A Twist in Tradition

All through summers, I wait for the time when the silvery, glistening Ilish is back in the market and I begin my own “Hilsa Festival.” This time of the year, Ilshe Guri— the monsoon shower—brings this anadromous fish to the Ganga, the Padma and the Meghna from the sea, and creates frenzy among Bengalis. The reason is quite obvious—Ilish is one of their many obsessions, and it is often said, “A true Bong will never wrap up Ilish Machh with a dessert and spoil the Hilsa experience.” Up to an extent, this is true, and applies to me as well.

Ilish (Hilsa) at No. 2 Fish Market in CR Park, New Delhi

Ilish (Hilsa) at No. 2 Fish Market in CR Park, New Delhi

My “Hilsa Festival” features exotic dishes like Ilish Bhaja (shallow fried in mustard oil), Bhapa Ilish, (steamed in a mustard and curd gravy in the traditional way), Ilish Maachher Tel Jhol, Doi Ilish, Ilisher Tok (A tamarind and Ilish preparation), and Ilish Paturi (Ilish marinated in mustard and wrapped in banana leaves and steamed).  But this time, I have come up with a  twist.

Ilish Yakhni Pulao


Ilish pieces – 5/6

Paste of Two Onions

One Teaspoon Ginger paste

One Teaspoon Garlic paste

Two Tablespoon Yogurt/Curd

One Teaspoon Green Chili Paste

2/3 Bay Leaves

5-6 Cloves

4 Green Cardamoms Crushed

1.5’’ Piece Cinnamon

One Cup Basmati Rice Soaked in Water for 30 Minutes and Drained

2 Cup Water

4 Whole Green Chilies

4 Tablespoon Mustard Oil


Step 1: Mix Ilish pieces with one teaspoon salt, paste of two onions, one teaspoon ginger paste, one teaspoon garlic paste and one tablespoon curd, one teaspoon green chilli paste and marinate for 30 minutes.

Step 2: In a separate vessel, heat 2 cups of water and add bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Let it boil for 3-4 minutes, then strain it and keep aside. Now your Yakhni water is ready.

Step 3: Heat 3 tablespoon mustard oil and fry the marinated Ilish pieces for 1-2 minutes turning it once in between so that both the sides are done. Be careful not to break the fish pieces as Ilish is a soft fish. Add the leftover marinate once the fish is done. Fry for another 30 seconds and keep aside.

Frying the marinated Ilish pieces for 1 to 2 minutes.

Frying the marinated Ilish pieces for 1 to 2 minutes.

Step 4: In a microwave proof vessel, heat one tablespoon oil in high power for 1 minute. Add slit green chillis and again microwave for 30 seconds. Now add rice, half teaspoon salt and two cups of Yakhni water and microwave for 10 minutes. Then add the fried IIlish pieces (don’t try to mix too much or else the fish may break) and microwave once more for 4 minutes.

Now Ilish Yakhni Pulao is ready to serve

Now Ilish Yakhni Pulao is ready to serve

Give 5 minutes standing time and serve hot.


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