Ask a Bangladeshi(descendant of Bangladesh) to name the king of all fishes and undoubtedly 98.897% will tell you it is Hilsha (called Ilish in Bengali). Ask any of them what the best preparation of Ilish is and the answer would undoubtedly be “sorshe Ilish” meaning Hilsha in mustard paste. A Bangladeshi or Bengali will jump with immense pleasure with the aroma of an Ilish dish. This mouthwatering delicacy is also thoroughly enjoyed by Indian descendants of West Bengal, Assam, Orissa, or Tripura. Though Hilsha is found in Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red sea, China Sea and Vietnam Sea, but the tastiest of all are the ones caught in the “Padma-Meghna-Jamuna” delta in the Bay of Bengal.
It is almost next to impossible to find fresh Hilsha in North America. When buying a frozen Hilsha, I only buy from trusted fish market that guarantees the fish is caught in Padma-Meghna-Jamuna delta aka caught in Bangladesh. If not, I use salmon for their similar richness in omega 3 fatty acids. Salmon in freshly grind mustard sauce provides a spin to the traditional fish dish and offers a substitute in absence of fresh Hilsha. Also, it is a great alternative for those who do not want to deal with innumerable tiny bones of Hilsha. Hubby is a seasoned fish lover and he certifies this dish is as close as you can get in lieu of the real one.
Traditionally mustard seed is freshly grinded to make this dish. Also, mustard oil gives this dish a pungent flavor. You are welcome to use olive oil or canola oil to mellow down the taste. My mom uses sliced onion and green chili but I make a paste which I think adds a distinct green chili flavor to the dish.
If you are a seasoned Ilish lover and trying out this recipe, let me know what you loved and what you did not like. Or are you even going to try this out. If you have never tried the real thing, let me know how you like the new twist to the old salmon.
- 5-6 Salmon steaks
- 2 tablespoon mustard powder or paste
- 1 large onion
- 2 green chilies
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoon mustard oil
- Clean the fish steaks.
- If you are using whole mustard seeds, grind them into powder
- Mix onion, chili and garlic cloves and make a paste in a food processor. Heat the oil in a flat bottomed pan.
- Add onion paste. Sauté the onion paste until light brown.
- Mix all other spices and sauté for another 2-3 minutes
- Add 1 cup of water.
- Add the salmon steaks and cook covered over medium heat for about 5 minutes
- Flip the steaks and cook covered until water has evaporated and thick gravy remains.
The same recipe can be followed to cook shorshe ilish.