Ilish Polau is easily a Bengali party dish. For the past two weeks, I have been experimenting with the best recipe of Ilish Polau. Finally, I have this tried and tested Ilish Polau recipe that is so good that even my kids (fish-haters) absolutely loved eating it. This Bengali pulav is cooked using a big-sized Hilsa (Ilish) and good-quality rice. This recipe of Ilish Polau will yield slightly wet rice, as it is meant like this and best enjoyed like this.
There are days when you just want to make your family moments special. Cooking up something as extraordinary as this Ilish Polau, and especially if it turns out to be crazy good, just lifts me up to another zone. It gives me so much satisfaction to create a beautiful dish like this in the kitchen, adhering to my Bengali culinary roots. We often cook Ilish Begun, Ilish Macher Dimer Jhuro, Bhapa Ilish, Ilish Bhaja, Ilish Shorshe and even a mean Ilish Maacher Dimer Tenga at home. But this is class apart.
Much has been talked about this aromatic fish called Ilish. The fish for this particular recipe, doesn’t require frying as we need soft and creamy fish in each bite. Ghee, Mishti Doi and fried onions do the magic. Light, yet a festive dish, this can easily qualify as a Bengali party dish. Good-quality Ilish that is around 1 kg in weight is a must. I have used Myanmar Ilish this time, but the fish was luckily very flavourful. The fish should be fresh and aromatic: otherwise, the whole effort goes to a waste. The fish shouldn’t be washed too much, which is an old Bengali habit while cleaning Ilish. People think that more you wash the fish, more will the aroma, flavour and the characteristic oiliness wash away! Another important point is to get the rounds of the fish cut a bit thicker, so that the fish doesn’t break in the process of cooking. Obviously, we do not use the head, tail or the fish eggs for this dish. However, you can keep the Ilish eggs intact while cooking. The only problem is that the eggs might have a chance to get severely undercooked, since we aren’t frying the fish pieces as such. One trick is to fry the eggs separately and fit them back into the hollows of the Ilish belly, if you are too keen to have the eggs in the recipe. I use the eggs for making two very distinct and flavourful recipes: Ilish Macher Dimer Jhuro and Ilish Macher Dimer Tenga. But that’s a different flavour story altogether!
- 1 cup Beresta (crisp-fried onions)
- 1.3 kg Ilish or Hilsa fish (thickly cut into rounds)
- 4.5 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp Cumin powder
- 200 g Mishti Doi
- 2 tsp Refined flour
- 1.25 tsp Ginger paste
- 2 tsp Oil
- 3 tbsp Ghee
- 1 Bay leaf
- 2 Cinnamon sticks (one-inch long)
- 6 Green cardamoms
- 10 Cloves
- 3 Onions (finely chopped)
- 2 Onions (minced)
- 350 ml Coconut milk
- 8 Chopped green chillies
- 2 cups Basmati or Gobindobhog rice (washed a few times until the water is clear)
- 5.25 cups Warm water
- 1 tsp Garlic paste
- To marinate the fish, make a paste of 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp red chilli powder, ½ tsp cumin powder, 100 g Mishti Doi and ½ tsp each of ginger and garlic pastes. Smear the paste evenly on all the pieces of the fish and leave this undisturbed for atleast ½ hour at room temperature.
- Also, the water in the washed rice should be drained and the wet rice should be kept at room temperature for 20 min.
- Heat 2 tsp oil and 2 tbsp ghee in a Kadhai. Add the chopped onions and fry till golden.
- Add the onion mince now, along with ¾ tsp ginger paste, ½ tsp garlic paste, ½ tsp red chilli powder and ½ tsp salt.
- Now add 100 g Mishti Doi beaten with 2 tsp refined flour. Sauté continuously to avoid lumps.
- Add 200 ml coconut milk. Stir continuously.
- When the mixture becomes thick, add the marinated fish and chopped green chillies. Stir and flip the fish gently to avoid breaking. (Better use two spoons together for flipping the fish pieces.)
- After the fish is smeared well and the liquid in the cooking vessel is almost dry, add 100 ml coconut milk and 1 tsp salt and stir very gently. After 5 min, remove the fish very carefully on a plate, taking utmost care not to break the fish.
- Remove the gravy into another bowl.
- In another Kadhai, add 1 tbsp ghee. Add the whole Garam Masala and bay leaf. Add about 100 ml of the reserved gravy to this and sauté continuously. Add a few more chopped chillies, if required. Now add around 1 cup of warm water. Add 2 tsp salt and cook for 5 min.
- Add the drained rice and stir slowly for a few minutes, taking care not to break the grains.
- Add 4.25 cups of warm water. Stir gently and cover. Cook on a medium flame for 10 min or until most of the water (around 70%) is evaporated.
- On a medium flame, add 50 ml coconut milk to the rice. Mix gently. Cover and cook for 10 min.
- Now fluff up the rice a bit. Add the cooked fish on the top. Press the fish pieces down a bit.
- With the help of a spoon, pour the remaining gravy from the top. Do not stir now.
- Cover and cook on dum for 10 min. While serving, sprinkle a generous amount of beresta or fried onions.
Dear readers, how was this recipe of Ilish Polau? If you give it a try or have a query regarding this recipe, do give me a shoutout at @purabinaha on Instagram/Twitter or on my Facebook page!