They say Bengalis make the best fish. But really, you don’t have to be a Mukherjee or a Banerjee or even a Basu to make the Ilish Maach Bhaja, culinarily translated as Fried Hilsa Fish.
I could have included this post and the photos with the Ilish-Pui Chorchori, I posted earlier today. But I chose not to. Simply because I wanted to give Ilish its due. Its the King of Fish and so shall it be treated. That’s a very biased opinion of an ardent Ilish fan, and you have to indulge me…at least for this post!
So after we finished mopping clean our plates from the double helping of the Chorchori, we eyed the piping hot Ilish Maach Bhaja with its tel and deem. That with Basmati rice and kancha lonka pretty much made our Ilish dinner complete.
Ingredients for Ilish Maach Bhaja are:
8 Hilsa/Ilish steaks (serve two per person)
1 heaped tablespoon of turmeric powder
Mustard oil for frying the fish
Clean and de-scale the dish. Ilish does not need too much time under the water as it loses its taste. Make sure you clean quickly and do not rinse the “taste” off the fish.
Rub salt and turmeric powder on the fish.
Heat mustard oil in a wok, remember to get the oil (almost) to the point of smoking. Deep fry the fish steaks, giving each side about a couple minutes. Flip as the silver-colored fish turns golden brown.
Remove the fish steaks with a slotted spoon. Keep on a clean, dry dish. No need to soak the (excess) oil on paper towels. In its oil lies a whole lot of flavor and taste.
Your Ilish Maach Bhaja is now ready to be served. Its monsoon time in Bangladesh, which means its breeding time for the Hilsa. That also means the fish will have some eggs in its belly. I was lucky to have some fish eggs in my Ilish too, I rubbed them with turmeric powder and salt and gave them a good stir fry in the same oil.
Pour the “fish oil” in a clean bowl and serve with the fried fish. The Ilish Maach Bhaja and its tel or oil is eaten with rice, seasoned with salt and some fresh green chilies to bite on.