My trip to Tripura a few days back helped me to collect another "type" of Ilish Mach. No, I am not talking about fresh Hilsa instead the preserved fish is what I am referring to! Now, you may wonder, why on the earth I am talking about preserved fish instead of fresh fish! Well, to answer that, I must mention, that I am talking about Nona Ilish here. Well, this post is obviously having a recipe ( of Nona Ilish Bhorta) but I am trying to share as much as I know about Nona Ilish.
Nona Ilish and the history of preservation
Ilish is a pricey fish and Bangladesh's national fish as well. Ilish aka Hilsa contributes to 1.15% of the GDP in Bangladesh. More than 400,000 people depend on Hilsa for their livelihood in Bangladesh. Needless to say, Bangladesh produces more than 65% of Hilsa's produce per year (source Wikipedia).
Nona Ilish is the dried form of Hilsa Fish. Nona means Salted and Ilish stands for Hilsa Fish. Dried Hilsa preserved with Salt is a delicacy popular in the neighboring country. This is equally popular in the North-Eastern states of India, especially Tripura. Hilsa is preserved with loads of salt no added synthetic preservatives and this is an age-old process of preserving fish (specifically Hilsa; when available in abundance). This is actually a form of Sutki Maach aka Dry Fish.
The process of storing Hilsa fish aka Ilish Mach, as I was saying is age-old. People used to store the fish along with a huge amount of salt in earthen pots. Bangladesh is known for Ilish Mach and the availability is huge. Needless to say, the Bangladeshi People came up with the process of natural preservation of fish long back. I have heard people used to store several Handi full of Hilsa during the monsoon which was then consumed all through the year.
Here I must mention, that this process of preserving Hilsa was not prevalent in West Bengal ( not before independence and even after that). In India, and especially in West Bengal, the availability was limited and hence preservation never came into existence. However, when people came to India from Bangladesh, a good chunk of them established in Tripura (which is a neighboring state) they started storing the fish. This probably is the reason You can get Nona Ilish in Tripura.
The dishes prepared with Nona Ilish
Nona Ilish Bhorta is the most popular one. Fish Bhorta and specifically Nona Ilish Bhorta is nothing but Fish paste cooked with spices. Apart from that Bhuna, Curry with potato, and Eggplant are equally popular.
My take on Nona Ilish and The First Dish I cooked with it!
I purchased a few Nona Ilish (3 actually) during my trip to Tripura a few days back. I was there for official work and had limited time for sightseeing. In fact, no time at all. However, I requested my colleagues from there to help me to purchase Nona Ilish. It was obscene carrying 3 Ilish Maach all through the trip. My trip started with Tripura and I visited Assam and Meghalaya after that and with the Fish with me! Thank God, I was not asked at the airport about the fish!
They came to Kolkata with me and I ended up cooking one of 'em last Sunday! The first Item I cooked was Nona Ilish Bhorta. This was my first time cooking the dish. Though I have tasted Nona Ilish Bhorta or Nona Lish bhuna before.
Nona Ilish FAQ
Soak the fish chunks in water for around 30 minutes! Nona Ilish is preserved with salt and hence the extra salt must be discarded before cooking!
This type of fish (dry fish) calls for a good chunk of Onion and garlic to cover the raw smell.
It is better to use Mustard Oil as a cooking agent. The pungent smell of Mustard oil goes perfectly with dry fish. Do try to use extra oil! Well, You must not think about calories while having Nona Ilish.
Nona Ilish Bhorta
Nona Ilish Bhorta is a Bangladeshi Fish Mash prepared with Salted Hilsa Fish aka Nona Ilish.
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 50 mins
- Yield: 5 People 1x
- Category: Fish
- Method: cooking
- Cuisine: Bengali
- 5 pieces Nona Ilish/ Dried Hilsa Fish (around 500g)
- 5 Onion
- 1 Tbsp. Ginger Paste
- 2 Tbsp. Garlic Paste
- ½ Tsp. Chopped Garlic (optional)
- 6 Green Chili
- ½ Tsp. Coriander Powder
- ½ Tsp. Turmeric Powder
- ½ Tsp. Red Chili Powder
- ½ Tsp. Salt or to taste
- 4 Tbsp. Mustard Oil
- 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice (optional)
- If using a whole fish, cut it into medium size pieces.
- Soak* the Nona Ilish pieces in a bowl full of water for around 30 minutes.
- Remove the fish scales.
- Wash the fishes again in fresh water.
- Chop Onion roughly.
- Heat the Mustard oil in a pan.
- Fry Onion till those turn brown.
- Add Ginger and Garlic paste and cook till oil comes out from the mixture.
- Now add chopped Garlic and chopped Green chili followed by Coriander powder, Turmeric Powder, Red Chili, and powder.
- Add thee Cups of water and wait till the mixture starts boiling.
- Now add fish chunks and cover the pan with a lid.
- Cook on low flame till the liquid evaporates and the fish turn mushy.
- Adjust the salt and cook till oil comes out from the mixture.
- Finish the dish with 1 Tsp. of Mustard Oil.
- Mix 1 Tbsp. of Lemon Juice before serving the Nona Ilish Bhorta.
- You must soak the fish in water for around 30 minutes. Nona Ilish is preserved with salt and hence soaking is the option to discard excess Salt.
- Check the salt level before adding salt while cooking.
- Serving Size: 75g
- Calories: 341
- Sugar: 6g
- Sodium: 842mg
- Fat: 21.9g
- Saturated Fat: 3.7g
- Carbohydrates: 26.8g
- Fiber: 3g
- Protein: 66.3g
- Cholesterol: 22mg
Keywords: nona ilish, hilsa fish recipe, nona ilish recipe, debjanir rannaghar, bengali recipe
Ilish Maach recipes from Debjanir Rannaghar apart from Nona Ilish Bhorta or Nona Ilish Bhuna:
- Mawa Ghater Ilish Macher Lejar Bhorta
- Ilish Macher Korma
- Bori Begun Diye Ilish Macher Jhol
- Ilish Pulao
- Ilish Macher Shorshe bata diye Jhal
- Bhapa Ilish
- Doi Ilish
Have you tried the Nona Ilish Bhuna Recipe from Debjanir Rannaghar!
Do let me know how it came out. Also, I would love to see a picture of the same which you can share here at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Instagram, you can use my hashtag #debjanirrannaghar or can tag me at @foodofdebjani.