Traditional Ilish Maach Recipes You Should Try This Monsoon
Image Credit: Freepik

You can't take fish away from a Bengali household. In a never-ending battle between Ilish and Chingri (read Bangal and Ghoti), sometimes Ilish makes more sense. In Bengali cuisine, the Ilish fish, also known as Hilsa, holds a cherished place. Its legacy dates back centuries. 

For Bengalis, the monsoon season is especially special because it brings a lot of freshness, which can be used in many tasty foods. Ilish holds a huge part of Bengali culture and brings back memories and traditions. Each food is unique and easy to remember because it has a unique Ilish flavour and is cooked using traditional spices and methods.


Everyone should experience the delight of traditional Ilish Maach recipes at least once. The recipes below give you a taste of Bengal's rich food history. Every single dish shows how versatile and delicious Ilish fish can be. These tasty options are great for the rainy season because they keep you warm and cosy at the table.

Traditional Ilish Maach Recipes You Should Try This Monsoon

 Image Credit: Pinterest

Ilish Panikhola

Ilish Panikhola is a simple yet flavourful dish. It combines the rich taste of ilish with a handful of coarsely chopped onions, green chillies, and mustard oil. To prepare this dish, start by washing four Ilish fish chunks and rubbing them with salt. Finely chop four onions and mix them with salt and three tablespoons of mustard oil until the onions start releasing moisture. This step takes about ten minutes. 

Add slit green chillies to the mixture and place it in a pan, arranging the fish chunks on top. Cover the pan and cook on a low flame for ten minutes. Then, add two cups of water, adjust the salt and chillies, and add an additional tablespoon of mustard oil. Cover the pan again and cook for another five to seven minutes until there is sufficient gravy. Serve Ilish Panikhola with hot steamed rice for a divine meal.

Image Credit: Pinterest | Debjanir Rannaghar

Ilish Macher Tok

Ilish Macher Tok is a signature Bengali dish that balances sweet and sour flavours and is typically prepared with Hilsa head and tail. Begin by washing three Hilsa chunks and marinating them with turmeric powder and salt. Prepare tamarind paste by mixing two tablespoons with one cup of boiling water, letting it sit for ten minutes, and then straining the fibres. In a pan, heat the mustard oil and fry the fish chunks until golden, then set them aside. 

Temper the remaining oil with Bengali five spices and dry red chilli, then add tamarind water, two cups of water, jaggery, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the fried fish chunks, and cook for five minutes. Adjust the water to ensure the dish has sufficient liquid. Let the Ilish Macher Tok cool to room temperature before serving it with steamed rice.

Image Credit: Instagram | story_of_my_table

Ilish Maach Kacha Kola Jhol

Ilish Maach Kacha Kola Jhol is a light and comforting dish, perfect for a monsoon meal. Start by massaging six hilsa steaks with salt and turmeric and setting them aside. Boil plantains with salt and lemon juice until tender, then drain and cool them. Peel and cut the plantains into wedges, and similarly, prepare potato wedges. 

Heat mustard oil in a pan, fry the marinated fish steaks for a minute on each side and set them aside. In the same pan, add nigella seeds, potato wedges, and spices, cooking for a few minutes before adding plantain wedges. Add green chillies and two cups of water, simmering until the vegetables are cooked. Finally, add the fried fish steaks gently to the curry and cook for a few more minutes. Serve warm with steamed rice.

Image Credit: Pinterest | prithas_passion 

Ilish Barishali

Barishali Ilish is a relatively new yet popular Hilsa preparation in Bengali cuisine. Marinate six Hilsa chunks with turmeric powder and salt. Soak mustard seeds in hot water for fifteen minutes, then blend into a smooth paste with salt. Combine the mustard paste with coconut paste and plain curd, adding red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt, and slit green chillies. 

In a pan, heat mustard oil, temper it with nigella seeds, and pour in the mixture along with water. Once it starts boiling, add the marinated fish chunks and cook for around ten minutes. Adjust the consistency of the gravy and finish with a drizzle of mustard oil. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Image Credit: Instagram |

Ilish Macher Tel Jhol

Ilish Macher Tel Jhol is a light Bengali curry that enhances the natural flavour of the fish. Marinate Hilsa pieces with salt and turmeric. Fry brinjal chunks in mustard oil until golden, then fry the fish pieces lightly in the same oil. 

Temper the remaining oil with nigella seeds and green chillies, adding a mixture of salt, turmeric, and water. Once the raw smell of turmeric is gone, add hot water to form the curry, then add the fried brinjal and fish pieces. Simmer the curry, mash a green chilli into the curry with a bit of atta for thickening, and finish with raw mustard oil. Serve with hot, steamed rice.

These traditional Ilish Maach recipes capture the essence of Bengali cuisine, especially during the monsoon season. Each recipe highlights the unique taste of Ilish fish, combined with traditional spices and ingredients. Whether it's a light curry or a rich stew, these dishes are sure to bring comfort and joy to any dining table. Enjoy these recipes with family and friends for a delightful culinary experience.