So I took this Bobby Flay-like challenge upon me to make Ilish Maacher Paturi the way it should be, wrapped in banana leaves! No steel tiffin box or microwaveable bowl came in my way this time. I had suffered enough scorn from Bengali food-e-ratis for long. It was now time for redemption.
I used one heaped tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds, one teaspoon of black mustard seeds and one teaspoon of poppy seeds along with few green chillies, and a teaspoon of turmeric to make the marinade for the paturi. Once all the ingredients were wet ground to a smooth paste, I slathered it over the fish steaks. The Ilish we get here is from a Bangladeshi store, they have the best Padma river Ilish, known for its distinct taste and buttery texture.
To the mustard marinated fish I threw in few more slit green chillies and some salt and drizzled mustard oil. Mustard oil is one of the most essential ingredients in an Ilish Maacher Paturi, please do not substitute it with any other oil. It will be Ilish Paturi blasphemy.
I kept the marinated fish covered for about 15-20 minutes, before I transferred each individual Ilish piece (with its marinade and the mustard oil; drizzle some more if you want to) on a rectangular piece of banana leaf.
I found the banana leaves in the frozen section of a Chinese grocery store. Make sure you wash the frozen leaves with warm water before you wrap them around the fish. This way they will soften a bit and will not tear.
Each packet was then kept in a large baking dish and microwaved for 10 minutes. I did think of my traditional bamboo steamer for cooking the fish, but then got lazy and settled to microwave. I don’t think the end result suffered because of that.
Time the cooking process of the paturi well, so that you can serve the dish just before you are sitting down to eat your lunch or dinner.
Ilish Maacher Paturi needs nothing else but pearly white plain rice to eat with and your deft fingers to artfully make morsels of the fish and rice and its zingy mustard sauce to transfer you into Ilish heaven. Return from there would be very difficult, because everything then will look so ordinary.