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How To Cook Bhapa Ilish Or Steamed Hilsa

For Bengali community, the catfight between Hilsa(Ilish) and Prawn (Chingri) is a well-known thing. Hilsa is considered as the signature dish of Bengalis who came from East Bengal or Bangladesh. So in the opposite, Prawns are representative of ‘Ghoti’ or Bengalis with an inheritance of West Bengal. Hilsa is rich in fatty omega-3. Hence quite good for health. It can be prepared in several ways, fried, steamed, curry and so on. But the steamed Hilsa is the most noteworthy and popular dish which is cooked with mustard paste and mustard oil. While traditional ladies cook Bhapa Ilish in a stainless tiffin box, modern kitchens have oven and pressure cooker for their convenience. And it seems both are equally great.


To cook Bhapa Ilish or steamed Hilsa, here are the necessary ingredients.

Hilsa fish: 5 or 7 pieces

Black Mustard seed for paste: 4Tsp.(soaked in lukewarm water)

Poppy seed/posto: 1.5 or 2 Tbsp.

Salt to taste

Green chili:5or 7

Turmeric powder: 1Tsp

Red chili powder: half (½ Tsp optional)

Sour curd or Tok Doing: 4Tbsp

Coconut: 2 to 3 Tbsp (Either grated or powder)

Mustard oil: 4-5 Tbsp




  • For Marination

1 Firstly, a thick paste has to be made of Black mustard seeds (Shorshe Bata). You can prepare it either with traditional ‘Silnora’ or with a grinder. Seeds are soaked and now put the 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds (shorshe), with a pinch of salt in addition to 1 green chili for paste. Keep it aside.

mustard seed

2. Take poppy seeds (posto) and make a separate paste.

mustard paste

3. Finally, take the clear fish pieces, rub them with half teaspoon salt and turmeric powder. Leave for 10 mins.


  • Prepare Marinated Fish For Steaming


1.At this point, take a bowl. Put the Mustard paste, poppy seed paste, some grated coconut (or coconut powder), Sour curd or yogurt, ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder and red chili powder (optional) and a pinch of salt. Finally, add 3 Tbsp of mustard oil to it. Mix these ingredients properly. This is the mustard sauce which is essentially important for this preparation.

2.Check the salt as we have used salt previously while rubbing the fish with mustard paste. Now add a cup of water to the mixture.

To cook Bhapa Ilish, you can use either pressure cooker, oven or double boiler.


  • Cooking

1.Take a stainless steel tiffin box or a microwave oven competent bowl. The box has to possess tight lid. Rub or brush some mustard oil in the box.
2. Add some mustard paste which is already prepared.

3. Place steaks of cut fish pieces in a single layer.

4.Spread the prepared mustard sauce over it so that it covers all the fish pieces adequately.

5. Put 3-4 slit green chili on the top of fish pieces. Finally, drizzle 1 teaspoon of mustard oil on them. Cover the lid.


  • For Oven

You can prepare this much of the dish according to the above-mentioned process. Now for microwave, add aluminum foil and place the bowl/container into a deep vessel. Add 5 cups of water and cook in high temperature for 5 mins and then at 40% temperature for next 25 mins.

Or you can simply bake at 375 F for 25-30 mins.

While baking, you can remove the cover after 10-15 minutes. For the next 15 mins, let it bake open.

  • For Pressure Cooker

1.Spread a pressure cooker safe box with little mustard oil.

2.Put the fish pieces in the bowl in one single layer. At the same time, apply the prepared mustard sauce over fishes nicely. Follow the same process of adding 3-4 slit green chili on the top. Finally, pour 1 teaspoon mustard oil on them.

3. Add 5 cups of water in the cooker and place the steel box safely on medium flame.
Cook in a pressure cooker for 2-3 whistles.

You can cook Bhapa Ilish, following the same way while in Handi or vessel for 20-25 mins. At first with a high flame and then at low flame.

Your steamed Hilsa or Bhapa Ilish is ready to serve with steamed rice!

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