If you want to try authentic food in Kolkata, you must definitely try fish dishes. That said, Ilish (Hilsa) dishes are one of the most sought-after dishes. Bengali restaurants in Kolkata often experiment a lot with Ilish dishes. Apart from the rustic Shorshe Ilish, Ilish Paturi, Bhapa Ilish, Aam Ilish or the Ilish Biryani, you might come across scrumptious Fusion Ilish recipes as well, in the search to find authentic flavours at Bengali restaurants in Kolkata. Inspired from the classics, the Bengali cuisine in Kolkata is now adding more Fusion Bengali dishes, but the old-school recipes are still the best!
Ilish Begun is one such classic and can be made at home easily. Some people always have the habit of adding mustard paste to traditional Bengali Hilsa dishes, but this dish can also be cooked without mustard paste (but brinjals are a must!). Ilish Begun is an aromatic dish, and is very light and easy on stomach.
Although it is full of fine fish bones, Hilsa is unique in taste and aroma (and hence, expensive). Even a simple preparation of Hilsa, marinated with salt and turmeric and fried, tastes so good! One should add less oil than required, while frying Hilsa or Ilish, because it releases a lot of oil itself. By the way, you can take out this oil with the help of a spoon, while the fish gets fried, and add some salt to the oil and eat it mixed with steamed rice. It is so flavourful and rustic! I can eat a plateful of rice just with Hilsa-flavoured mustard oil! Hilsa, in all its avatars, is a comfort food for the Bong in me.
Ilish Begun (Light Bengali Hilsa Curry with Brinjal)
- Ilish _Hilsa_ pieces: 8
- Fenugreek seeds: ¼ tsp
- Mustard oil
- Brinjal aubergine pieces: 12 (cut into long and moderately thin pieces)
- Salt for the gravy: 1.5 tsp
- Salt for the marination: ½ tsp
- Turmeric for the marination: ½ tsp
- Turmeric for the gravy: ½ tsp
- Mustard oil for cooking: ¼ cup
- Mustard oil for garnish: 3 tbsp
- Water: 2 cups
- Slit green chillies: 3
- Marinate the Hilsa with salt and turmeric for 20 min. Heat mustard oil till it reaches smoking point. Simmer the flame and carefully add the hilsa pieces. Cover and cook for 10 min: 5 min on each side. Remove the pieces.
- In the same oil, add the fenugreek seeds and wait until the seeds become dark brown (but not black). Add the brinjal pieces (along with half of the remaining salt) and fry till the brinjals are cooked, but firm. Add the rest of the salt, turmeric powder and water and stir. Carefully introduce the fried Hilsa or Ilish pieces into the gravy. Add the rest of the salt and slit green chillies, and stir gently. Cover and cook for 10 min.
- Just before serving, sprinkle raw mustard oil over the curry. Serve with steamed rice.