The taming of the ilish. Doi posto shorshe ilish recipe. Hilsa with crushed poppy and mustard seeds and curd.

Ilish without rice for K

Of course I had to order ilish when I took Kainaz to a Bengali restaurant for her first taste of Bengali food when we were dating. I was living in a PG then and had no kitchen to cook for her in. Or place to invite her to. Oh! Calcutta was called Only Fish then and at my ad agency senior account executive salary (almost the bottom of the totem pole), the meal wiped off my month's savings.

 I had ordered a shorshe ilish among other things. K confounded the restaurant staff that day by having the ilish with luchi as she does not eat rice. They looked at me with an expression that said, "dada kichhu korun." Do something. Ilish has to be had with rice.

She threw up at night as I learnt later. Nothing to do with the restaurant. A non-Bengali belly is not used to the pungency of the mustard paste based curries which can otherwise launch a thousand ships from Babughat (in Kolkata) and that is what led to the misadventure.

With rice for me

She loved the meal though and the restaurant too and 20 years later called in for lunch on her Parsi birthday earlier this month from Oh! Calcutta. She loves ilish now. Handles the bones more deftly than I can. She enjoys her shorshe jhols too, but only at home where either my mom or I make a tempered down version for her. Diluting it with water. Adding posto (crushed poppy seeds) and so on.

As I did yesterday, when I took out a couple of pieces of the ilish that I had bought from Poonam at Khar Station Market (delivered at home) for K's birthday. I made a doi posto shorshe ilish with it. I might have shared my recipe with you in the past as I make it often.

Well, why not once again? So here goes:

Doi posto shorshe ilish

  • Take 3 tablespoons of ground posto (poppy seeds), 1 teaspoon of ground black mustard seeds, 2 tablespoons of curd, 2 tablespoons of water, 1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric, red chilli & cumin powder and mix it with a spoon or blend it together. We dry grind the poppy seeds and the mustard seeds in the chutney section of the mixer and grinder as does my mother. The conventional way is to use a sil baata. Mortar and pestle.
  • Smear the hilsa pieces with a touch of turmeric and red chilli powder and salt and shallow fry it in mustard oil. Add a sliced green chilli to the oil first after it heats up. If the fish has eggs, as it does in this season, you might want to pop it out from the fish and fry it as it might not cook through and through if you shallow fry kept inside the fish.
  • Turn the fish gently so that it fries evenly, reduce the heat to minimum and pour in the paste. Add a touch of salt and let it cook for a couple of minutes and you are done. Turn the fish around if you can in between
  • Drizzle some mustard oil on the fish at the end, add finely chopped fresh coriander leaves and green chillies.
I made sure before cooking that K would not have a work call at that time. Working from home is fine, but ilish calls for mindful eating. You need to savour each bite and record it for posterity. Doing a happy dance in between. Keeping your guard against the thorns (fish bones) in your path.

I had my ilish with rice. K, without. We clicked the pics below mid meal. The smiles on our faces tell you the rest of the story. 

It's raining heavily today and this is what happened to the remaining ilish. There are two slices left  in the fridge now. The most bony ones. For posterity, the ilish was Rs 1,300 a kilo this time. Expensive but still way cheaper than ordering in and you can make it the way your heart desires!

Here are the recipes for the other fish dishes that I cooked for K on her birthday last weekend.


Sanjay N Lulla said…
Most tempting write up. I think Bengali Ilish is same as the Sindhi Pala fish. I think only we can eat it effortlessly, given the thorns in it. The more the thorns the tastier the fish. My granny had to have the fish available at any given time. She salted it then fried it. For eating it was seasoned with coriander seeds powder, red chilli powder, salt, little turmeric and amchur powder and slightly heated in a flat bottom vessel with a little hand sprinkle of water. This write up stirred in old memories.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Sanjay yes, the very same palla. I got to know about its Sindhi connection through my talks with Alka Keswani and Vicky Ratnani and had written about it. Thanks for the recipe. By salted, do you mean dried it?
Sanjay N Lulla said…
@KK no not dried but apply salt and leave for sometime. Maybe turmeric too. Alka is a good friend. Was member of her Rasoi group on Facebook.
Shaswati said…
I can't get over sorshe ilish and luchi :D :D
And now I know what to make with ilish next time for you guys :p
Am intrigued with the Sindhi preparation mentioned in the comment section - would love to explore that recipe.