Hilsa Pilaf aka Ilish Pulao
One of the biggest boons of having bloggers who are kind enough to write about the cuisine that they are born into is your own brush with such dishes. Take the cuisine of Bangladesh for instance. Once a part of our very own country India they are our immediate neighbours and to be fair there are many people in this City of Joy whose roots are in the erstwhile East Bengal yet I personally had no clue about their cuisine till sometime ago. Not that I did not have friends whose origin is from 'Opad bangla' , former East bengal but somehow none had actually spoken about the cuisine from that area or some have sadly adapted their kitchen to the likes of where they currently stay.
My first interest in the cuisine was the direct result of someone I met with whom I became immediate friends who not only had strong feelings for her roots but one who had immense knowledge about the food from her origin. And then then there was this food festival hosted by one of the restaurants in the city which focused on food from Bangladesh. I unfortunately was unable to attend the event but the description and photographs of dishes got me all worked up.
And then suddenly one day I decided I wanted to search for a particular Bangladeshi dish which led me to a beautiful blog from Bangladesh which further led me to read about the Hilsa Pilaf. With the monsoons its time for Hilsa to be brought home every week and to be fair I personally am not a fan of mustard Hilsa. I like the 'Beguner Tel Jhal' a soupy hot dish made with green chilies, nigella seeds , hilsa and eggplants and this Hilsa Pilaf got me interested in it.
Before I move on to the recipe I must talk about this one particularly silly thing which has bothered me from childhood , the whole fight between people from West Bengal and East Bengal who live in Calcutta. I mean sure the fights are never bloody or violent but this whole enthusiasm to prove that one group is better than the other be it in sports or food is not only silly but something which should be despised. Hasn't this whole feeling of superiority of one sect of people of this world created enough problems. How are we so shallow that instead of appreciating the distinct taste which each region has to offer we try and pull down each other's taste etc.
Anyway there are many recipes out there which use a host of spices but believe me when I say that all this needs is the simplest of ingredients to make it delicious .
Rummana's Kitchen and my dear friend
2 pieces of Hilsa fish
Half a cup of Gobindobhog rice 'short-grained fragrnat rice used to make kheer aka payesh)
3 tbsp mustard oil
1 green cardamom
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
1/2 tsp ginger paste
3 to 4 plump green or ripe chilies
Salt to taste
Turmeric powder - 2 pinches
1 tbsp yogurt
Simply marinate the fish with a pinch of turmeric and salt and leave aside for sometime. Now heat the oil in a wok and fry the fish on low heat for 3 minutes turning once in-between and then take it out and fry the onions on low heat till browned and crispy. Take out the onions and lave aside. In the same oil add the rice and ginger paste along with the cardamom , yogurt and chopped green chilies and fry for 1 minute and then add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil and then add salt, turmeric and the fried fish and lower the heat , cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Check at 7 minutes and if the rice seems cooked turn off the gas stove and keep covered for 5 minutes and then sprinkle the browned onions on top and enjoy this fabulous dish.
Very important tips :-
- People from East Bengal love mustard oil and this dish gets its distinct flavours from the usage of mustard oil so use it for the traditional taste
- When browning the onions do it over very low heat else you will end up burning them.
- The rice has to be the short-grained rice we use for making Kheer in India even if we like Basmati not only because it is the traditional way but the rice for kheer has its own beautiful aroma which is essential for the dish.
- If you want the dish to be a bit sticky then add 1/4th cup extra water when you add the cup of water and cook on low heat till the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked then cover and keep it for 5 minutes.