The great Bengali dream



These are photos which will make my fellow Bengalis drool.

These are photos of the famed fresh water fish, Hilsa or Eelish (in Bengali). I used to call it ‘English fish’ when I had shifted to Calcutta from the UK as a kid as I couldn’t pronounce eelish then.

Immigrants out of Bengal, like me, dream about it. People often pack it in ice and fly it back when they visit Calcutta. I bought a whole Hilsa from my local market at Bombay recently. Connoisseurs would argue that this is not the real thing… but it is better than not having anything.

Hilsa has a very delicate taste. It needs to be cooked with the mildest of spices so that the taste is not spoilt. Here, I have marinated it with a tea spoon each of turmeric, cummin powder and half a tea soon of chilly powder and bit of salt and shallow fried it. Tasted quite good and I was quite satisfied with the taste and the quality of the fish. I will put up more posts on some of the other preparations as I cook the rest of the fish through the week.

The wife loves Hilsa. Though I must say that it is not for the faint hearted and the uninitiated should not try it without guidance. There are two cuts of Hilsa. One is ‘peti’ or the stomach part. Here the flesh is soft, there are fewer bones and is best had curried. Those not used to Eelish should start with this. The other cut is ‘gaada’ or the back portion. This has a maze of tiny bones and requires a fair amount of expertise, effort and passion to navigate. This cut is best had fried as it becomes easier to identify and remove the bones.
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