Hilsa Curry/ Shorshe Ilish – The Intense Flavour of Traditional Bengal

With at least 3 major rivers flowing through West Bengal, and the state’s direct connection to the Bay of Bengal, it is no wonder that Bengalis love fish. Not to mention the fact that fish is extremely healthy, and Bengalis know it! Of all the fish consumed in Bengal, Hilsa or Ilish mach as it is better known there, is by far one of the favourites, and it’s the state fish too! Don’t get us wrong, this fish is also extremely popular in other parts of the country like Odisha, Assam and Tripura. There are at least 50 different ways to cook this fish throughout the country. Today, we will focus on just one – Hilsa curry.

Why is Hilsa so Popular You May Ask? 

For one thing, it’s high in omega 3 which is great for people with elevated cholesterol. Secondly, it’s delicious of course! Hilsa has really soft flesh and a smooth, fatty texture which lends really well to a host of dishes. Our focus for today’s dish, is a Bengali classic which uses hilsa –  shorshe ilish or mustard hilsa, literally translated. This is a delicious dish which uses both mustard seeds and mustard oil to create the curry base. 

At one point in time, hilsa was a rare fish to buy anywhere outside of the states mentioned above. However, with Licious you can buy perfect Bengali curry cut hilsa in most major cities now. Our hilsa is extremely fresh and we will deliver it to you in as close to 90 minutes as possible. So, there’s no doubt you could get the fish and eat it too! 

The other great thing about hilsa curry is that it’s really easy to make but jam packed with flavour. The use of mustard also gives it a very unique taste which you may not have tried before. So, for various reasons, one of them being a taste of something different, this is probably a recipe you will love. Let’s get started. 

Print Recipe
Hilsa in Mustard Gravy/Shorshe Ilish Recipe
Mustard seeds are highly aromatic when cooked and have a slightly nutty and smoky flavour, it’s almost indescribable. However, this dish on the whole is spicy, creamy and smells inviting. The ingredient list is not long either - only about 10, including two different types of mustard seeds.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Begin by soaking all your mustard seeds in water for 30 minutes (This can be done in advance)
  2. Grab your chopped green chillies and soaked mustard seeds and blend them together to form a paste
  3. Add 1 tsp of turmeric and a bit of salt to your hilsa; make sure every piece is coated evenly
  4. Heat 2 tbsp of your mustard oil in a wok and fry each piece of hilsa gently on both sides, this is just for colour
  5. Remove the pieces and let them rest
  6. Add the rest of your oil to the wok and pop in your fenugreek seeds, wait for them to crackle
  7. Next you will need to add in your tomato, give that a good stir and then follow it up with the mustard paste you made earlier, a ½ tsp turmeric and some more salt
  8. Pour in your water; cover your wok and let the whole thing come to a boil on a low flame
  9. The last thing to do is add your fish pieces in. Give it all a gentle stir and then on a medium flame allow your curry to cook for roughly 10 minutes or until the fish is just done
  10. Once your curry is cooked fully, garnish with the other 5 slit chillies and let it rest for an additional 5 minutes. That’s all!
Recipe Notes

This hilsa curry in mustard gravy is certainly the star of the show and is usually accompanied by nothing other than plain white rice. Tip: Since hilsa is a very fine boned fish, if you don’t like a hands on approach, you could use our catla instead. However, we do not recommend substituting the mustard oil with any other oil. That’s because the flavour of this dish is drastically altered without it, and the authenticity disappears. We hope you enjoy this wonderful and simple fish curry!

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