October 03, 2013

Bhapa Ilish (steamed ilish fish curry)

Ilish Mach bhapa

Now that Lil A goes to preschool and has a gang of friends, he comes home with new stories. Stories about his school day, what he did, but they don't come when I ask him. When I ask him about his day at school and what he did, he says "I don't know." 

Then the stories come out slowly at most unexpected times. Yesterday at dinner table he talked about how he "runned" and was the "bestest" superman. Later in the evening, when he was drinking milk he said his teacher said he was the "kindest leader" yesterday.

My favorite moment was when he was in the bathroom and he told me "You are my 'bestest' friend." "You are too, my lil one, you are too."

It reminded me of a time from my childhood, when I was very attached my thakuma (grandmother). My phisis would tease me saying, "dekh tor takumar gaal kheye niyechi." (see I ate your grandmother's cheeks).  I would be greatly offended and smooth her cheeks with mine.

Who do you consider your good friend?

In other food news, we had a bumper herbs crop this year, so I have been using it lavishly.

Pesto pasta Here is a pasta I whipped up on a week night with a mix of parsely and mint pesto. I sauted some veggies, added the pesto and the pasta and mixed it all together and served with some fresh cheese.

Dinner for lil ones

We also have been making veggie parathas regularly because Lil A loves it. Here is a sample of his dinner plate - paratha, dal, avacado and some homemade dahi (yogurt).

watermelon popsicle

Lil A's love for ice-cream and popsicles continues. This is a quick watermelon popsicle that I made with watermelon, little sugar and lemon juice and pureed and froze it.

What do your little ones like to eat?

Coming back to this recipe, I have to say that this recipe has been sitting with me for a while. This is my dad's and my favorite way to eat ilish (shad). The other favorite is ilish with begun (eggplant).  The fish is moist, soft and full of flavor.

When my parents are visiting, I always make my trip to the bangladeshi store religiously to get pabda, tangra, rui and of course ilish. This year, the store owner told me all about the soaring prices of ilish back in Bangladesh and in the US. He double checked if I still wanted to buy ilish. I nodded and then he said "tomar jonne didi" (just for you sister) and took out an ilish with roe (not too big, not too small), and made steak pieces.

Ilish Mach bhapa

Ilish steaks
1/2 + 1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 tspoon mustard seeds
1 green chilli (increase according to taste)
1/2 tspoon mustard oil
salt to taste
cilantro to garnish (optional)

Clean the fish and rub it with salt and turmeric powder. In a grinder, grind the green chilli with mustard seeds, turmeric powder and little water to make a smooth paste.

Take a vessel and put the paste, 1 1/2 cups water and make a smooth curry. Add the fish pieces in the paste. Add little salt to taste. Then add the mustard oil. Put the vessel in the pressure cooker and steam on low medium heat without the whistle for 12 minutes.

Ilish Mach bhapa

Take out and garnish and serve with white rice.


  1. Love the colour of the curry,seriously makes me drool...

  2. The gravy has turned so nice...this season I have only made Ilish once when we visited Home and still it was very pricey...."A" ke onek ador ...may he always remain your friend :-)..Hugs and smiles

    1. Thanks Jaya. Once I threatened him a time out, I have been demoted from that status :) They are so much fun at this age.

  3. Ilish has become so expensive here and we don't get the bigger ones anymore :( I did get it twice this year though and made a Bhapa Ilish too. LS has developed a liking for Indian fish these days and likes eating rui/ilish etc. but BS runs away from them. Hard to please everyone :-)
    Your Ilish gravy looks so delectable and with some rice it is the best meal ever.

    1. I know, I probably got it a couple of times too. Thanks Bong Mom! Lil A is slowly starting to eat indian style fish. Haven't tried ilish with him yet.

  4. Dear mandira
    How are you ? here after a long time. Thank you for your appreciation at my blog . Aj kal blog lekhao hoena para o hoe na...FB r bhut chepe achhe kichhu tei nam chhena
    Darun recipe and perfect traditional one!! I liked the eggplant and squirel story ha ha
    I must start reading and writing food blogs
    Bhalo theko

    1. Thanks Ushnish da, I too don't manage to blog as often as I like. Aapnar ekta recipe bookmark kore rekhechi banabo ei weekend e

  5. Bah ki chomotkar dekhte hoyechee illish maach ta dekhei lobh lagchee, amar bor khaye na, tai ami ekar jonyo ar banai na...tomar chele er golpo porte porte ami haschilam :-)

    1. Thanks Suchi. Ami o maa baba aashle ilish aani. No one else is a fan in the house.

  6. I'm reliving my kids' childhoods through all these posts from y'all with little ones now -- such fun :) Nice to learn that ilish is shad. There was once a locally famous Boston chef who sung the praises of springtime shad roe to the skies, but wasn't crazy about cooking the fish itself. Clearly he'd never seen a curry like this. Looks fantastic!!


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