Relish Ilish

Relish Ilish

July 3, 2014

There are three times in a year when Bengalis take to uncontrolled spending. While two are Poila Boishakh and Durga Pujo, the third is not any festival. It is during this time of the year when monsoon romantically embraces the state and Ilish arrives to the market. Irrespective of boisterous prices of this silvery fleshy fish, Bengalis take to spending. The national fish of Bangladesh, Ilish is madness for Bengalis like poetry, music, sweets, football, politics, movies…

An amazing fact about Ilish is that the fish lays eggs in large rivers like Padma, Meghna, Ganga delta near Bay of Bengal. The Jatka or Khoka Ilish (as the baby fish is more popularly called) grows in river and then the adult fish swims to the sea. However, you only get the best taste when the adult fish is caught from river.

Ilish is one of the priciest fish of Bengal. But, no matter what, Bengalis will never shy away from romancing with Ilish with full enthusiasm and spending spree. The seasonal duet between Ilish and Bengali foodies carries an intensely personal and sensuous love affair. There is no comparison to the feeling. No other fish can stand parallel to its ingratiating allure. 

The only squabble that may arise over Ilish is whether the one from e paar or o paar tastes better, heightening a rift between East and West Bengal, perhaps more power packed than Lord Curzon's effort in 1905.

A quick browse on the internet reveals that although it is relished most by the Bengalis, Ilish is found and savored all over the world. The fish is found near Indus delta and is enjoyed by the Pakistanis as much it is here. Towards the South-east Asian deltas, from Myanmar to Indonesia the fish is called tenualosa ilisha and is adored for its superior flavor. Alosa, the French name for Ilish, is found in the Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne river basins.

Ilish forms an integral part of the Bengali culture. It is a custom for Hindu Bengali families to buy jora Ilish on the auspicious days of Saraswati and Lakshmi puja. At the dawn of Poila Boisakh the Bengali New Year is welcomed with panta Ilish.

Monsoon here gets its extraordinary touch with Ilish hitting the market. Several Ilish recipes have become a daily Bengali household affair. From Ilish maachbhaja with khichuri to kalojeerear begun diye patla jhol, from doi Ilish to sorshey Ilish, from Ilish paturi to Ilish bhape – you name it, and you will find every Bengali turning into the best cooks of the world.

Written by: Sumana Chakraborty for Team

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Comments (2)
Arjun S Reply
July 29, 2014
Didn't know that varieties of ilish are found in Europe too. Thanks for the info.
Arpan Ghosh Reply
July 29, 2014
The smell of ilish is really invigorating!
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