People of Bangladesh love fish! Known as the land of thousand rivers it is no surprise either. Mention Bengali food to anyone and the first thing that is envisaged is ‘fish and rice’. Fish here is not merely food but a symbol of prosperity. For every occasion there is fish preparation that takes centre stage. No matter the size, the texture or the bones that get in the way, Bengalis have developed an art of eating all things aquatic. A nation where the rivers rule and oceans rarely get explored, marine fish is traditionally considered inferior to harvests from lakes and rivers. Freshwater fish rules the table. From the ceremonial wedding meal made with Rui to the mystiques of the Hilsha, it is a culture that embodies this natural abundance.

The two major rivers, the Padma and the Ganges, are the prime sources for fish. No fish can rival the love Bengalis have for the Hilsa - not the large Rui with all its ceremonial ritual status or the giant prawns with their rich coral filled head or the myriad of other specimens that fill the waters of Bengal. It is undoubtedly strongly linked to our appreciation of food. As for the recipes for Hilsa, they’re too numerous to document, as each family often add their signature touch to each preparation.

For Bengalis, be it in Bangladesh, India or the diaspora spread across the world, the common link between its people has always been the language and their love affair with fish. Thereby, ICE Today looks back at some of our best Fish based recipes and recaptures them in this issue.
Bhapa Ilish -boneless

5 pieces of Hilsa (Ilish) cut into steak size pieces
2 tbsp Mustard seeds
2 tsp Poppy seeds
3 hot Green Chillies
1/3 cup of Water
1 tsp Yogurt
2 tsp Mustard Oil
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1/4 tsp Red Chili powder
Salt to taste
5 pieces of banana leaves lightly toasted to make it pliable

Rub a pinch of salt and turmeric onto the fish and place it in a steamer to cook for 15 minutes. Once the fish is cooked, pin out all the bones. Soak mustard seeds, poppy seeds and green chilli in water for 10 minutes. Grind well to make a paste. Add yogurt, mustard oil, turmeric powder red chilli powder and salt to taste into the mustard paste. Marinate the de-boned fish with this spice mixture and set aside for 5 minutes. Place each piece of fish on a banana leaf and wrap it like a parcel. Secure with toothpicks. Return to the steamer and cook for 30 minutes.

Tips to Debone the Hilsa

1: To make fillets, slice it along the central bone. Keep the knife as close as possible to it and have your eyes trained on it.
2: Heat and marinade to help loosen the bones from the flesh. Steam the filets.
3: Cut the cooked fillet down the middle.
4: Slice each portion into two halves. The moment you do this, you will be able to see fine bones peeping out.
5: Press hard on the bones with the knife on one of the edges of the fillet and pull them out. The move has to be quick yet firm. You may have to repeat it a couple of times to get that perfect boneless fillet.

Fillet Pangas with Pineapple


1 Pangas fish, filleted
1 Pineapple, cubed
½ cup Black vinegar
2 tbsp Lemon juice
4 Tomatoes, sliced
½ tsp Turmeric and Ginger paste each
1 tbsp Red Chilli powder and White pepper each
1 cup Pomegranate juice
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

Grind green chillies, lime juice, salt, black vinegar and marinate the fish for at least two hours. Deep fry the fish and set aside.
Heat oil in a skillet, add pineapple, tomatoes, spices and cook for a few minutes. Place the fried fish on a serving platter and pour the pineapple mixture over it. Mix together lime juice, pomegranate juice, salt and spread on top of the fish.
Hilsa Fish with Bhorta

8 pcs of Hilsa
4 Eggplants, cubed
8 Potatoes, cubed
4 Onions, sliced
½ tsp Turmeric
1 tbsp Red Chilli powder
2 tbsp Oil
1 cup Water
Salt to taste
Daal Bhorta
25g Daal (lentils)
½ tsp Garlic paste
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

Daal Bhorta: Soak the daal overnight and grind to a fine paste with garlic and salt. Make small balls and deep fry in hot oil.
Fish: Sauté onions in oil until golden, next add the eggplants, potatoes and cook for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Add fish, spices, salt and cook under low heat for few more minutes. Next, add water and the fried daal bhorta and cook for another 5 minutes.

Hilsa in Yoghurt Gravy

1 ½ kg Hilsa Fish
½ tsp Turmeric
4 tsp Mustard seeds
12 pieces Green Chillies
4tsp Yoghurt
1 Bay leaf
½ cup Mustard oil
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste

Cut the fish into 2 cm slices and wash well. Deep fry it for a few minutes. Make a paste with mustard seeds, chillies and yoghurt. Heat mustard oil in a pan, add the bay leaf, mustard paste, turmeric and salt to taste. Simmer under moderate heat. Add the fried fish, mix it with the gravy, cover and cook until the oil starts to separate.

Mach Bhaja

4 Tatkini fish, scaled, cleaned and insertion made across the body
1½ tsp Chilli powder
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt
Oil for shallow

Mix ingredients together before applying on the fish. Marinate for 20 minutes. Heat the oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the fish until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the
pan and place on
the serving plate.

Methi Ilish

Ingredients :
6 pcs Hilsha fish

For marinade:
2 tsp Mustard paste
1 Onion, paste
½ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Black cumin
2 tbsp Mustard oil
1 tsp Salt

2tsp Fenugreek seeds
2 cups finely sliced Onion
10 dry Red chilli broken to pieces
1 tsp Turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 cup Mustard oil

Mix the marinade ingredients together and smear over the fish slices. Heat the oil in a skillet, when the oil is hot add the Fenugreek into the oil, as its starts to release the aroma toss in the sliced onions and cook until it starts to get golden. Add the fish and the dry red chillies, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes on low heat.

Koral Grill 

Ingredients :
1 medium Koral fish
For Marinate:
3 tbsp Lime juice
1 tsp Salt
4 Garlic, crushed
2 tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Pepper
Salt to taste
2 tbsp Oil
For Garnish:
3 Red Chillies, chopped
1 red Bell Pepper, chopped
5 Tomatoes, chopped
3 Onions, chopped
Lime and Salt to taste

Marinate the fish with lime, salt and set aside for thirty minutes. Wash the fish to remove excess sourness.
Blend the remaining marinade ingredients to make a paste. Rub it on the fish and set aside for an hour. In a pre-heated oven, cook the fish until both sides are slightly charred. Mix all the garnishing ingredients in a bowl. Spread over the grilled fish and serve.

Prawns in Coconut Gravy

1 kg large Lagoon prawns
½ cup Oil
6 Cardamoms, gently cracked
5 cm long Cinnamon stick
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp Ginger paste
¼ tsp Turmeric powder
½ cup Cashew nuts, made into a paste
1 cup Coconut milk, first extract only
Salt to taste
¼ cup Raisins

Stir fry prawns for a few minutes in low temperature and set aside. Into the oil add the spices and fry until fragrant. Mix the coconut milk and cashew paste together and add it into the oil. Bring it to boil and add the fried prawns. Cover and cook until oil separates. Mix in the raisins and remove from the stove.
Aidha Cader

Staying within the fringes of mainstream cultures, Aidha Cader, ICE Today’s culture connoisseur has inculcated an appreciation for food, history, travel and art beyond her comfort zone.