“Bangla aamar sorshe ilish, chingri kochi lau || My Bengal lives in mustard Hilsa, prawn with tender pumpkin
Bangla parshe maachh ke dhuye jeerer bataye dau || My Bengal lives in Parshe fish curry with cumin paste.”
Noted lyricist Giasuddin Dalal has beautifully described the importance of fish in a Bengali kitchen in the above quoted Bengali song. Going one step further, he has also shown the way how Hilsa marries with mustard paste in the culinary world. The queen of fish “Hilsa” popularly known as “Ilish Maach” is the essential ingredient of Bengali Cuisine. Not just Bengalis, anyone fond of fish, obsesses over Ilish.
It has become a ritual to pair up Ilish (Hilsa) with mustard in my kitchen when Monsoon arrives. The combination of mustard seed’s paste, mustard oil, green chili and onion seeds give a unique distinct flavor to this fish.
Gondhoraj Lebu is an aromatic citrus fruit native to tropical Asia including India, Nepal, Bangladesh etc. Call it nemu, lemon, lime or lebu; a few drops of Gondhoraj Lebu juice creates a magic by releasing an intense citrus fragrance. A fusion of traditional mustard Hilsa and Gondhoraj lemon juice brings the different flavors together to create a culinary magic. However, one should keep in mind as not to temper with too many ingredients as this fish has got its own unique flavor which must be retained.
For the Gondhoraj Lebu and Mustard Sauce:-
1.5 tsp of ginger powder
1 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of chili powder
Pinch of black Nigella seeds/ Onion Seeds/ Kalonji
1 tsp of yellow mustard paste
2 tbsp of mustard oil
½ cup of plain yogurt
1 tbsp of Gondhoraj Lebu / Gondhoraj Lemon juice
Salt to taste
For the Grilled Ilish:-
2 large and thick ilish fish steaks
Pinch of salt
Pinch of turmeric powder
½ tbsp + ½ tbsp of mustard oil
Let’s make the Gondhoraj Lebu and Mustard sauce first:-
Heat mustard oil in a pan on low flame.
Add kalonji into the pan and stir for 1 minute. Flame must be on low. Add ginger powder, turmeric powder, and chili powder into the pan and mix well stirring continuously for 30 seconds.
Whisk the yogurt and transfer into the pan. Mix gently. Cook for 2 minutes on low flame.
Add Gondhoraj lemon juice into the pan and mix well.
Cover the pan with a lid for 5 minutes on low flame.
The sauce is ready. Keep aside.
Let’s grill the Ilish fish steaks:-
Clean and wash the fish steaks gently. Pat dry with a kitchen towel.
Marinate the fish steaks with turmeric, salt and 1/2 tbsp mustard oil for 15 minutes.
Heat a grill pan. Grill each side of the fish steaks for 5 minutes.
Brush fish steaks with remaining mustard oil. Rest it for 5 minutes.
Place the grilled Ilish steaks on a serving plate and drizzle with the Gondhoraj Lebu and Mustard sauce.
Serve Grilled Ilish with Gondhoraj Lebu and Mustard Sauce with steamed rice and a slice of raw onion.