If Ilish (Hilsa fish) is the king of fishes then Chingri (Prawn) is the queen. the virtual catfight over the supreme taste of both the variety requires no further discussion, especially among Bengali community. Bangals ( people with origin in Bangladesh) and their love for Ilish is as same as the Ghoti peoples preference for Prawns. I personally love Hilsa over Prawns and surprisingly I am not a Bangal. However, I prefer the Bangal way of cooking over the Ghoti way while making Ilish Maach. There are several famous dishes using Hilsa fish is available and Bhapa Ilish is one of the signature dish prepared with Ilish mach.
There are numerous varieties of Hilsa dishes available and Bhapa Ilish is one of the internationally popular amongst them. “Bhapa Ilish” means Steamed Hilsa where “Bhapa” depicts for Steaming. Traditionally Bong ladies used to steam their Hilsa in a “Stainless Steel Tiffin Box” while making the rice in a Handi (Hari). That actually is the ideal process of making Bhapa Ilish. However, These days we opt for easier ways while making the Bhapa Ilish. Bhapa Ilish can be prepared in a Vessel or in a Pressure Cooker and even in Microwave.
- Hilsa fish/ Ilish Mach: 5-7 pieces (500 g)
- Black Mustard Seed for paste: 4 Tsp. (it should be soaked in lukewarm water)
- Sour Curd/ Tok Doi: 4 Tbsp.
- Freshly Grated Coconut: 3 Tbsp. (I have used Coconut Powder instead of Freshly grated coconut)
- Poppy Seed/ Posto / Khuskhus: 1.5 Tbsp.
- Salt: to taste
- Turmeric powder: 1 Tsp
- Green Chili: 4-6
- Red Chili Powder: ½ Tsp
- Mustard Oil: 4 Tbsp.
- Prepare a thick paste of Black Mustard either in grinder or with the help of “Silnora” or “Shil Batta” by adding 1 green chili and 1 Tsp. of salt and keep it aside.
- Make Paste of Poppy Seeds or Posto separately.
- Rub fish pieces with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon turmeric powder and leave those for 10 minutes.
- Now in a bowl add Mustard Paste, Poppy Seed Paste, Freshly Grated Coconut, Sour Curd, Red Chilli Powder, Turmeric Powder and 3 Tbsp. of Mustard Oil and Mix properly.
- Add salt to the mixture. Do check the salt as we have already added salt while rubbing the fish and in the Mustard Paste. Add 1 Cup of Water to the mixture.
- Bhapa Ilish can be prepared in a flame using a double boiler or can be prepared in Microwave.
- Take a Stainless Steel Tiffin Box or a Microwave oven safe Container with a tight lid and rub some Oil in the container.
- Now spread half of the previously prepared Paste the container and put 2-3 slit Green Chilies and then place Fish pieces and finally pour rest of the paste over the fishes.
- Pour 1 Tbsp. of Mustard Oil on the top and also rest of the slit Green Chilies.
- Cover the lid of the tiffin box.
- Using Vessel or Handi: Take a deep Vessel/ Handi with and place the Box and then pour 5 Cup of water in the box and place the stainless Steel box and then cover the Vessel with the lid and place the vessel on high flame for around 5 minutes or till water started boiling and then cook on low flame for around 20 minutes.
- Using Pressure Cooker: Pour 5 Cup s of water in a Pressure Cooker and place the Stainless Steel Box and then Pressure cook in a pressure cooker on medium flame for 2-3 whistles. Wait till steam comes out of the cooker.
- Using Microwave oven: Take a Microwave safe deep vessel and put the Container containing Fish and then put 5 Cups of water and Cook in High Temperature for 5 minutes and then in 40% temperature for around 25 minutes.
- Carefully take out the tiffin box and open the lid.
- Bhapa Ilish is ready to serve with steamed rice.
To serve Bhapa Ilish:
A few spoonful of steamed rice with Bhapa Ilish and you are all set!