Hilsa fish and vegetable curry with a Bengali twist, Ilish Shukto is seasoned with five spices and Randhuni. It's a popular delicacy among the Bangal community and enjoyed in many Ghoti households.
"Debjani will you be able to cook for Taj Bengal's Hilsa festival and if we found the item worth enough we can have that as part of our menu for the said Festival!" This is how the Ilish Shukto happened and traveled from Debjanir Rannaghar to Taj Bengal's kitchen!
Ilish Shukto; The journey from Debjanir Rannaghar to Taj Bengal's Kitchen!
The thought of working in a professional kitchen terrified me. I have no prior experience in that field. Cooking, to me, is a form of therapy. My blog, Debjanir Rannaghar, shares simple recipes, mostly Bengali, with no complex techniques or fancy descriptions. I do not hold a degree in food nor do I claim to be an expert in authentic cuisine. My approach to cooking is straightforward, and I describe food in a simplistic manner. My knowledge of Bengali cooking is limited to the works of Prajnasundari Devi, Lila Mazumdar, Sulekha Sarkar, Purnima Thakur, and the lessons I have learned from my family and other people.
Our Experience at Taj!
Together with three blogger friends, I prepared food in the kitchen. Anindya and Madhushree cooked Doi Ilish while Indrajit Lahiri made Ilish Bhorta. We were all excited and nervous, but it turned out to be an incredible experience. The cooking process was simpler than the tasting session, which was a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, everyone who tasted our food survived without any issues. 😉 .
Ilish Shukto is a curry that combines Hilsa Fish and vegetables, seasoned with Randhuni and a blend of five spices. This dish is a well-known delicacy among the Bangal community and is also enjoyed in many Ghoti households.
I went to Taj Bengal and decided on a simple bowl of Ilish Shukto. I chose it for two reasons. Firstly, my father believes that a Bengali cook's journey is incomplete without Shukto, no matter how humble their background is. Secondly, I wanted to write this recipe, which is a regular dish at home, and I was waiting for a special occasion to do so.
I was hesitant about choosing Ilish Shukto, as I had been trolled before for using Turmeric Powder in it. I thought of cooking something less controversial to avoid the negativity of society. However, after reconsidering, I decided to stick with my decision and cook Ilish Shukto anyway.
The Ilish Shukto Recipe! My confusion and overcoming the same! Another Journey!
Prajnasundari Devi and her Amish o Niramish Ranna:
This book talks about "Shuktani" in detail where she did mention, Turmeric Powder is a must! In her book Prajnasundari mentioned, Shuktoni aka Shukto is incomplete without Bitter. However, the book is not having the recipe for Ilish Shukto!
Sulekha Sarkar and her Rannar Boi:
Not as old as Prajnasundari's book or as famous as Lila Majumdar's, however, this book is having the recipe of Ilish Shukto. Prepared with no bitter element and also has a Pointed gourd aka Potol. I tried this recipe a few times but surprisingly not happy with the flatness.
Home! Ghoti Barir lish Shukto:
The Shukto I have grown up eating with prepared with Turmeric Powder. It is said turmeric helps in preventing Allergy and I am allergic to Eggplant as they say, prevention is better than cure! Fortunately or unfortunately, my North Calcutta residence is more than 175 years old and needless to say, the recipes that came from there is the result of evolution.
A true, blue "ghoti" I am but we have welcomed several "Bangal" as daughters or son-in-law(s) in the family. Needless to say, their cooking style influenced my family's cooking style a lot and that probably is the reason I know about Ilish Shukto.
Last but not least Didimonir Barir Ilish Shukto aka Bangal Bari Shukto:
The family of my private tutor hailed from Sylhet in Bengal, but migrated to India during the partition and settled in the northern region of Kolkata. Despite not being associated with any prominent culinary lineage, their cuisine deserves recognition. I had the pleasure of relishing their Ilish Shukto, which incorporated the bitter taste of fish head and tail. Being from a lower-middle-class background, they were accustomed to utilizing every edible part of a fish, and this practice has become second nature to me as well. Therefore, my Ilish Shukto also includes Macher Matha and Lyaja.
Finally, my Ilish Shukto went into the kitchen of Taj Bengal and is now part of their Menu:
My Ilish Shukto Checklist - Tips!
- Shukto prepared with Hilsa Fish: Yes!
- Fish Head and Tail: I used both to stick to the middle-class mentality of not ignoring the humble parts.
- Bitter as part of the Shukto: Yes! To balance the flavors, and to make the dish rich. (In fact, this was discussed during the tasting session at Taj, specifically, where people opined how the bitter gourd flavored the dish in a good way).
- Turmeric Powder in my Shukto: Yes. While shallow frying (Read "Santlano") the fish and eggplant.
- The authenticity of the Recipe! I am not claiming to be coming up with an authentic recipe. I believe in evolution and food is no exception. In addition, cooking at home and cooking in a professional kitchen are two different things.
Here is my recipe for Ilish Shukto!Print
Ilish Shukto is a Bengali-style Hilsa Fish and veggie curry flavored with Randhuni and five spices. This is different from the general Shuto.
- 4 pieces Hilsa Fish/ Ilish Mach (including of the fish head and Tail)
- 2 Bitter gourd
- 3 Potato
- 1 Plantain
- 1 Sweet potato
- 1 Drumstick
- 1 Eggplant
- 1 Tsp. Panch phoron (whole)
- 1 Tsp. Panch phoron (powder)
- 1 Tsp. Randhuni/ Celery Seed
- 2 Bay leaf
- 1 Tsp. Turmeric Powder
- 1 Tbsp. Mustard paste
- 1 Tbsp. Ginger paste
- 1 Tbsp. Poppyseed paste
- 1 Tbsp. Sugar
- 1 Tsp Salt or to taste
- 3 Tbsp. Mustard oil
- 150ml Milk
- 1 Tbsp. Ghee
- Marinate Hilsa chunks (head, tail, and pieces) with salt and half of the turmeric powder and then to leave for 10 mins.
- Cut the veggies into long strips after peeling the skin (potato, plantain, sweet potato, drumstick).
- Cut the bitter gourd and eggplant with the skin on. These two need to be marinated with salt and turmeric powder.
- Heat mustard oil in a deep bottom pan.
- Shallow fry fish chunks from both side. 30 seconds from both sides is enough.
- Fry Head and tail for extra time till those are properly fried.
- Now shallow fry the veggies one by one. Potato, sweet potato, and Plantain require extra frying time.
- Temper remaining oil with 2 bay leaves, whole 5 spices aka Panch Foron and Radhuni.
- Now add ginger paste followed by mustard paste and poppy seed paste.
- Cook for a minute or two by adding 1 Tbsp. of water.
- Add Salt and Sugar and give a thorough mix.
- Now add 1 teaspoon of powdered 5 spices, and cook for a minute or two.
- Add milk and 3 cups of water and bring it to boil upon adding salt and sugar.
- Finally add fried Potato, Sweet Potato, and Plantain and cook until those soften.
- Add Drumstick, Fried Eggplant, and Fried Bitter gourd followed by the fried fish chunks.
- Cook on low flame for 5-7 minutes by covering the pan with a lid.
- If required add some more water.
- Once done add Ghee and switch the flame off after mixing it.
- You may cook Ilish Shukto without using the Head and tail, however, these two enhance the flavor.
Bitter Gourd balances the flavor obviously is optional.
- Turmeric powder, needless to say, is optional.
- Ghee and milk are optional as well if you are planning to cook a low-calorie and flat version of the dish.
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: cooking
- Cuisine: Bengali
- Serving Size: 100g
- Calories: 384
- Sugar: 16.9g
- Sodium: 808mg
- Fat: 9.8g
- Saturated Fat: 2.9g
- Carbohydrates: 49.3g
- Fiber: 7.8g
- Protein: 25.9g
- Cholesterol: 52mg
Keywords: ilish shukto recipe, bengali ilish mach recipe, shukto recipe, debjanir rannaghar
Taj Hilsa Feast!
By the way, like every year, we have some brilliantly cooked Hilsa dishes from the Kitchen of Chef Giri. Their specially curated dishes, as well as the dishes we cooked, will be available there at Sonargaon from July to September 2018. Visit as a foodie if you want to savor some "quality Ilish." Visit as a friend if you want to taste the Ilish Shukto now they are serving following my recipe and visit as a foe to criticize me 😉 .