Bhapa Ilish - My first love

As you can understand from the title of the post, I am madly in love with ilish and this particular style of preparation which I learnt from my mother. Years went by, but when it comes to ilish, this is the first dish which I will prepare every time I am home with chunks of fish fillets. You can also replace ilish with other varieties of fish, but ilish has this unique taste which goes very well with mustard and coconut. The blend of these 3 ingredients makes it an epic combination, something which has to be relished to be understood.

Now there are different ways bengalis love to have their steamed fish. Some use store bought kasundi paste and use it in huge amounts while steaming the fish. I, personally, don’t like this preparation too much. Kasundi, when used in such huge proportion, overpowers the fish and I like to celebrate the fish more than the kasundi :P. Some also use poppy seeds in addition to the mustard seeds instead of using coconut. But I love coconut in my food. May be that’s why I have such huge amount of love for Thai food. As I say this, I realize I haven’t shared my encounters with thai food yet. So, I think it’s time for Thai food to make its debut in the blog.

Ilish, in itself is a very oily and rich fish, high in omega-3 fatty acids. So, this preparation with its usage of less spices, helps hero the fish in a very subtle way and is also light on the tummy. This is one such dish which is a evergreen delight but is  also one of the things to be relished upon during the festive season, particularly Bengali New year and Durga Puja. I have one such recipe for the festive season here as well, if you have not read it already.

I have shared the quickest and easiest way to prepare the fish here, without comprising on the flavors. But if you have some additional time to spare, the fish along with the spice paste can be steamed inside a banana leaf. This is a dry way of preparing the fish and can be enjoyed as a very delicious starter.

Bhapa Ilish - My first love

This is a home style preparation of Ilish using mustard paste and desiccated coconut.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Resting time10 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Hilsa, Ilish
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 160kcal
Author: Anindita Das


  • 4 fillets Ilish (Hilsa) fish
  • 1 tsp mustard oil
  • 1 quantity large onion
  • 6 quantity green chillies
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 0.5 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • Salt as required


  • Rub the fish fillets with some of the mustard oil, salt and turmeric.
  • Make a paste using half of the onion, garlic, half of the green chillies, coconut, mustard powder and turmeric powder.
  • In a pan, place the fish along with the paste. Add 1 glass of water to it and season it with salt. 
  • Finely chop the remaining onion and slit the green chillies lengthwise. Add it to the pan. Add the coriander leaves.
  • Cover the pan with a lid and let it steam for 10 minutes or until cooked. Adjust the gravy as per liking. A pressure cooker can also be used instead of the pan. In that case, cook the fish until 2 whistles of the cooker under medium heat.
  • Pour some mustard oil on the top of the gravy and let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve it with steamed rice.


  1. Do not use the store bought "kasundi" as a substitute for mustard powder. Instead buy some yellow mustard seeds, slightly dry roast them and prepare a powder out of it.

Like this Post? Please follow and like us for more 🙂 

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0 0 votes
Article Rating