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bhapa ilish

Post 2 : Count down to Durga Pujo 2018 Series

Bhapa Ilish – classic and timeless.

The queen does not needs any introduction. She is every gourmand’s dream and fantasy. Plethora of works has been dedicated to her, she has inspired the artists, has inflamed the passion of writers, moviemakers and invigorate the dreams and hopes of common man, during monsoon. Yet she is elusive, she is passion, an emotion , epitome of cultural identity as well as gastronomy.

She is Hilsa, the queen of fish. Shining silvery skin with that characteristic pink streaks running across it. The versatility of ilish is heart of culinary lore in Bengal and Bangladesh. And now has become subject of culinary experiments among the chefs with strong Bong genes.

You can smear it with pungent mustard paste and it will allure you more. Stew it in rich and mildly flavoured coconut milk, or simply with yogurt base, it will entice you with its sublime taste.

bhapa ilish


But some recipes are synonymous with Ilish, like this bhapa ilish. Classic and timeless.

A slightly coarse mustard paste with hiss of green chilies, dash of turmeric powder which is a ritual rather than an ingredient and good drizzle of mustard oil for that pungency.

Equal to contentment. Inner Peace.

Bhapa ilish can be prepared in different ways. The age old practice is to wrap the fish inside the gourd leaves or banana leaves, and the neatly tied packets will be then left inside the huge pots of freshly steamed cooked rice with steams trapped inside. And that’s how my grandma used to make the ilish bhape.

I do it slightly differently and am sure people of my generation follows this simple method. Pack the ilish inside a tightly closed steel box and steam it in pressure cooker.

Saves time. Saves fuel. Saves life.

Try the recipe only if you can tolerate the heightened pungency of mustard paste, our own sorshe bata.
A crash course on “how to eat wasabi” won’t help you here .

bhapa ilish . Steamed Hilsa

Ilish bhape or steamed hilsa is an age old recipe and one of the classic ilish recipe.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings: 4
Author: Sukanya Ghosh


  • Hilsa / Ilish : 4-6 pieces
  • Mustard paste : 12 tbsp see notr how to make mustard paste
  • Green chillies : 3-4 cut from the middle
  • Mustard oil : 2 ladle full or may be less if you want
  • Salt : just a pinch
  • Turmeric powder : a large pinch


  • Wash the Ilish fish once . Many do not prefer to wash the fish also as it will remove the blood and oil.
  • Take a big steel box with lid and place the fish pieces, coated well with turmeric-salt and the mustard paste , next to each other neatly . Stacking one upon another might break the fish while serving.
  • Pour the remaining mustard paste, mustard oil and the green chillies over the fish.
  • Tightly close the lid and steam the fish in a steamer or pressure cooker or over water bath for 10-15 minutes.
  • Serve hot with plain steamed rice.


How to make mustard paste - Soak 25 gm yellow mustard seeds and 5gm black mustard seeds for an hour.
Grind the mustard seeds with 2-3 green chillies. depending upon the hotness you prefer with a pinch of salt and turmeric.


Please Note – This post was published first in 2009 September. Now republished,  revamped with fresh and new content and images.

Stay Tuned,



1 Comment

  • Reply
    December 13, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    If there is one fish recipe I always my aunt to make its the mustard fish and with recipe now I can even try this at home. A big thank you.

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