Bhapa Ilish-An East Indian Steamed Fish Preparation

It’s one of the easiest east indian fish preparations consisting of smearing the fish with mustard paste and steaming it in a banana leaf.I used aluminium foil though because I cud not find banana leaf in here.The authentic preparation is with a kind of tropical fish called ‘Hilsa/Ilish‘, however any type of fish can be used.The key to authentic taste is the use of fresh ground mustard seeds and use of raw mustard oil.The pungency of mustard combined with flesh of the fish lends a divine taste.

What I need:

  • Hilsa/Ilish/Any fish of your choice – 4 or 5 pieces [preferably the belly cut, about 1 pound]
  • 1.5teaspoon fresh line juice
  • 3/4 tbsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1.5 tsp white poppy seeds [khus-khus/posto]
  • 1.5 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 large sour green mango, peeled and flesh grated
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder [adjust to taste]
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 green chillies, minced
  • 2 tbsp virgin mustard oil
  • Salt to taste

How I did it:

  • Wash the fish pieces and pat them completely dry.Using a fork, poke the pieces on both sides,rub with lemon juice,turmeric and 1 tsp salt and set aside for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, using a coffee grinder, dry grind both the mustard seeds and poppy seeds into a coarse powder.
  • In a small bowl, mix in the powdered mustard, poppy seeds, grated green mangoes,green chilli paste, red chilli powder, salt to taste and combine well.Add 1–2 tablespoons water if required to make a thick paste. Transfer this mixture to a small pot. Heat up for 2-3 minutes, turn off the heat, add vinegar and then let sit for 45 minutes -1 hour to develop the flavors.
  • Smear the fish pieces with this mustard paste.
  • On a big sheet of aluminium foil, arrange the mustard smeared fish pieces.Do not stack them over one another.Once arranged, drizzle with the mustard oil and remaining mustard paste [in any] and fold over the aluminium foil to make a small parcel.

  • In a steamer, steam the parcels for about 10-15 minutes or until the fish is tender.
  • Remove from steamer and let rest for 5-8 minutes to cool down.Do not discard the liquid/juices in the parcels,that forms a terrific sauce/gravy.
  • Serve with warm steamed rice.


Sending this to Hearth n Soul Vol 23



  1. Woww, am just drooling over that delicious looking bhapa illish..very tempting..

  2. I love the combination of flavors in this dish. Coconut and turmeric, yogurt and lemon are such beautiful and flavorful ingredients.

  3. Looks wonderful Tanvi. My mom at some stage of here cooking craze, started using mustard oil in her daily cooking. We as kids used to hate it and used to ask mom …if we have become poor and we can’t afford good oil any more.LOL…Even though the food used to taste good , the pungent smell, and the sudden change registered this negative idea about the oil in my mind. Its time now to overcome those and buy mustard oil!

    • OMG Kulsum..I just cant imagine cooking without mustard oil…I m so conditioned to its taste! Initially, when I shifted here and cudnt get good quality mustard oil, I used Olive & canola ..even corn oil..but as soon as I found an indian store carrying a good brand…I shifted :) If I go as per you say…I m saving money I suppose :)

  4. Yummmm! I never used to like the flavor of mustard oil while growing up, but now I find it quite palatable!

    (I don’t like the flavor of ghee either–I try to use it very sparingly if at all! :) )

  5. I love love love me some fish curry. I love your pictures.

  6. Hi dear,there is an award for u here
    kindly collect it

  7. wow Tanvi this rocks love Indian fish dishes my hubby makes the best fish fry drop me a line for a guest post rebeccasubbiah at yahoo dot com

    thanks for your great comment hugs rebecca

  8. Tanvi,

    This fish curry looks delicious . Tempting one.

  9. love the story! isn’t it funny to remember why we did certain things?

  10. Looks good. You can’t do much with Hilsa, except a few traditional recipes. This one tops many meals in our home, with some variation from your recipe.

  11. I absolutely LOVE fish curries and this looks so incredible I would gobble them all up in a second!!

  12. That is really yummy dish and love the spices you’ve used, this is different from the usual curry we used to cook..

  13. Hi tanvi,

    Bhapa Elish looks great. Simply Mouthwatering.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  14. My mother had tough time feeding my sister. She had to really force her to eat. However I was a very obedient child ;-) who ate almost everything she gave except for that garlic curry :)
    Love this bright mustard colored fish curry, droollll..

    And regarding those day light bulbs, I bought them from Home Depot.

  15. Absolutely loved the pics they look fab and mouthwatering!

  16. wonderful read Tanvi, i was never first in the class neither a bright student i never used to bother about marks :P how nice to know ur were a class topper and fish curry looks awesome am drooling over here :)

  17. This dish is just so darn pleasing to a hungry tummy! You have outdone yourself! Could you mail me some jalebi? LOl!

  18. tht colour is sure the flavours must have been awesome as well

  19. How we were innocent those days :) That is a wonderful sweet memory! Love fish in any form, sounds too good!

  20. Tanvi it’s one of my favorite dish and in Bengal almost every house have their own delicious version of Bhapa Ilish! You just make it rocking dear!
    Just I want to know is Ilish available in Vegas and if you don’t mind I want to know about it prices because in my state a good Ilisha fish price is going sky high, though this year we get to have some good one and our wallet don’t look that slimmer …. haha!
    Love Always.

  21. This sounds like a very great meal! looks flavorful and colorful!

  22. My roommate is Indian and her mom recently tried to convince her that almonds will cure every ailment she ever has. So this post totally made me laugh.

    This preparation of fish looks so delicious! I’m glad you developed a taste for it after all these years!

  23. FIsh is looking so tempting….we too had fish & rice yesterday for dinner……

  24. I loved reading your memories about school days and about your mother, too.

    I used to hate fish as I child and now it’s a fave of mine too. Love this recipe, beautiful flavors.

  25. It’s great reading about your memories! I love how you tie them in to what you’re cooking. Your fish sounds wonderful!

  26. Tanvi, I do not want to offend the piece of fish…but I could be satisfied just with the sauce and the rice…with all the flavor in it…love the coconut sauce and all the yummie spices in it :-)

  27. Wow! This dish looks gorgeous!! I really love all of the flavors in this fish dish. What a beautiful post :) Hope you’ll swing by my CSN giveaway this week and enter! :)

  28. You sure made my mouth water with this. Yum. Banana leaves i can find. Mustard seeds will be difficult but will look.

  29. Wow Tanvi! I am admittedly not a fish lover, as my mother was allergic to shellfish she didn’t cook much from the sea and so I never got a taste for it, but your recipe, with the lovely combination of spices looks very appetizing! Thanks as always for sharing on the hearth and soul hop each week! All the best! alex@amoderatelife

  30. Must try this one out, i love fish .

  31. This is one variation of the traditional recipe that I was not aware of. My mum makes it only with the mustard paste and needless to mention the banana leaf imparts a lovely flavour. It is rather unfortunate that you were unable to use a banana leaf I am sure it would have tasted nice.

  32. Glad you liked the fish kabab recipe. Actually my mum decided to experiment with mutton shammi kabab recipe, she tweaked the recipe a bit basically she did not use eggs in the fish kababs as one normally does in muttton kababs and it was a success. If the quality of fish is good it is very tasty.

  33. doool……. wow wow wow…yummy…super duper presentation


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tanvi Srivastava, Tanvi Srivastava. Tanvi Srivastava said: An East Indian Steamed Fish Preparation-Easy & Healthy: […]

  2. […] health conscious mindset of guests. In such scenarios, healthy dishes like pan cooked cutlets , steamed or lowoil sides come […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,831 other followers

%d bloggers like this: