Bengali’s favourite hilsa deep-fried in mustard oil until crunchy and sizzling. Serve this with a drizzle of the oil and green chillies.

Ilish Bhaja is Ilish in its simplest form. Bengalis love their fried fish, but very few things come close to the fatty Hilsa seasoned with just salt and turmeric, then fried in mustard oil until crunchy. The mustard oil gets flavoured with the rendered fat from the fish, and is then drizzled on top of steaming white rice and served alongside the ilish with some salt and hot green chillies.

Something like this does not really need a recipe, yet, no document on Bengali food would be complete without the simple joys of life like this one. Yes, we love our Ilish Paturi, Ilish Bhapa, Ilish Tel Jhol with Brinjal, but Ilish Bhaja has a place of its own in the heart of a Bengali.


COOKING TIME 15 minutes
YIELDS 2 servings


Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
2 pc Ilish or hilsa steaks 3cm thick
¼ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Salt
2 pcs Green chillies
4 g Salt
2 cm deep Mustard oil

Equipment

  • Small frying kadai/wok

Appliances

  • Stove

Method

  1. Coat the ilish steaks with salt and turmeric and massage to cover the cavities well.
  2. Heat a kadai with 2 cm deep mustard oil. Wait till the oil starts smoking and changes colour to pale yellow and the smell of the raw oil goes away. Use a small kadai to avoid using too much oil. The oil gets flavoured with the fat rendered from the fish. Too much oil will lead to flavourless oil.
  3. Reduce the flame now and wait for the oil to stop smoking. Now add the fish pieces carefully.
  4. Fry each side until brown. Unlike for jhol (curry) where ilish is lightly fried, for bhaja (fry) the fish must be crisp and golden.
  5. Optionally, add a couple of green chillies towards the end to flavour the oil and the fish.
  6. Drain the fish and serve hot with steaming hot rice, green chillies and salt. Drizzle a tablespoon of the frying oil on top of the rice.

Served with