Ilish is the quintessential fish for Bengalis and shorshe bhapa Ilish is the star of all Ilish recipes! Here is my quick and easy version!
Ilish has been my favorite fish since childhood and I don’t think it’s any exception. Majority of Bengalis will say the same! Today I bring to you my well-loved shorshe bhapa Ilish recipe which is childishly easy to make and guaranteed to please everyone at dinner table! If you are new to the concept of ‘bhapa’, let me explain it to you. ‘Bhapa’ is the Bengali term of ‘Steaming’ i.e. when the food is cooked in its own steam in a closed environment, we call it bhapa. There is no frying involved in this special recipe and it takes exactly 5 minutes of preparation and 20 minutes of steaming without any intervention in between. A perfect-10 recipe for all busy moms/dads, housewives and corporate execs!
I make my shorshe bhapa Ilish in my conventional oven; but the same can be replicated in microwave where you will have to reduce the cooking time. Start with 5 minutes and check for the doneness and again go for another 5 minutes; then you can arrive at the right cooking time. If using convection mode of your microwave, you can follow the same instructions as in this recipe. I personally prefer my shorshe bhapa Ilish in oven than in microwave as I feel the gravy gets a better consistency when cooked in oven rather than in microwave; but that’s just my personal preference. In any way, shorshe bhapa Ilish is always a Rockstar!
Bengalis are very passionate about their fish and I am no exception. I love mostly all kind of fishes but prefer the fresh water fishes more over the sea fishes. That’s only because of the childhood habit I believe. Since the time I have started my food blog, I have tried and tasted varied types of fishes which I had never even heard of during my childhood days and have been quite happy about this new experience. But if I have to name that one special fish which had been a prominent part of my growing up days and will always remain special in my heart, then it is undoubtedly Ilish for me!
In my shorshe bhapa Ilish, I have used mustard powder which is readily available and makes my life a lot easier. But traditionally black mustard seeds are soaked in water and then ground in a mortal pestle with some green chilies and fresh turmeric. You can grind soaked mustard seeds in an electric grinder, but there is always a risk of turning the mustard paste bitter due to over-churning which has happened with me several times; hence I have resorted to using readymade mustard powder which works for me perfectly. Let me know if you guys know of any trick to prevent the mustard paste from turning bitter when ground in an electric grinder and I will be indebted to you for life! Until then, I will leave you with my mouthwatering shorshe bhapa Ilish to be enjoyed with plain Basmati rice!
- Ilish/Hilsa steaks – 6
- Mustard powder* – 4 tbsp
- Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Sugar – 1 tsp
- Green chili – 2 to 3, split lengthwise
- Mustard oil – 2 tbsp
- Water – ¼ cup
- Wash and pat dry the ilish steaks. Lightly sprinkle some salt on both sides and set aside.
- Take an oven-proof baking dish. Add mustard powder, turmeric powder, salt, sugar and water to the baking dish and mix well to make a smooth mixture.
- Now add the fish to the mustard mix and drizzle the mustard oil on top.
- Rub each fish steak into the mustard paste to coat all sides thoroughly with the mustard mix.
- Scatter the split green chilies all over the baking dish. Cover the dish tightly with an aluminum foil.
- Preheat your oven to 180 C / 350 F and place the wire rack at the lower level.
- Bake the Ilish in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Then take them out, uncover and turn over the fish steaks.
- Cover the baking dish again with foil and let it sit inside the hot oven for another 10 minutes. You won’t need to bake them again; the left-over heat in the oven will be enough for final 10 minutes.
- Serve hot bhapa Ilish with white Basmati rice. Enjoy!