Ilish Fish Curry: A Healthy Bengali Recipe With 5 Ingredients

What do you think of when someone mentions Ilish fish curry? Seems heavenly right? Well, I am here to take you for a taste ride with my simple Ilish recipe. Read on to know further.

Known as the king of fish, Hilsa or Ilish ( popularly called in Bengali ) is a fish that is famous not just for its taste, but also for its nutritional benefits. Ilish happens to be my favourite fish and a plate full of delicious Ilish fish curry is what I look for in a morose and dark day. Yes, Ilish fish has the capability to melt the heart of every Bengali soul out there.

Since childhood, I loved the way my mother cooked Ilish fish curry for me. I was always fascinated by its aromatic smell and palatable taste. The delightful taste of Ilish never failed to astonish me. Back then, I used to doubt my abilities to cook such tasty Bengali recipes.

Now that I cook daily, I thought of sharing this appetizing Ilish recipe with you all. My simple Ilish fish recipe is not just healthy but is also simple to cook. Requiring only 5 ingredients, it is one of the easiest fish recipes to cook at home.

Health benefits of Ilish fish curry

Ilish fish curry

Especially brought on auspicious days in a Bengali family, Ilish fish happens to come with lots of benefits. Like all other fishes, it is packed with the goodness of omega 3 fatty acids and helps in developing a healthy nervous system. Here are some more advantages of Ilish fish curry:

  • Ilish fish helps in blood transfusion. EPA and DHA marine fishes can prevent the formation of echinoid hormones within the Omega-3-Oil form. Hilsa is also beneficial for smooth blood flow. It lessens the risk of thrombosis.
  • Several investigations have illustrated that Ilish fish is helpful in maintaining the soundness of the human lungs. It can prevent asthma in children. People who consistently eat Ilish have their lungs considerably more restricted.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acid shields the skin from harmful sun rays. Also, it assures against psoriasis. Ilish fish curry also helps in keeping the skin healthy and flexible.

My Ilish fish curry recipe: One of the easiest Bengali Ilish fish recipes

My ilish fish recipe is one of the simplest of all Bengali ilish fish recipes. As I have already stated that it needs only 5 ingredients that are easily available at home. Also, it is super budget-friendly (Except for the price of fish itself). Yes, Hilsa comes with a hefty price tag and I will discuss it after the recipe. So, without a further wait, let us dive straight into the recipe.

Ingredients for Ilish fish curry

  • Black Cumin Seeds
  • Green Chilis
  • Turmeric Powder
  • Mustard Oil
  • Salt to taste

Other than these, you can also add red chili powder, alocasia, or potatoes for additional taste. As alocasia was not available in the market, I have cooked it with potatoes.


I have already mentioned that this Ilish fish curry is one of the simplest among all Bengali ilish fish recipes. I prefer to use only the above-mentioned ingredients, but you always make modifications according to your choice.

Step 1: Prepping up the fish 

Wash the fish and cut it into pieces like the one shown in the picture below. The best thing would be to ask the fishmonger to cut them for you.

Now, sprinkle 1 tablespoon turmeric powder and 2 tablespoons of salt for marinating the fish. Mix both the ingredients well with the fish like this.

Marinating the fish for Ilish Fish curry

Now, set it aside for 10 to 15 mins for the spices to set well on the surface of the fish.

Marinating fish, meat, and chicken considerably reduces the quantity of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines (HCAs) originated when they are prepared at high temperatures, most importantly grilling. Furthermore, Marination may also slow down the growth of harmful bacteria like listeria. 

Step 2: Frying the Ilish fish

Frying the Ilish fish is simple as you need only 5 mins for the entire process. Check out points for frying Ilish below:

  • Heat 4 tablespoons of oil at a high temperature in a non-stick frypan.
  • Add 1 tablespoon salt to the heated oil.
  • Lower the temperature and add the marinated fish in the oil.
  • After frying one side for 1 minute, turn the fish and fry the other side for another 1 minute.
  • Once both sides are crispy enough, turn off the induction oven and keep the fried fish in a plate aside for adding in the curry later.

Pro tip: For Ilish fish curry, do not fry each side for more than a minute. If possible keep it between 30 to 40 seconds. As Hilsa is quite delicate, excess heat may break the fish pieces.

Step 3: Preparing the masala with potatoes and green chili

Wash, peel and cut the potatoes and slit the green chilis as shown in the image below. I have taken 2 medium-sized potatoes for this recipe. You may use 6 to 7 green chilis in this Ilish fish curry recipe.

Additionally, if you want to make it extra spicy, use more than that. Green chilis come with lots of benefits and consuming them in moderate amounts won’t harm your tummy.

After prepping up the veggies, its time to prepare the masala for Ilish fish curry. Heat some mustard oil in a non-stick frypan and add 1 teaspoon of black cumin seeds and half teaspoon of salt to prepare the masala. Let it heat for 20 seconds.

Saute well for 2 mins and add the green chilis.

Cook the green chilis in medium temperature until they turn oily.

Now, add the potatoes and saute it well for 5 minutes until they are mixed well with the rest of the ingredients like this.

If you are using an induction oven, I advise you to use the fry mode for cooking these kinds of Bengali ilish fish recipes.

Step 4: Preparing the Ilish fish curry

After the potatoes are well fried, add 2 cups of water in the pan for the gravy.

Now cover the pan with a plate or lid until smoke starts emitting from the edges of the pan like this.

Then, it is time to add the fried fishes. After adding the fishes, saute the curry for about 10 mins. Slowly, you can see the fishes mixing well with the curry.

Now, wait until the potatoes are fully boiled and turn off the induction oven. Voila! Your Ilish fish curry recipe for a Sunday afternoon lunch is ready to be served with steamed rice.

Pro tip: Keep in mind that this recipe will be super thin and you can easily serve it with steamed rice on a Sunday afternoon.

If you want to make a thick gravy, you can use cornflour. I prefer thin gravies as it is healthy for the stomach.

Ilish fish price 

Ilish fish price varies according to its size. But, the standard price for size (600grm to 675 gm) is Rs. 600/- per piece approximately. However, the fishes of coastal areas like Digha, Mandarmani, Tajpur, and Talsari come with a very hefty price tag of up to Rs 1300 – Rs 2000 per kg.

As those fishes come straight from the sea and are sold in the local beach markets, they are fresh and often tastier than other Ilish varieties found in Bengal. These fishes are perfect for my recipe as the fish flavour is enough to enhance the taste of the recipe.

Additional information about Ilish fish price 

This fish is known as Pulasa within the Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh in India. The title adheres with the Ilish fish concerning a restricted period within July-Sept of every year when floods(dirty)water stream in Godavari River. During this period, Ilish fish remains in great demand and sometimes sold for $100 per kilo.

Wrapping Up

That was all about my delicious Ilish fish recipe. The entire time taken for the recipe is 40 mins. You can make it within 20 minutes if you do not use any veggies.

Let me know in the comment section about how you liked the recipe and make sure to try it at home if you love Ilish fish.

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Priyanshu Saha
Priyanshu Saha
3 months ago

This is delicious and mouth-watering.

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