There are so many recipes all over the internet. to make Bhapa Ilish Maach,that is how to make Steamed Hilsa Fish. Yet each and every recipe has its own unique identity. The procedure is same what varies is the sentiment and emotion with which one is cooking the dish. Ilish maach (Hilsa Fish) for we Bengalis are like an identity. Its the most common dish prepared in almost every Bengali kitchen. Now not only the bengalis almost all fish lovers prepare the bhapa (steamed) Ilish maach in their home.
As a small girl, I used to see how my mom prepared Bhapa Ilish Maach, during those days Ilish being one of the costliest fishes sold in the market, was cooked during Sundays or on any special occasion or when guests were invited over to the lunch/dinner. In Guwahati, Assam there are many good restaurants which serves bengali cuisines, of all my favourite is Kasturi, 16 ana Bangla and 6 Ballygunj Place, they serve some tasty Bhapa Ilish Maach. There are a lot of Ilish recipes that are cooked in my home like- Ilish with raw banana (Ilish maach Kacha kola diye), Ilish with eggplant (Ilish maach begun diye), Spicy Ilish curry (ilish maach er chochhori), etc. But of all preparations the most special and elegant Ilish dish was the one prepared with mustard paste and steamed with all ingredients.
Now when I cook at home it reminds me of how as a little girl I used to peep into the kitchen watching my mother cooking
learning the steps silently
it reminds me of my childhood days
it reminds me how my father used to sit on the dining table along with me and my didi (my elder sister) and my mother used to pour the curry over the hot steamed rice-
it reminds how I and my didi used to fight upon who won the largest piece
and how my mother would resolve the contest saying she had kept equal pieces for both of us.
In fact no one ever taught me how to cook this dish, I learnt watching how my mother used to cook and may be its passed into my dna!!
There are many ways how to steam it either you can use your microwave or you can use a pressure cooker without the whistle, or you can simply prepare it on a kadai (wok).
How to make Bhapa Ilish Maach?
What you need-
Hilsa Fish- cut and cleaned
Ginger, Garlic paste half tsp paste, just a pinch for flavor, I used Mother’s Recipe ginger garlic paste.
One tomato cut into pieces
3-4 green chili
Mustard paste- I have used the sunrise ready to use mustard powder, for that all you need is to soak three tbsp of the powder in Luke warm water with a little mustard oil and salt.
Lots of mustard oil (use the one with a strong aroma)
For the steaming I used an aluminum tray which I also use for baking cakes.
Aluminum foil and a wide mouthed wok/kadai
Now take the pieces of the Fish, wash it very nicely, take half tsp of turmeric powder, salt, marinate the fish with these and keep in the refrigerator for an hour.
Make the mustard paste as mentioned above, you can also use freshly grind mustard or like I used the ready made one available in the market.
Take the tray put the fishes, pour in the mustard paste, add slit Green Chilies as per your need, sliced tomatoes, be careful while adding salt as you have already marinated the fish pieces with salt and added salt in the mustard paste. On top pour three to four tbsp of Mustard oil. you can also add more if you like a strong aroma of mustard oil.
Cover the tray with aluminum foil. Fill half of the wok/kadai with water and make sure that the tray should be half immersed when you put it on the wok filled with water. Make small holes on top of the foil. It will help in the steaming process. Now cover the wok/kadai with a lid. Let it steam on low heat for 45 minutes. Let it cool and serve with hot steamed rice.
For steaming the fish I have used this kind of cake baking aluminum pan CLICK HERE
Marinate the fish with little turmeric and salt