Food: bengali new year 1421 [steamed hilsha = ilish paturi]
The year 1421 has already begun in parts of the world. It is officially tomorrow for the Western hemisphere. There are many traditions that surround this celebrated day. And as most traditions always revolve around food, hilsha will be cooked in most Bengali homes on this day. This delicacy is as Bengali is it gets. You cannot be Bengali if you haven't had some hilsha in you :)
This dish can be easily made with different fish steaks or fillets. Since a lot of other cultures use banana leaves in their cooking, it is now very available in ethnic food markets. I have used the same concoction of spices to fry the fish along with steaming it. Since some people like it steamed and others like it fried. Super easy recipe but full of flavor. Shubho nobo borsho [Happy Bengali New Year]
First and foremost is to wash the fish and let it drain and dry up before preparing it. Hilsha is famous for it's smell. So there is no aggressive washing needed. Hilsha also releases a natural oil which adds bonus flavor. Like I said, any other steaks or fillets can be used to replace this recipe.
8 hilsha steaks :: 3 tbsp yogurt :: 2 tbsp mustard seeds :: 1 tbsp poppy seed
1/2 tsp turmeric powder :: 1/2 tsp red chili powder :: 2 tbsp mustard oil
3 green chillies :: salt :: banana leaves :: twine
Soak the mustard and the poppy seeds in water for an hour. Then add the green chillies and blend it to a paste. You can use a processor or a mortar/pestle to do this. Sometimes a processor will not be sufficient in which case the mortar/pestle will be very helpful.
Take the mustard oil, the yogurt, turmeric powder, red chili powder and salt and mix them together. Now combine the mustard poppy paste into this mixture.
Cut a square sheet of banana leaf and place the hilsha in the center. Then thoroughly rub the spice mixture evenly all around the fish steak.
Fold the banana leaf to secure the fish inside and wrap it up with twine. Place a flat pan on the stove and heat it up at medium heat. Throw a splash of oil. Place the leaf wrapped fish steaks onto the pan. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the pan and cover the pan. Set the temperature to low. Let the fish steam in this manner for about an hour.
To fry the fish, heat oil in a pan. Dip the fish pieces into the spice mixture and fry them crisp.
The banana leaf wrapped fish will look like this after an hour on the stove. Let it rest a little since it will be really hot inside for the steam. For an extra kick of spice add some green chillies inside the wrap before steaming it. Enjoy with plain white rice. Bon appetit!