Grandiosity of Bengali Culinary Lore

Monsoons in Bengal is synonymous with ‘Ilish Maach’. Ilish Maach or the Bengal Hilsa is the celebrity of Bengali cuisine with star entourage. Hilsa appears on a Bengali dining table in many disguises, there is - ‘Ilish Macher Tel Jhaal’, ‘Ilish Paturi’, ‘Ilish Maacher Matha Diye Pui Chorchori’, ‘Ilish Bhapa’, ‘Doi Ilish’ and ‘Shorshe Ilish’. 

There are two main varieties of Ilish or Hilsa available- the ‘Padma’ is loved by the Bengalis from across the border, and the ‘Kolaghat’ found in the tributaries of river Ganga, which is sweeter than the former type. The Hilsa fish is full of tiny bones which only a Bengali can sort out like a pro. Only a true ‘Bangali Bhodrolok’ (Bengali gentleman) will know the art of selecting the best quality Hilsa for himself, from the fish market.

A Bengali mother can effortlessly fashion an entire meal around Hilsa, using mustard oil. There are some ingredients that can never be replaced in the Bengali kitchen and one such example is mustard oil. It is difficult to imagine life without mustard oil in a Bengali household. Mustard oil is full of MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) which is believed to have miraculous properties, and therefore is highly recommended.  The splendid combination of Hilsa and mustard oil in a dish is of equal sentiment to those who consume it with much relish and validate it as the finest among the finest of what Bengal has to offer. For a Bengali, it is much more than just gastronomy. 

After the summer wreaked havoc on the city with the blazing heat, Kolkata people are eagerly waiting for the rain showers. So, what is better than indulging into the queen of fishes made with the quintessential mustard oil, when you welcome the monsoons and let a happy feeling of warmth engulf you? Relishing the spicy ‘Bhapa Shorshe Ilish’ (Mustard Hilsa), steamed rice flavoured with the essence of Purti Vanaspati ghee and ‘Kancha lonka’ (Green Chilli), is the monsoon staple for a true Bong. ‘Bhapa Shorshe Ilish’ is one such lip-smacking dish in the Bengali culinary world, the most favourite and the much-liked recipe of all times. This authentic Bengali delicacy depends on a single predominant taste, that of mustard oil, which augments the taste of Hilsa. While preparing, it is steamed in low pressure, keeping in mind the soft and succulent flesh bite of the Hilsa and the mouth-watering aroma of the mustard.  

If you haven’t tried ‘Bhapa Shorshe Ilish’ before, then now is the perfect time to cook yourself this exquisite favourable platter. 

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