To say the truth I’m the last person to write about an Ilish festival. Yes I’m a Bengali, and no I don’t like ilish. & no that doesn’t make me any less of a Bengali. I don’t like it’s smell, I don’t fantasize about having it for my breakfast, lunch & dinner. But there are people that do. I mean I know people who’d rather not use soap after having ilish, just so that they can relish the smell for a long time. Thank God I’m not one of them. & The other reason of my disliking is those hundred million fish bones that ilish has. I have something of a psychological fear, &….. Well enough about me. Now I’m an exception, & undoubtedly exceptions like me prove the law that majority of Bengalis just love ilish too much. & this is the time of the year one would see a bangali babu returning from the market on a Sunday morning holding in has hand the prized bargain ‘the silver crop of the river’. Now the prices are high, & the cooking being an elaborate affair, it’s generally impossible to have more than a couple of delicacies at home. In my opinion the ‘Ilish Festival’s come to the rescue. It solves the dilemma of whether to have sorshe bata or fried one. One gets to select from a huge selection of delicacies prepared by expert hands. Some dishes are curated from regional cooking we may not have even heard of!
Like other restaurants, Aaheli, Peerless Inn too is organizing their annual Hilsa festival at their Axis Mall outlet. It’s a royal spread of a variety of dishes. The Ilish delicacies on offer are:
Ilish dim er bora:
Hilsa roe mixed with chickpea flour & chopped onion, deep fried untill the colour turns brown. Essentially a starter, this one sets the mood of the meal.
Bhaja Ilish er moja:
Simple fried pieces of the fish served with fried aromatic ilish eggs. This one is the perfect accompaniment for a serving of hotchpotch.
Pui saak e Ilish matha:
Crushed head of the fish cooked along with stems & leaves of spinach. Another common household delicacy.
Ilish matha diye dal:
Crushed fish head cooked in a thick yellow lentil gravy, yet another delicacy the people of Bengal hugely enjoy. (To say the truth it’s widely prepared with Rohu/Katla, but people love it all the more when it’s Ilish).
Kancha Ilisher jhal:
The fish is poached instead of being fried (in order to preserve the aroma in a better way), along with black cumin seeds, giving the gravy a light body yet amazing aroma.
Ilish er ullash:
Hilsa cooked in a rich onion gravy, a taste to cheer (ullash) for.
Ilish maccher tenga:
An delicacy from the other side of the border, this one is cooked in a spicy tamarind based gravy.
As the name makes it evident, pieces of the fish are cooked in a pineapple based gravy along with mustard. The fish is actually served in a hollowed out pineapple.
Ilish begun er talmil:
Another light dish , here the hilsa pieces are cooked along with brinjal & black cumin. From what I heard from friends who tried, this one trumps the sorshe ilish in taste.
Doodh e Ilish:
Hilsa cooked in a milk & yogurt based gravy. A bit tangy as per the ingredients, & the cream on top was just too good.
Aam tel Ilish:
Hilsa cooked in spicy pickled mango oil.
Pieces of hilsa cooked in coconut milk based gravy which also has generous amount of grated coconut.
Ilish khichurir talmil:
Deep fried pieces of hilsa served along with Bengali khichuri & some jhuri Aloo bhaja & a spoon of ghee to go with. The perfect lunch for this rainy season.
Thin crusted pancakes with boneless hilsa as the filling. Though patisapta is essentially a sweet dessert , here the Ilish was prepared a bit salty which was quite innovative.
Ilish thalir sanjog:
And last but not the list a complete thali style meal with a select Hilsa dishes complemented with papad & misti doi. The various ilish included in the thali are dim er bora, matha diye daal, bhaja Ilish, pui saak e Ilish matha, kancha Ilisher er jhaal & ilish begun er talmil. This one is pretty value for money deal for the lone diner.
The festival runs throughout the month of August’16. Pay Aaheli, Axis Mall a visit for some great tasting Hilsa.
P.s: as I’ve already said Ilish is something that I truely stay away from. The taste of the dishes is as described by other foodie friends who tried them. Of all these dishes I could only try the bora & patisapta which were pretty good. The curd included in the Ilish er sanjog thali is a very creamy one. Don’t miss that.