During this recent visit by my parents, we decided to go for authentic Bengali dinner on an evening. My dad suggested for Bijoli Grill at Banga Bhavan on Hailey Road, New Delhi.
Along with some traditional Bengali dishes like aloo-posto, potoler dolma, kancha-amer chutney and mishti doi that we ordered for our dinner, there was a very delicious and star item of the night and it was sorshe ilish. We had a very difficult decision to make — to choose between daab chingri and sorshe ilish. We opted for sorshe ilish. It’s taste was simply out of this world!
Ilish (Tenualosa ilisha) a.k.a. hilsa (ইলিশ in Bangla) is a species of fish related to the herring. Ilish is the hilsa’s actual name – what the Bengalis call it. Hilsa was the name the British gave to the fish. Ilish is most popular among Bengalis for its aroma and taste. Hilsa appears at virtually every important occasion in Bengali life. All auspicious occasions including annaprashon (a child’s first rice-eating ceremony), jamai shoshti (an annual ceremony where the sons-in-law are fussed over by the in-laws and fed an elaborate meal), poila boishakh (Bengali New Year), Durga puja, Kali puja, wedding feasts… The families of grooms present hilsa, wrapped in a red sari and adorned with jewellery, to the bride’s family in Bengali marriages.
In Bengal, ilish can be smoked, fried, steamed or baked in young plantain leaves, prepared with mustard seed paste, curd, eggplant, different condiments like jira (cumin) and so on. It is said that ilish can be cooked in more than 50 ways in a Bengali kitchen! Ilish roe is also popular as a side dish.
Sorshe Ilish (Hilsa with mustard gravy) is an authentic Bengali dish made with mustard seed paste. It’s a traditional Bengali dish. Nothing is more blissful than a plate of steamed rice with ilish fish with mustard gravy. The flavour of mustard and the taste of ilish is just made for each other.
Ilish is an oily fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids and helps develop healthy brain and nervous system. Recent experiments have shown its beneficial effects in decreasing cholesterol level in rats and insulin level.