Ilish Polao or Hilsa Pulao is an extremely fragrant and delicious Bengali style Fish Pilaf cooked with Ilish mach or Hilsa. This flavoursome Bangladeshi delicacy is one of the traditional dishes of Bangladesh. This popular Bengali fish pilaf has quite unique combination of earthy flavours of fresh ilish and classic taste of Bengali gota groom moshla (whole garam masala). Ilish Polau is one of those dishes which have few separate cooking styles. I’m using a recipe from my maternal family who are from Dhaka, Bangladesh; their recipe is way different from others. This recipe of Hilsa Pulao reflects the daring to pair extremely odd ingredients and the confidence in culinary art. Here Elish or Hilsa is cooked in Mishti Doi and Coconut milk along with rice and mild spices. I wonder who ever had invented this recipe, what was the inspiration!!
Ilish Mach or Hilsa is not just a fish to a Bengali, it’s an emotion! Elish or Ilish is the chosen one as fish of Bangladesh by our Bangladeshi siblings and we Indian Bengalis do our ‘jumping-jhopang’ dance on its yearly visit to India during monsoon. But I fear our monsoon special dance will end soon on the rising price of Hilsa. It is one of the most pricy fish you can lay your hands on. You will be surprised to know price may rise even up to 3000 per kg (in India) on peak of the rainy season. If you are not Bengali you may lose your sanity after seeing the price, I know.
As days of Ilish are numbered we Bengali try to make most of this era. Mostly Hilsa is served as side dish of rice but if chance given you can find it in different form in all the bowls along the side of your rice. It’s not about cooking various items only with the fish. Our love for this flavour is so enormous that we don’t throw away any single piece of Hilsa! And yes the high valued price tag helps us to keep all the parts from hilsa in freezer for as long as possible.
I’m giving you a menu sample on how you can utilize all possible parts from your hilsa. Begin with Ilish Bhaja (fried Hilsa) followed by Ilish Macher Matha Diye Dal (Lentil cooked with Hilsa Head), Ilish er Kanta Chorchori (Hilsa Bone Curry), Ilish Begun (Hilsa Curry with eggplants), Shorshe Ilish (Hilsa in Mustard paste sauce, Ilish Bhape (Steamed Hilsa) and end with Ilish er Tok (Hilsa Chutney).
You can find all above mentioned items in any hotels/restaurants who are organizing Hilsa Festival during monsoon. Also two more things you will find there, Ilish Biryani and Ilish Polao. Take a moment and realize that these two are names of two separate items which are completely different from each other. Many people consider these are two names of single dish; it is not. Ilish Polao or Hilsa Polau is a fine tuning of delicate flavours of fresh ilish mach and fragrant rice. It has nothing common with Ilish Biryani except the ilish and rice. If I’ll get another fresh batch of Ilish I’ll try to upload the recipe on blog.
The scrumptious Elish Polao is cooked in Bengali Mishti Doi and Coconut milk and flavoured with Bengali whole garam masala. Don’t get disheartened by the mention of mishti doi in Ilish Polao. This Hilsa Pulao is not sweet at all, I’m assuring you! Things will get a fine balance by end of cooking. This is an elaborate recipe and needs to be cooked in two separate processes. One is cooking the raw fish in special masala. And second stage is cooking the fragrant polao rice with whole garam masala. And finish the process by cooking fish and gravy on bed of Polao rice.
Watch my elaborated step by step video recipe of Ilish Polao aka Hilsa Pulao or Fish Pilaf.
Read the entire recipe and Notes carefully before you start cooking. Do make sure all ingredients are at room temperature (unless mentioned) and weighed or measured correctly in appropriate weighing machine or measuring instruments such as cups or spoons. Remember these are not regular cups or spoons which is used in daily life.
Serving and storage:
Voila! Ilish Polao or Hilsa Pulao is all decked up to be served immediately. Elish Polau is a standalone one pot meal; it doesn’t require any curries or sides. This Pulao tastes best with Bengali Style Jhiri Jhiri Alu Bhaja and Kancha Aamer Chatni.
Always serve Ilish Pulao hot and right after cooking.
Store the excess Hilsa Pulao in airtight container and refrigerate up to 3-5 days. Just warm it up or microwave it for few mins before serving. Add dollop of ghee and enjoy!
- For Fish:
- Ilish (Hilsa): 4-6 pieces
- Onion, chopped: ½ cup
- Onion paste: 3 tbsp
- Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
- Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
- Red chili powder: 1 tbsp
- Green chili: 2-4
- Mishti Doi (sweetened yogurt): ¼ cup, whisked well
- Coconut milk: 1 cup
- Ghee (clarified butter): 3 tbsp
- Salt: 1 tbsp
- For Pulao Rice:
- Rice: 2 cup or 500g, Basmati or Gobindobhog
- Coconut milk: 1 cup
- Green chili: 1-2
- Ghee (clarified butter): 1 tbsp
- Salt: 1 tsp
- Warm water: 3 cup
- Whole Garam Masala:
- Bay leaf: 1
- Cinnamon stick: 2”
- Green cardamom: 4-5, crushed
- Clove: 5-6, pounded
- This recipe calls for only 5 mins prep work and that washing and cleaning the rice. Then soak rice in water for 20 mins. Begin with this step so that by the time fish will be done, the rice will be ready to cook.
- The cooking begins with ilish. Heat 3 tbsp ghee in deep bottomed wok and fry chopped onion until onion turns translucent and pale golden in colour.
- Add onion, ginger, and garlic paste with red chili powder and fry until oil separates. Sprinkle water in between if required. This is known as koshano in Bengali or bhunna in hindi.
- Once masala is ready add whisked mishti doi, salt and stir well to mix with the masala.
- Pour half of coconut milk and stir quickly to incorporate everything.
- Add raw fish pieces into the gravy very carefully in a single layer without overlapping the fish.
- Add green chili and cook for 4-5 mins, depending on fish size.
- Flip ilish pieces gently as hilsa is extremely delicate and fragile.
- Add rest of the coconut milk and cook for 10 mins with cover or until fish is cooked thoroughly.
- Once done keep the fish covered until needed. Otherwise gravy will be dried out.
- Now it’s time for the rice. Heat 1 tbsp ghee and add whole garam masala to tamper oil.
- Now add half of the gravy from hilsa along with warm water. Bring the mixture to boil.
- Add previously soaked rice into the mixture and let it cook for 10-12 mins. or until rice is half cooked.
- Add coconut milk, salt and cook with cover for another 10 mins.
- Now arrange the ilish pieces on bed of rice and pour the gravy on it. Add green chilies. Cover and cook for 5-7 mins on simmer.
- Once done, remove from flame but keep the Ilish Pulao covered. Only remove the lid once ready to serve. Enjoy!
EAT, LOVE & ENJOY! REPEAT!!!
You may also like these Ilish (Hilsa) Recipes