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Ilish machh bhape(steamed hilsa fish in mustard sauce)

Ilish machh bhape(steamed hilsa fish in mustard sauce)
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The traditional cooking methods are so close to my heart,as along with them they bring the memories of my childhood and fragrance of the soil which nurtured me .It also helps me to stand apart,and establish my  cultural identity through cooking.The hero of this dish ,which makes it immensely popular with the fish lovers all over India is “Ilish machh” or Hilsa fish.Hilsa is an anadromous fish which migrates from sea to the river during breeding and lays eggs in the delta region.They thrive in  the river Padma in Bangladesh which is also known as the Ganges in India.This fish has become very expensive and rare catch these days due to pollution,excessive fishing and other factors.This fish if caught in the sea is not that tasty but when it is caught in the Padma river during breeding it develops a distinct taste to die for.

This dish is an ancient dish from the East bengal which involves steaming the  the fish with poppy seeds and mustard seeds paste,after smearing with generous amount of mustard oil.The fish retains it inherent aroma and taste and is spicy due to the addition of mustard paste ,a culinary icon  of  Bengal.












  1. FIsh (hilsa or any other fish like tilapia,makarel etc)
  2. Mustard paste (3 to 4 tbsp)
  3. Poppy seeds( 4 tbsp)
  4. Mustard oil (2 tbsp)
  5. Turmeric powder(1 tsp)
  6. Salt(as per taste)
  7. Desiccated coconut(2 tbsp)(optional)
  8. Green chillies (3 to 4)


  1. Wash the fishes and marinate with turmeric powder and salt.
  2. Ground the mustard seeds ,poppy seeds and salt into a fine paste with 2 green chillies.
  3. Apply on the fishes.
  4. put the fishes into an air tight container and add 2 to 3 tbsp mustard oil on the mix.
  5. Steam for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Serve hot with steamed rice.



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Indrani Sen