds, and coconut pastes. The marinated fish is then cooked by steaming.

This unique cooking method offers the dish a unique smell and keeps the rich flavor of Hilsa intact. Ilish Bhapa is loved for its simplicity, yet it creates a delightful dish that goes perfectly with steamed rice. This flavory Bhapa ilish meal represents an essential part of Bengali cuisine.

5. Ilish Shukto

Ilish Shukto
Ilish Shukto

Ilish Shukto is a classic dish from East Bengal that combines the delicious Hilsa fish with a mix of vegetables seasoned with ginger and radhuni. This Bengali-style curry differs from typical Shuto in that it contains Hilsa Fish and vegetables spiced with Randhuni and 5 spices.

This recipe provides a delightful blend of flavors and is often part of a Bengali meal featuring various courses, from bitter starters to sweet endings. It is widely enjoyed in Ghoti households of Bengal. They frequently have it on the regular menu.

6. Ilish Paturi

Ilish Paturi
Ilish Paturi

Marined ilish with mustard and spices paste, traditionally cooked in banana leaves, results in a flavor-rich dish called Ilish Paturi. This dish captures 3 of Bengal’s favorite cuisine ingredients: hilsa, banana leaves, and mustard.

This dish comes through a unique cooking style called paturi. Paturi refers to slow cooking or grilling over a low flame.

However, to make your ilish paturi, prepare a mix of mustard paste, fresh green chilies, and spices. Then marinate your fish slices and wrap them in banana leaves or parchment paper, and then slowly cook. Thus, your ilish macher paturi is ready to enjoy.

Bengali includes this recipe for special programs or weddings. On your next lunch or dinner gathering, you can add to your menu and get a Bengali vibe on dining.

7. Hilsa Curry

Hilsa Curry
Hilsa Curry

Hilsa Curry is a popular Hilsa fish Bangladesh recipe where Hilsa fish (Ilish) is cooked in a flavorful curry. The curry is typically made with ingredients like mustard paste, green chilies, turmeric, and various spices.

The Hilsa fish absorbs the rich flavors of the curry and creates a distinctive and delicious dish. Hilsa Fish Curry is a classic Bengali dish that is loved for its distinct flavor. It is frequently served with boiled rice (bhaat) for a filling supper. 

8. Ilish Polao

Ilish Polao
Ilish Polao

Ilish Polao is a cherished Bangladeshi delicacy that features fragrant basmati rice and marinated Hilsa fish (Ilish). This traditional Bengali dish is renowned for its unique combination of earthy flavors from fresh Ilish and classic Bengali spices.

To prepare this recipe, first marinate Hilsa fish in mustard paste, fresh green chilies, and spices. Then, layer it with partially cooked rice and slow-cook it for aromatic Ilish Polao. This slow cooking allows the rice and fish to absorb the rich, distinctive taste. 

For its incredible taste, it is often a centerpiece during special occasions. You can try this meal at your lunch or dinner. This will surely enhance your dining experience with a traditional Bengali flavor. 

9. Ilish Maach Kochu Sak

Ilish Maach Kochu Sak
Ilish Maach Kochu Sak

Bangladesh hilsa fish’s another common fusion is ilish maach kochu sak. It is the taro stems and ilish fish, a great combo dish that reflects Bengali rural cuisine.

This traditional dish comprises Hilsa fish and taro stems in a flavorful curry. The curry is typically seasoned with mustard paste, green chilies, and spices. 

The combination of the rich, oily texture of Hilsa fish with the unique taste and texture of taro stems creates a delightful and hearty dish. 

10. Shahi Doodh Ilish

Shahi Doodh Ilish
Shahi Doodh Ilish

Shahi Doodh Ilish is a luxurious Bengali dish featuring Hilsa fish (Ilish) cooked in a rich, creamy sauce with aromatic spices. This milk-based special curry, which exemplifies the grand and flavorful side of Bengali cuisine, is often savored on special occasions.

However, to prepare Shahi Doodh Ilish, the Key ingredients you need include Hilsa fish, milk, cream, and a selection of spices. They ensure a royal and flavorful dish for your dining.

First, start by marinating Hilsa fish in a blend of spices. Then, you need to Cook it in a creamy sauce with special spices until the fish is tender.

For serving, you can make it look special by adding fresh coriander on top. Enjoy it hot over a plate of fragrant basmati rice for a truly royal meal.

11. Ilisher Shingara

Ilisher Shingara
Ilisher Shingara

Ilisher Shingara is a tasty Bengali snack that showcases the delicious flavor of Hilsa fish (Ilish). It’s a unique fish meat twist on the classic samosa.

To prepare the recipe, mince Hilsa fish mixed with spices and herbs. Then, you need to wrap the stuffing in a crispy pastry shell. And deep-fry it till golden brown.

This shingara recipe offers a delightful way to enjoy the distinct taste of Hilsa fish in a convenient and savory form. That’s why it has become a favorite snack among Bengali food lovers. 

12. Ilisher Cutlet

Ilisher Cutlet
Ilisher Cutlet

Ilisher Cutlet is a delightful Bengali snack that puts a twist on the traditional cutlet. It features the rich and distinctive taste of Hilsa fish (Ilish).

In this preparation, minced Hilsa fish is blended with an assortment of spices and herbs and often combined with potatoes. The mixture is then shaped into cutlets, coated with breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until they achieve a golden and crispy exterior.

This unique cutlet variation provides a delicious way to savor the unique flavors of Hilsa fish in a convenient and delicious snack form.

13. Ilisher Dim Pakora

Ilisher Dim Pakora
Ilisher Dim Pakora

Ilisher Dim Pakora is a Bengali delicacy featuring the distinctive flavor of Hilsa fish (Ilish). This dish prepares a flavorful batter with minced Hilsa fish, eggs, spices, and gram flour.

The mixture is shaped into patties and deep-fried to golden perfection. They offer a unique and savory way to relish the delicious essence of Ilish in a popular snack form.

To enhance its eating experience, you can serve it with some sauces. 

14. Ilisher Kebabs

Ilisher Kebabs
Ilisher Kebabs

Ilish fish kebabs are a tasty Bengali dish featuring the unique flavor of Hilsa fish (Ilish). This popular snack is quick to make. You just need to make minced Hilsa with spices. Then, shape them into kebabs and grill them until they produce a lovely crust.

Whether pan-frying or grilling, these fish kebab recipes provide an easy and delectable way to taste the particular essence of Ilish.

However, you can serve it as a snack with some green chutney or salad. Or you can pair it with Naan, roti, or fragrant rice for a meal.

15. Ilish Fish Fried Roe

Ilish Fish Fried Roe
Ilish Fish Fried Roe

Tiny fish eggs are called Hilsa roe. It gets a crispy makeover and then turns into Bengali favorite Ilisher dim bhaja. The roe is seasoned with spices, coated in a simple batter, and deep-fried until it turns golden brown.

This recipe is much more than a snack. It is a story of Bengali cooking magic. Each bite bursts with creamy fish goodness, crunch galore, and a hint of spicy warmth. Passed down through families, it pops up at gatherings and on street corners. So, for your next gathering, you go with it. 

Read More:

How to Make the Popular Hilsha Fish Recipe – the Shorshe Ilish

Shorshe Ilish

Let’s see how to cook the most popular Shorshe Ilish (a delectable Hilsa with poppy and mustard seed recipe):

Type: Fish

Cuisine: Bangladeshi

Keywords: Shorshe Ilish.

Recipe Yield: 4 People

Calories: 450 calories

Preparation Time: 2 Hours

Cooking Time: 20 Minutes

Total Time: 2 Hours 20 Minutes

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces of Ilish fish
  • 6 green chillies
  • 1.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • Mustard oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp kalonji seeds
  • Salt according to taste

Recipe Instructions:

Cooking Process::

  • Soak both the mustard seeds in water for 2 hours with salt, 1 tablespoon of mustard seed oil, 2 green chilies, and a pinch of turmeric powder. To make a smooth paste (shorshe bata), combine all of the ingredients.
  • You'll need to make a poppy seeds paste (posto bata).
  • After that, coat Hilsa with the turmeric powder and salts for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • Shallow fry Hilsa until golden. Do this for both sides.
  • In the pan with leftover oil, you need to include kalonji and then heat for - 30 secs.
  • Include the poppy paste and mustard paste.
  • Then, stir until rawness diminishes.
  • Add 1 or more cups of water and bring to a boil.
  • Cook for about 10 minutes after adding the fried Hilsa pieces.
  • Stir in the salt and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the gravy achieves its ideal consistency.
  • Turn off the heat. Have fun with your Shorshe Ilish.

Editor's Rating:
4.48

Tips

  • For a more flavorful dish, use bone-in hilsa fish.
  • If you do not have the mustard paste, try 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds and 1/4 cup water instead.
  • You can also add other veggies to the recipe, such as eggplant, potatoes, or cauliflower.

FAQs

What Are the Best Cuts of Hilsa for Different Dishes?

For various Hilsa dishes, different cuts offer distinct flavors and textures. You can choose thick slices or steaks for grilling or frying, maximizing the rich taste. For curries, you can use bone-in cuts, like the head or tail, and enhance the broth. Fillets work well in delicacies where a boneless texture is preferred. 

Is Hilsa Healthy Fish?

Yes, Hilsa fish is a healthy choice. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) as well as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These fatty acids have been associated with various health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, decreasing triglyceride levels, and improving overall cardiovascular health.

Is Hilsa Fish Good for Pregnancy?

Yes, Hilsa fish is good for pregnancy as it provides essential omega-3 fatty acids. They aid in fetal development. To avoid excessive vitamin A consumption, it should be taken moderately. Many sources convey that hilsa or other oily fish shouldn’t be consumed more than twice a week. 

How to Clean and Prepare Hilsa?

To clean and prepare Hilsa, You need to rinse it thoroughly and remove scales and fins. Then, gut the fish by slitting the belly. Optionally, debone the fish by removing the backbone. Cut it into portions as needed for cooking and give a final rinse before use.

Final Verdict

This silvery wonder isn’t just food; it’s a journey. From simple steams to fiery curries, each bite whispers of tradition and taste.

Whether you’re a seasoned gourmand or a curious newcomer, You can try the above-mentioned hilsa fish food and snack ideas. They will amaze you with each bite. Thus, you might just find your new favorite food to add to the menu. 

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