Steamed Hilsa Fish in yogurt & mustard paste gravy (Bhapa Ilish)

Hello everybody ! Hope you are having a great week.

We are having monsoon in its full glory here in Kolkata. Its raining heavily each and every day in my city. Bengalis have a deep connection with Hilsa Fish (‘Ilish’ as we call it in Bengali), specially during monsoon and winter. Since monsoon is the breeding of this fish species, it comes from the sea to the freshwater rivers to lay its eggs. Freshwater Hilsa have far better taste compared to its marine counterpart. So this is a great time to enjoy this delicious fish with lots of fish eggs as a bonus.

I have shared few other Hilsa recipes in the past, check them out as well if not already :

Today’s recipe is the most popular and a very traditional Bengali recipe. I will not vouch for how authentic and grammatically correct my recipe is, but this is the exact preparation my mom used to cook for me most of the time. Me and my father are die hard Hilsa lovers, so this used to be a Sunday favorite throughout the monsoon months.

Hilsa Fish is full of its own flavor, so there is minimum spices required to prepare it. Mustard paste, mustard oil and green chillies are important ingredients for most of the recipes. In today’s recipe, the fish is not fried at all, only steamed so the full flavor of the fish goes into the gravy. This is the easiest and most delicious Hilsa dish in my opinion 🙂 The preparation is best enjoyed as a main course side dish with plain rice.

This preparation can be easily done using a micro-oven. But as you know I unfortunately do not own one. In case you are like me, a completely air tight steel tiffin box can be used, I will share how in the recipe section. If you do not have any of this, dont be upset. You can still prepare this dish directly in a pressure cooker. Please remember Hilsa is a very delicate and soft fish, so do not steam it for too long whichever method you use, otherwise the fish may break if over boiled.

Lets get started !


Preparation Time : 5 minutes

Clean the Hilsa fish pieces well under running water. I have separated the fish eggs from the slices to use in another preparation. You may keep the eggs intact with the pieces if you prefer.

Add few pinches of salt, 2 pinches of turmeric powder and few drops of mustard oil. Coat each fish pieces uniformly.

Soak mustard seeds and poppy seeds in 2 tablespoon of water.


Cooking : 15 minutes

Ingredients :

  • Hilsa Fish (Ilish mach) – 4 round slices, marinated
  • Yogurt – 2 to 3 tablespoon, whip the yogurt well so that no lumps remain
  • Poppy seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Yellow mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Black mustard seeds – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Green chillies – 4 to 6, slitted
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt – as per taste
  • Mustard oil – 2 tablespoon

If you like a strong flavor of mustard sauce, you may skip yellow mustard seeds and use 1 complete teaspoon of black mustard seeds.


Recipe :

  1. Strain out mustard seeds and poppy seeds into a grinder. Add few pinches of salt and 2 to 3 green chillies. Add 2 to 3 tablespoon water. Prepare a smooth paste.
  2. Take a large plate. Place the marinated fish pieces. Add yogurt, mustard paste, remaining turmeric powder and salt if required. Marinate the fish pieces well.
  3. Now grease a completely air tight steel tiffin box with 1 tablespoon mustard oil. Place the marinated fish pieces carefully inside the box so that none of them overlap with each other. Add the remaining marination spices also. Place 2 to 3 slitted green chillies into the gravy.
  4. Now about 4 tablespoon water into the tiffin box. The gravy should be little runny but not too much. Mix very gently.
  5. Tighten the lid of the tiffin box well. Now take a pressure cooker or a steamer if you have. Add 2 cups of water or as much as required so that only 1/2 of the tiffin box is immersed into the water. Place the tiffin box into the water. Be careful no water should get inside the box.
  6. Place the lid of the pressure cooker or steamer. If you are using a pressure cooker do not tighten the lid, only place it on top so that most of the steam do not get out.
  7. Let the fish steam in hot water for about 10 minutes. When done, remove the tiffin box carefully from the hot water. Do not open immediately, give the dish some standing time.
  8. When everything is done, with a spatula carefully place the fish pieces on a serving plate. Pour the gravy over the fishes. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of mustard oil.

Serve Steamed Hilsa Fish in yogurt & mustard gravy hot with plain steamed rice.



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