Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sorshe Ilish (Hilsha Fish in Mustard Sauce)

Hilsha or as we call it “Ilish Maach” is a hot favourite of most Bengalis. We love fish and among all types of fishes Hilsha is the king in taste. No matter what you make with Ilish maach, its going to taste great! Back home you can get this fish fresh from the market but here in UK we get it in Indian shops, frozen and at least 8-10 months old. I am happy with that. Something is better than nothing. At least I get to eat it once in a while.


Sorshe Ilish is also called Ilish maach er jhal and one of my favourites. Ideally yellow mustard seeds are used to make the paste but I think they are bit difficult to find here. So I used black mustard seeds. The biggest problem with the black mustard paste was a bitter after taste I used to end up with each time I cook it. I have tried different techniques to get rid of the bitter taste but never been that successful. Finally I switched to English mustard which is a great shortcut for me and easily available in the supermarkets.


This is a very easy to make recipe if you have all the ingredients handy. Also, if you don’t have Hilsha you can use Herring which tastes similar to Hilsha. 



800 gm Hilsha (cut in to pieces)

2 tbsp of English mustard paste

2 tbsp of white poppy seed paste (We call it posto in Bengali)

1 tsp of nigella seeds

1tsp of turmeric powder

1 tsp red chilly powder

3-4 fresh green chillies

3-4 tbsp Mustard oil




Clean the fish and lightly rub them with little turmeric and salt and keep it separately. In a bowl make a mix of the english mustard, poppy seed paste, turmeric, chilly powder and salt. In a frying pan heat the mustard oil and shallow fry the fish pieces. Remove the pieces from the pan and add the nigella seeds and the green chillies in the remaining oil, fry for a minute then add the mustard-poppy paste to the hot oil. mix it well then add the fish pieces and cover them in the sauce. Cover the pan and cook it for 1-2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Serve with plain boiled rice.


  1. Yummy! Ilish is my the most favorite fish and I've just realized that I haven't eaten it for a year :(

  2. well actually we dry grind our mustard seeds but do not find the bitterness problem. Great that you manage to get liish occasionally in the UK

  3. Ilisi what we cal n oriya is my all time fav...i love this preparation...and it looks superb...:)

  4. Seriously am drooling over that platter, sooo tempting..

  5. Beautiful and meticulous post and one of the best shorshe ilish recipes online! I am the founder of a chain of cosmetic surgery clinics in Juhu, Mumbai. Don't let the surname fool you. I am Punjabi married to a Bong but divorced. I tried making the recipe as mentioned above but used a steamer. I also replaced the hilsa with the Kingfish Mackerel (surmai) readily available in Mumbai's fish markets. It tasted great. I had a question? Is a two-tiered steamer (with boiling water below and the fish placed in the compartment above) good for cooking this or should I stick to a pressure cooker for greater taste. Since the upper compartment had perforations for the steam to enter, I wrapped the fish and the accompanying sauce in banana leaf. When it was ready, the yellow fish pieces and sauce over the green leaf added a great visual accompaniment.

    1. Thank you :) I think you don't need a pressure cooker. You can even cook it in microwave :)

  6. I went onto this site to look for a recipe to make mustard paste from black mustard seeds, rather than the traditional hot(english)mustard. Do tell me if you know a way fo making it without it tasting bitter.
    I have bought a large tin of mustard oil and looking forward to cooking Bengali dishes.

    1. Well if you make a paste of black mustard paste, it will be bitter because of the outer shell. If you can get hold of white/yellow mustard seeds then that you can use to make paste else I would stick to English mustard paste. its convenient. You can reduce the amount of the mustard paste in your preparation, that way it wont be hot. Also I sometime use tahini paste to make the sauce thicker. Hope this helps!