Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shorshe Ilish - Hilsa fish in mustard sauce

Hilsa is an integral part of a Bong's existence. Wikipedia says "In many Hindu Bengali families two Hilsa fishes (Joda Ilish) are bought on special auspicious days, like some pujas. It is considered auspicious to buy two Hilsa fishes on the day of Saraswati Puja, which takes place in the beginning of Spring and also on the day of Lakshmi Puja which takes place in autumn."

Living in Bangalore, we only look at this fish through the glass pane in Fish Stall to please our Bong satiation. Do I hear people asking 'Why???' Answer to the 'Wh' question goes - 'Coz we don't think we are capable enough of digesting something as expensive as Rs.600-700 a kilo!’ Although once we put our digestive system to stake by giving in to buying Hilsa when the ‘Daily price chart read – Hilsa: Rs. 380’ Woohoo now I’m not claiming that 380 a kilo is cheap. But then we Indians are undisputed winners in bargaining. Idea of buying any trifle thing at a negligibly lower price makes us feel victorious. The men might disagree and say I’m trying to describe feminine nature under the label ‘Indians’. Okay, we women love the bargain game and admit it openly. But I personally feel that men secretly celebrate their triumphant bargains… What say?

Abbas had once brought home Padmar Ilish during Ma’s absence. He expressed his concerns (rather grave uncertainties) about how I was gonna cook something as exquisite as ‘Shorshe Ilish’. I was green with envy coz he so wanted ‘Maaaa…..’ to be there as I had never laid my hands on ‘Bangladesh’s National Fish’. It was a ‘Do or Die’ situation for the cook in me coz her reputation was at stake. A SOS call to Kakima (Bhabi’s Ma and my on-call help w.r.t any Bong dish) got me going. I was up early morning grinding mustard (a spice I always knew was used in nothing else but tempering my very own Rasams, Sambars and Chutneys) Oh! That too mustard that was white in colour was an enlightening fact. I made Shorshe Ilish and went to work. Abbas was supposed to have lunch and leave for office that day. I got an SMS from Abbas which read – “Darun hoyeche! Shorshe Ilish. I loved it. ________’ The blank line stands for the private lines we exchange, which I don’t think appropriate for all age groups. Lolz

Well guys, after trying several versions of this dish, I stick to the following tested version which wins me accolades from Abbas each time. (It is the easiest fish curry ever)


Hilsa Fish - 5-6 pieces
Mustard paste - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Mustard Oil - 2 tbsp (Mandatory)

For Mustard paste:
White mustard seeds - tbsp (soaked in water for 15 minutes)
Green chillies - 5-6
Salt - 1 tsp

1. Grind the ingredients called for Mustard paste with as less water as possible to get a fine paste. I make bulk of this paste and refrigerate for future use, coz less quantity of mustard seeds doesnt yield a fine paste. This paste can be stored for 15- 20 days.

2. In a pan, mix a tbsp of mustard paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt (carefully add salt coz mustard paste already has salt in it), mustard oil with a cup of water. Now place the fish pieces carefully in this mixture.

3. Cook on low flame covered with a lid for about 20 minutes or till you get a thick gravy. (Hilsa gets cooked in a jiffy.)

4. Remove the pan from flame and pour a tbsp of mustard oil on top and keep covered until served.
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