Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Re-ilish-ed!!! The tale of relishing Hilsa..

Indian Shad, Hilsa or Ilish, Bangladesh’s national fish is a pride for any bong ever born. From the Pride that a Kaku (uncle) feels when he walks past the envious stares of his neighbours and mates, with a big ilish tail peeking through his fish-carrying-bag; to the pride of a Kakima’s (aunty’s) fish filleting skills with a sharp iron cutting device (Boti); its pride all the way!!! And the best of it all has to be, when their young child starts eating the fish, without the fine bones stuck to his throat. I remember when I did that, and till date my dad looks at me with pride in his eyes!! :-P

Enough of jibber-jabber about bongs, now to the fish in question; ‘Ilish’. A perfectly cooked piece of ilish is ideally soft, flaky and full of flavour. I prefer making steamed ilish in a mustard sauce (Ilish Bhanpe) over and over. It tastes the best when the fish is freshest. The flavour of this flaky white fish lies in the numerous tiny bones all around its body, which makes eating this fish a skill that bongs have mastered. Ilish is an acquired taste, but trust me, when u do acquire the taste, you wont be able to let it go... 
This is my simple recipe for a fresh plate of steamed rice served with Ilish Bhanpe!

2 heaped tbsp Mustard Paste (I use yellow variety of mustard to make the paste, as I love the zing it gets along with it. You may use the simple black ones, also known as 'rye'.)
2 tsp Tender coconut paste (the creamy part of a tender coconut)
4 slit green chillies
Turmeric to taste
Salt to taste
2 tbsp dark mustard oil
¼ cup water (or less, depends on the thickness of curry you want.)
4 steak type pieces of Hilsa/Ilish


In 1/8 cup of water, mix together mustard & coconut paste, salt and turmeric.

Smear each piece of fish in this paste till well covered on all sides. Keep it to marinate in this mix for 10 mins.

After 10 mins, depending on the amount of curry you want, add in some water, the mustard oil and chilies; and cover it tightly with cling film or a lid. If using a cling film, do not forget to poke several holes with fork for the air to pass while cooking.  

Now microwave the fish on high for 3 minutes. After giving it a bit of a stir, microwave again for 2 minutes, till the flesh of the fish is white, flaky and well cooked. Depending on the size of each piece and the amount of water you add, cooking time will vary. 
For me 5 minutes at 900 watts always gives out the best results.


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