7 Hilsa Fish Dishes You Must Try At Least Once
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Hilsa fish migrate upstream during the monsoon season, traveling along rivers like Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna. The journey infuses the hilsa with a distinct, complex flavour profile. Its soft, flaky texture also absorbs spices and cooking techniques beautifully. 

Beyond taste, hilsa holds cultural significance for Bengalis as well. It is a beloved icon of Bengali heritage and identity. The fish markets of West Bengal come alive during hilsa season, filled with anticipation for the year's catch. Restaurants proudly announce the arrival of fresh hilsa on menus and display the fish as a centrepiece dish. 

Here are 7 famous dishes made with Hilsa (Ilish): 

Hilsa Bhapa  

Ilish fish is loved by the people of Bengal for its unique taste. The most popular way to cook Ilish is steaming it with mustard paste and spices, called Hilsa Bhapa. To make Bhapa Ilish, the Ilish fish is first coated with a mixture of mustard seeds, mustard oil, turmeric, chili powder, and other aromatic spices. This spiced coating infuses the fish with flavour as it gently steams. The tender, flaky texture of the Ilish combines with the pungent mustard and spices to create this unforgettable dish. 

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Hilsa Paturi  

Fresh fish fillets are marinated with turmeric, mustard oil, and green chilies, infusing them with aromatic flavours. They are then wrapped securely in banana leaves before being cooked. The fish practically melts in your mouth while still retaining its texture. The ingenious steaming method used for this dish, in banana leaves is integral to Bengali culinary heritage, showcasing local ingredients while sealing in moisture and flavour. 

Ilish Maacher Jhol  

Ilish Maacher Jhol is a simple yet flavourful dish from Bengal. The hilsa, also called ilish, is simmered in a spiced broth with veggies like potato, eggplant, chili, and tomato. Spices like mustard seed, turmeric, cumin, and coriander season the broth. The basic ingredients let the rich taste of the hilsa shine through. 

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Hilsa Fry  

Hilsa fry is a favourite dish in West Bengal and Bangladesh. The fish is rubbed with a mix of turmeric, red chili powder, and salt. This marinade adds flavour and colour. The fish is then fried in a pan with hot oil until the outside is crispy and golden brown. The fish stays moist inside with a soft flaky texture.  

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Alu Begun Diye Ilish Jhol   

Alu Begun Diye Ilish Jhol is a traditional dish from West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is made with hilsa fish, potatoes, and eggplant cooked in a light curry. The curry has mustard seeds, turmeric, green chilies, and tomatoes for flavour. The potatoes and eggplant soak up the broth and complement the fish. Overall it is a delicious regional specialty. 

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Hilsa Doi Maach  

Hilsa Doi Maach is a famous fish dish, cooked in a creamy, tangy yoghurt gravy flavoured with mustard oil, turmeric, green chilies, and fragrant spices. This iconic Bengali recipe celebrates the cooking traditions of West Bengal and Bangladesh. Hilsa Doi Maach is beloved for its comforting flavours, and represents the culinary heritage of Bengal. 

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Hilsa Kalia  

Hilsa Kalia is a traditional Bengali fish curry from West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is made with hilsa fish pieces cooked in a thick gravy. The gravy is prepared by frying onions, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic. Then turmeric, red chili powder, coriander, cumin, and other aromatic spices are added. This dish showcases the culinary heritage of Bengali cuisine.