Bhapa Ilish (Steamed Hilsa in Mustard based Gravy)

9:43 AM

I wrote the below post last night and when editing the HTML something dangerous happened. I was all alone in the house with the baby but luckily a couple of friends came in to rescue. Now everything is fine and the hubby is also back. Am posting the same with a little change.

Yesterday was Biswakarma Puja. On this day we worship the God Biswakarma, the God of architecture and engineering and the creator of the whole Universe. Remember the architectural marvel and beauty of Indraprastha that Biswakarma built for the Pandava in Mahabharata? It is said that the floors of the palace was so shiny that it gave an illusion of water while the pools were so well made that it looked like flat surfaces. It is also believed that Biswakarma has introduced the idea of industry and science to mankind and thus is regarded as the very essence of creation and craftsmanship. All over Bengal workers from all sorts of life using any kind of tools celebrate this day with great zeal and enthusiasm. Big and small Industrial houses declares holiday and workers get together to clean and decorate the factory spaces to welcome and worship the God with puja, prasad (offerings) and a afternoon feast. For kids this day bears another significance as they get to fly kites the whole day and many elders also enjoy this ritual. The evening sky on this day looks spectacular with colourful kites dotting the sky till the horizon.
Lord Biswakarma

Apart from this puja many Bengali houses also observe ‘Arandhan’ or no cooking day. The day before after praying to the unun(chula/ modern gas oven?) a feast is cooked consisting of rice, assortment of fries, Kochu Shaag (arbi greens) and various Hilsa dishes the day before. I have heard that the cook who prepares this meal cannot talk during the entire time of cooking. Then on the day of the puja (the Sankranti day of the Bengali month Bhadra) this cold preserved meal is served to family and friends.

In Santiniketan, Tagore celebrated this day as Shilpo Utsab or Shilpotsab or the celebration of industry and craftsmanship. In Sriniketan, (a place 3 kms away from Santiniketan Ashrama where Tagore started vocational training schools for the local villagers) this day is celebrated with Tagore’s songs and dance.

In our family this ritual has never been observed but I enjoyed cold rice (panta bhat) meals at friend’s places. But Maa and my elder brother organize a small puja at our place to treat all their collegues and employees. Yesterday morning when Maa called up to say that the puja was over and they were enjoying the prasad, I felt a bit homesick. Hubby was again away on an official trip to another country and I hardly had any enthusiasm to cook anything special. I cooked this Bhapa Ilish a few days back with the fresh Bangladeshi Hilsa that Baba managed to send with a friend. According to me this is the easiest and most flavourful Hilsa preparation. The steam cooking process keeps the aroma of all the ingredients intact and the curd, coconut milk, mustard paste and green chillies nicely balance all the sour, sweet and spicy taste. Many people cook it with mustard-poppy seeds paste (sorshe-posto bata) but I prefer to give poppy seeds a miss. For me the sweetness of the freshly squeezed coconut milk is enough to balance the pungency and heat of the mustard paste. Maa always cooked this on stovetop either in pressure cooker or in a covered stainless steel Tiffin box in steam. But a friend taught me to cook this in microwave. That way it’s very easy and takes only 15 minutes from start to finish.

Bhapa Ilish 
(serves 2)

Hilsa pieces: 4 pieces cut in thick pieces
Mustard paste: 2 tbsp
Curd: 4 tbsp
Freshly grated coconut: 3 tbsp
Mustard oil: 2-3 tbsp
Green chillies: 4

Clean the Hilsa pieces and keep aside.

Beat the curd till smooth. To this add mustard oil, Mustad paste. slit green chillies, salt, turmeric and the grated coconut. I prefer to squeeze the milk in the curd mixture from the coconut before adding it to the same.

To this add the hilsa pieces and 1/3 cup of water. Keep aside for 15 minutes.

Now take a wide mocrowave safe bowl that has enough space to contain the hilsa pieces in a single layer. Spread the pieces and pour the curd mixture on top. Cover this with a cling film. Make a small cut on the top and microwave this for 2 minutes.

Take this out and stir the sauce very carefully. Again cover and cook for 3-4 minutes and repeat the same. Finally cook it for another 3-4 minutes and serve hot with some additional slit green chillies.

For the traditional method on stovetop please see my Chingri Bati Tarkari recipe HERE.

Enjoy this with hot steamed rice.

Ilish, Hilsa, Bangali Ilish, Bengali hilsa, Hilsa in curd, doi ilish, Steamed hilsa, bhapa ilish, Bengali Hilsa Preparation, Indian hilsa preparation, hilsa recipe, ilish recipe, ilish jhal, sorshe ilish, hilsa in curd and mustard gravy, hilsa with coconut, Bengali fish curry, steamed fish, mustard based fish, fish curry, green chillies with hilsa, spicy fish curry, mustard fish, best hilsa recipe, bangladeshi ilish, paka ilish, Ilish macher jhal, Ilish macher tarkari, 

You Might Also Like


  1. I enjoyed reading your writeup on Biswakarma Puja, we too celebrate this festival all over Odisha.
    Bhapa Ilish - Microwave Version looks delicious. I too had prepared and posted the same recipe couple of days back but I had skipped the coconut milk.
    Will try with coconut milk next time.
    Nice clicks too.

    Cheers n Happy Cooking,

  2. I love this absolutely..
    the pictures look awesome Sayantani !!
    i had a pair of similar bowls and i am missing them right now seeing your wonderful photography with them..:)

  3. very innovative recipe with lovely presentation dear...

  4. I truly envy the way you make these look so easy...

    Oh.. thank you.. thank you for the brilliant idea on my blog.. the 'indian princess theme party'.. i will try selling it to her tomorrow.. :-) I already have a few ideas on how to go about it.. Brilliant.. thank you!!

  5. @Satrupa, thanks for the comment dear. yes have seen your delectable creation too. you are a super cook dear.

    @Sangeeta, Jay, thanks for the compliment.

    @Patty, oh the pleasure is all mine. hope she will buy this idea. if so will await another fun filled gorgeous event from you.

  6. As usual, a very interesting post and a delicious recipe! The pictures are very beautiful, too. Is it day light?

  7. Dear Sayantani
    Enjoyed thoroughly, the write up and the dish.
    I am scared to cook Ilish in Micro, fat layer explodes at 900 Watt, power.
    How much power you used in the micro? I have a good Ilish still in my fridge and will give try again with your method.
    Bhalo theko

  8. As usual a delicious Bengali fish dish. I may never be able to attempt all of them but will try for sure.

  9. @Eire Ushnishda, bipode fellen. amar tay defalut mode e kara ache otei kori. O bolche most probably 800 watt. but sure nay.

  10. Khub shundor hoyeche Sayantani. Aami age yogurt ditaam na, but now I do. I also add a little posto bata. Looks like you two had a "bhoj". Bangalore e kothaye ilish pao? Aami BEML market ta theke baje ilish aantaam.

  11. love your bhapa ilish gravy.... so tempting and also love the biswakarma puja..... we dont really celebrate but good one to know about that....

  12. I really enjoyed the writeup..very well written.
    Heard a lot about this dish..looks awesome..lovely color!

    US Masala

  13. Very beautiful write up on Biswakarma Puja.My MIL mentioned it to asked me not to use knife the whole day....So happily we ate out!
    Bhapa Ilish is one of my favourites from the bengali fish preparations....your looks soooo tempting & the microwave version is seems easy!Unfortunately I have not been able to lay my hands on this fish till nw in US...will try your way when I will!!!

  14. Lovely post and lots info...Bhapa Ilish looks really looks great!

  15. bhapa ilish looks very delicious ,heard a lot about the authentic dish ..looks very tempting ...btw thanks for sharing the recipe of cilantro pulao,u know it was a big hit in my place ...have a nice week end


  16. i havent tasted bengali fish curries yet.. this one looks inviting..

  17. Sayantani, I hope everything is ok!!

    This is my favorite favorite dish. jokhoni dekhi I drool.

  18. thanks for sharing this pooja! ur version is simply superb,love it.

  19. Was nice reading abt biswakarma puja, never knew abt this.....and never done this type of gravy too using fish but looks really delicious..

  20. hi sayantani..nice to know abt ur festival..i hope everything is fine..wht had happened ? well i cant comment anything as im a pure vegeterian but liked the gravy part and liked the presentation too.

  21. hi sayantani..nice to know abt ur festival..i hope everything is fine..wht had happened ? well i cant comment anything as im a pure vegeterian but liked the gravy part and liked the presentation too.

  22. Very good writeup. I remember going to my baba's factory on Hazra Rd, Kolkata for Bishwakarma Puja. Bhapa Ilish looks yummy.Gorgious presentation as well.

  23. Ilish machh to ami onek bochhor khaini. Dekhei jibhe jol eshe gelo. Amar bhishon priyo. Khub sundor baniyechho dekhei khete ichhe korchhe. Bhabchhi tomar barite chole jai r ek thala bhat ilish machh diye khai.

  24. Never know about this festival, glad to know about this through u Sayantani..Bhapa llish looks fabulous and tempting..

  25. i love this bong dish...always a hit in our potluck..lovely writeup darling..looks yum,delicious n droolworthy...wonderful pics

  26. amio bhapa ilish MW te kori..khub tartari hoe jae....tobe ami doi add kori...narkoler dudh kom i use kori....

    Tui Palace of Illusion porechhish??Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni r parle, porish....Droupodir diary bolle bhalo hobe boita..okhane ei indraprosthe er oshadharon bornona deoa achhe....

  27. Hi Sayantani,
    Thanks for all your lovely lovely words :)Hya, amar new posts amar followers-der reader list-e update hochhe na:(..khub problem-e porechhi...amar settings sob thik achhe,,janina keno hochhe :(
    White pordagulo order diye banano..tumi IKEA -te er kachakachhi kichu pete paro.Tomar notun tea-set prapti hoyechhe sune khub bhalo laglo :)
    This Illish is awesome..amar khub priyo ranna...karon jhotpot hoye jae!:)..tobe ami sorshe-posto-narkol sob eksonge bete niye banai. Singapore-e bhaloi Illish pai :)
    Tumi bodhhoye amar follower noyo..karon amar follower list-e tomar nam to dekhi ni!!...ha.ha..ha:)...Kintu jara amar followers tarao updates pachhe na..dekhi ki korte pari!!
    Bhalo theko.

  28. @Pree, ei Ilish baba Kolkata theke pathieche. sab Bangladesher Ilish.

    @Tanvi. thanks. great that you enjoyed Arandhan too in your own way.

    @Preeti, Babli chole eso amader ekhane. e bachor khub bhalo Ilish paoya jache.

    @Kamalika, amio doi diechi. tui bodhay kheal koris ni. Chitra Banerjje er ei bpoita porini. Library te khujte habe.

    @Sanghamitra, thank you. ar ami tomar follower tabe privetely tai bodhay dekhte pao ni.

  29. ghurte ghurte tomar blog e elam. Bhapa hilsa paoa jai na chhobi dekhe mone mone khelam

  30. Sayantani, was having trouble accessing this space. After all I'm here.
    aami bhapa ilish e doi add kori na. sudhu sorshe bata diye banai. kokhono MW e-te kori ni...tomar Ma-r moto tiffin bati te-ee kori.
    I've been eating a lot of ilish for quite some days. stock kaal e exhaust holo.

  31. ki bipod sayantani?! shabdhane theko kintu. ebaar amar ar ilish khawa holona ... tomar post dekhe mon bhorchi.

  32. sob Singapore banano!
    Asole amra ekhane shift korar agei hubby's office porda etc sob baniye set kore rekhechilo...amake kichu korte hoye ni...amra sudhu bole diyechhilam ki ki chai...ekhane rate/dine durokom alada alada set use korar reoyaj achhe..eta diner jonno..jate alo ashe/rod noye :)
    Ohh..privately follow korchho??..khub moja pelam sune!!!:)

  33. wow the mustard colour is just inviting...

  34. Nice fish recipe..looks very inviting.

  35. Surely, India visit jikhon korbo, will get in touch with you. Macher jonno nishchoy !! :)

  36. Sayantani,

    Bishkarma pujor onek sweet memories ache...onek e eyi ta ke "Ranna Pujo" O bole jeyi Ayo ra eyi pujo kore tara ager din shob ranna specially Ilish preparation kore ..
    M/W te Ilish bhapa korini konodin , amaar seyi adi joger steel er tiffin box , ekto kinto-2 mone hoye ..kinto bah tumaar ta dekhe ekto sahosh hoche banabar ...full power e 15 mints hole ki hobe ki na ?
    hugs and smiles

  37. Looks amazing! The mustard and the coconut milk combination sounds delicious - I have had this once at Oh Calcutta here and enjoyed it.

    Hope things are fine now and the scary parts taken care of! Stay safe.

  38. Intereseting post n like the way u cooked hilsa.

  39. Saw this fish in Gauri's blog recently..This is a new gravy for me. Must be quite flavorful !

  40. Hey sayantani,
    i have tasted this gravy in my bengali friend's place in delhi....have been looking for this recipe but dint know the name for quite sure....thank u for sharing ...will try it and let u know :)
    is there any substitute for Hilsa ?

  41. @Lecker, shad fish is near to Hilsa is taste and smell. also sardines taste like hilsa but are very small in size.
    if you dont get any of these then use rohu or any other big fish for this recipe. but in that case please fry the fish pieces lightly. in case you are using other fish you might have to change the cooking time as well.

  42. in your recipe you mentioned mustard paste as ingredient. But you didn't mention when it is used in the process!!!

  43. Thank you for pointing it out. just updated.

  44. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  45. louis vuitton outlet gef?lscht kullouis vuitton bags women louis vuitton headquarters paris address mazerati repository pattern bypass surgery profounder sincerity bridal 3666

  46. Loved reading this and have missed seeing your posts on CaL. I bought rui yesterday and have been dying for the mustard paste wala fish. However, I am unable to make it in the pressure cooker as it gets over cooked. I found this when I was searching for a stovetop recipe. I have a query also. Can I cook it without the coconut and just the coconut milk?

  47. @Anandi, if you are cooking Rui in the Bengali way on stovetop then you can try this recipe

    Or fry the fish. temper oil with nigella seeds and green chillies. add tomato and cook and then add mustard paste mixed with water. let it come to a boil on medium flame and then add the fish pieces. this is the normal rui macher jhal. we sometimes add sliced onion and fry it a little before adding the tomato.

    you can use coconut milk in this recipe but add it once the cookig is 70% done. i have a fear that the milk might split and you will get coconut oil floating on top.

  48. Your post look yummy & delicious, I must try it. Thank you. Recipes.


Popular Posts