• 1kg Ilish cut into 12 fillets
  • half tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbsps of yellow mustard
  • 3 tbsps of black mustard
  • 4 green chillies, salt
  • 2 tsp khus-khus / poppy seeds/ posto
  • 5 tbsp mustard oil.
  • Banana leaves

A little info about Ilish Fish 

Ilish (Bengali: ইলিশ Ilish Oriya: Ilishii Sindhī: پلو مڇي Pallu Machhi Telugu: పులస Pulasa or Polasa), also spelled Elish, is a popular fish to eat among the people of the sub-continent. A tropical fish, it is the most popular fish with Bengalis and Oriyas, the national fish of Bangladesh and extremely popular in parts of India such as West Bengal, Orissa, Tripura, Assam and Southern Gujarat. Ilish also can be found in India’s Assamese-, Bengali-, Oriya- and Telugu-speaking regions and in Pakistan’s Sindh province.

Ilish, Hilsa

Ilish fish

Each year a large number of fish are caught in the Padma-Meghna-Jamuna delta, which flows into the Bay of Bengal. It is a sea fish but it lay eggs in large rivers. After being born the young Ilish (known as Jatka) then swim back to the sea. They are caught before they swim to the sea. Ilish is also caught from the sea. However, those caught from the sea are not considered to be as tasty as those caught from the river. The fish is full of tiny bones which require trained eating/hands to handle.As it is anadromous in nature (an uncommon phenomenon in tropical waters), the Ilish lives in the sea for most of its life, but migrates up to 1,200 km inland through rivers in the Indian sub-continent for spawning. Distances of 50–100 km are usually normal in the Bangladesh rivers.

In Bangladesh, Ilish is mainly caught in the Padma (lower Ganges), Meghna (lower Brahmaputra), and Godavari rivers. Those from the Padma are considered to be the best in taste. In India, the Rupnarayan (which has the Kolaghater Ilish), Ganges, Mahanadi, Chilka Lake, Narmada and Godavari rivers are famous for their tasty breeds. Ilish is also found in the deltaic region of southern Pakistan, in the province of Sindh. Here it is commonly referred to as the Palla fish. The fish was usually found in abundant quantities in the district of Thatta. Recently, however, the lower reaches of the Indus have dried up as water is stored upstream, and the Palla cannot make its journey into the river any more.

Ilish is an oily fish rich in essential fatty acids(omega 3 fatty acids). Recent experiments have shown its beneficial effects in decreasing cholesterol level in rats and insulin level.

In Bengal, ilish can be smoked, fried, steamed, baked in young plantain leaves, prepared with mustard seed paste, curd, Begun (eggplant), different condiments like jira(cumin) and so on. It is said that people can cook ilish in more than 50 ways. Ilish roe is also popular as a side dish. Ilish can be cooked in very little oil since the fish itself is very oily.

In many Bengali Hindu families two Ilish fishes (Joda Ilish) are bought on special auspicious days, like some pujas. It is considered auspicious to buy two Ilish fishes on the day of Saraswati Puja (The Goddess of Learning and Beauty), which takes place in the beginning of Spring and also on the day of Lakshmi Puja (The Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity) which takes place in autumn. But this custom is prevalent mainly among the Bengali Hindus of former East Bengal many of whom now live in West Bengal, Barak Valley in Assam and Tripura in India after the Partition of India. Some of them give Ilish fish as an offering to the goddess Lakshmi, without which the Puja is sometimes thought to be incomplete.

Ilish Maacher Paturi (Ilish fish in banana leaves) Recipe:

Cut the fish into fillets and wash thoroughly.

Ilish Fillets

Ilish Fillets

Grind the mustard seeds (both black and yellow) in wet grinder preferably shil-nora (bengali grinder) along with the green chillies and poppy seeds.

Mix the fish fillets with the ground masala, salt and 3 tbsp of mustard oil and keep aside for 20 mins.

Cut banana leaves into pieces and wrap 1 fish fillet inside each piece and tie it with thread.

Ilish wrapped in banana leaves

Ilish wrapped in banana leaves

Grease a tawa or flat kadhai with the remaining 2 tbsp of mustard oil and fry the banana wraps inn very low heat. Keep turning the sides till the banana leaves are almost burnt in both sides.

You are done. Now serve with hot steamed rice.

Ilish maacher paturi

Ilish maacher paturi