Finding the best Hilsa in Bangalore!

In Bangalore, I buy Hilsa from HAL market. I mean I used to buy Hilsa from HAL when the world was as we knew it.

With lockdown in place, life has changed significantly. Earlier, the sight of Hilsa in Bangalore called for celebration. We would inform our friends, discuss in food groups, invite friends over. A lot of tiffin box would be exchanged over weekends.

Now is a myriad time. Until recently, river fish was a rarity in Bangalore, barring Rui-Katla variants. All we got was a series of Seer fish home and I cooked Meen Molee week after week in memory of our cancelled Kerala trip, all my heart wanted!

Then the owner of Meat Hub started to bring Hilsa as monsoon was about to take leave from the subcontinent. A Bengali usually does not live well with a monsoon that is bereft of Hilsa, the silver crop of water as Manik Barujje (recalling how my English teacher Mr. Amal Das would pronounce his name) described!

The meat Hub is a small fish and meat seller in my neighborhood which opened just when lock-down was about to set in. Business was bleak as I know it in the initial days but now is different. His workers have stayed back in the shop. At one corner, they have made a make-shift kitchen. Sometimes, when I pick and choose my fish, I find the aroma of an all engulfing chicken curry carrying an undisputed influence of the Nepalese gastronomic expertise. I had one such hot spicy Chicken curry on the way to Lumbini from Chitwan in Nepal.

But I digress…

Hilsa in bangalore: where do you find fresh Ilish with egg roe (macher dim) in Bangalore
The KG Hilsa that I bought from the Meat Hub in Bangalore.
Dimbhora Ilish: Recipe for Bhapa SHorshe Ilish, iconic Bengali fish dish
It was oozing with fish roe. Many do not prefer their Hilsa with fish roe but if you are getting a huge fish, chances are it will have roe.

Hilsa was trending at an expensive than usual tag of 2000 until recently. This weekend, price dipped a bit to 1800 for a kilo. We also spotted this large beauty. The other Hilsa fishes available were comparatively smaller. We decided to go for it. It is end of August already and probably this would be one of the last few Hilsa for this year. I hear one of the many damages caused by Amphan cyclone is reduced supply of Hilsa this year.

The day lock-down started, I had got another 1.5 kilo Hilsa from Meat Mart. That did not have fish roe though. That fish came in a plastic wrap inscribed with Bengali font, “Bangladeshi Ilish”, Hilsa of Bangladesh. A rarity. A novelty. An inexplicable bond between the two countries parted with international border but connected at heart through culinary heritage.

I was conflicted in my mind. What should I make of this Hilsa? Should I cook this with mustard paste? Should I cook with Begun (eggplant)? Should I try the Ilish Panikhola, one exotic Hilsa dish making frequent appearance on FB groups nowadays?

I took a deep breath and I knew this had to be Shorshe Ilish Bhapa, the legendary steamed Hilsa in mustard sauce. To make it more special, we added a few things extra. Think Poppy seeds. Think coconut. The Borishali Ilish Bhojohari serves feels and looks almost the same, though the one I am writing this recipe for is Bhapa, steamed!

Recipe for Bhapa Ilish SOrshe
Preparing for steaming the Hilsa. Shorshe Ilish Bhape is a rather easy dish to cook if you have all the ingredients handy and the fish is fresh.
Bhapa Ilish Sorshe
The beauty! No wonder, there is a Bengali song that celebrates Hilsa along with other staples of a Bengali kitchen! “Bangla Amar Sorse Ilish Chingri Kochi Lau!” Meaning, Bengal equates to Hilsa in Mustard sauce, Prawns, young White gourd! 
Bhapa Ilish Shorshe
Shorshe Bhapa Ilish before I put the pot on steaming
Bhapa Ilish SHorshe without a pressure cooker
Shorshe Bhapa ilish after the food has been cooked. One look at the Mustard sauce and you know what I am talking about.

For more Bengali recipe, check out this page: Cookbook.

Ingredients for cooking Shorshe Bhapa Ilish (Hilsa steamed in Mustard sauce)

Procedure for Cooking Shorshe Bhapa Ilish(Hilsa in mustard Sauce, signature dish of Bengal)

Shorshe Bhapa Ilish is best served with steaming hot rice! 

Bhapa Ilish SHorshe recipe. Hilsa in Mustard Sauce
Sorshe Bhapa Ilish served with red chilies on fire that I grow in my garden!

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