Bengalis and their Ilish Mach

We Bengalis are snobs in terms of our preferences about food. Having been brought up on food which our mothers painstakingly cooked for hours, there  isn’t much of a choice as such. And then there is that obsession which we have for fish, of every form and variety. The combination of both of these results in some very extravagant dishes honouring the humble fish. And which of these fishes are more worthy of honour than our very own ilish.Its seasonal and pricy. Prices can shoot up as high as rs 800(I know), very very pricey.But then it hasn’t ever stopped us from  buying it.Thats the kind of relationship that we Bengalis have with our ilish.A year without the seasonal ilish is deemed incomplete.I present to you two of my favourite recipes honouring the ilish mach.

The first of course is


This one is a marriage between the ilish mach and mustard.So here goes the recipe.Marinate the fish with salt and turmeric. In a pan heat some oil and splutter in some panch phoron.Add in ginger paste and mustard-poppy paste and sauté(soak the mustard and poppy seeds before grinding). Next add in some turmeric and red chilli powder followed by the marinated fish with green chillies and salt.Finally some tomatoes are to be thrown in to the mix.Everything is given a gentle stir and cooked on a slow flame. And do not dare to use any other oil other than mustard oil because sorse ilish needs to be cooked in sorse tel.


Next on the list is of course doi ilish. That is ilish cooked in yogurt. The fish pieces are covered with salt and set aside. On a pan oil is heated and onions fried till they are golden .Next salt coriander and red chilli powder is added along with the fish pieces and cooked for a while. Next comes in our yogurt and green chillies with a sprinkle of sugar. The mix is cooked till the water of the yogurt dries up, and the dish turns gravy. And it is ready .

Both these dishes are to be served with steamed rice.

It has been almost a year since I tasted ilish mach cooked by my mother. And as I sit writing this article in my hostel and catch glimpses of the amazing end products, I can’t help but feel nostalgic about home and Bengali cuisine. And these familiar sights make my mouth water.

Swagata Dutta

I am a college student who writes as a hobby....

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