Patla Ilisher Jhol (Hilsa with Nigella)

Follow me on Twitter. Add me as a friend on Facebook . Visit my Flickr photostream.

“Aum Mahalakshmi Vidmahe

Vishnu PriyaYe Dhi Mahi

Tanno Lakshmi Prachodayat”

-Lakshmi Slokam

Lakshmi salelakshmi sale

I had prepared this patka Ilish (hilsa) jhol (curry) quite sometime back, and the images had been in my folder since then. I was searching for the right time to publish this recipe, and nothing can be better than today. According, to Bengali customs it is said that no one should have hilsa between Lakshmi Puja and Saraswati Puja. Ilish is one of my most favorite fishes and I never liked this customJ. Sometime back, while searching for hilsa recipes on the web I came across an article named “The Last Hilsa Curry” in the Outlook India. Along with a dinner menu for the Chief Minister of West Bengal at the Prime Minister’s home there was the answer to my long lost question. Why we should not have hilsa between Lakshmi and Sarawati Puja? The scientific reason behind this custom is very simple. The little hilsa fishes swam back from river to the sea and then again came back in the next monsoon to lay eggs. With globalization everywhere, we are almost forgetting our own cultures, as a result of not following this simple custom the world renowned Padmar Ilish is on the verge of extinction. These days you can find hilsa all throughout the year and some weighing even less than 500gms.

Lakshmir potLakshmir nauka

Coming to a lighter note, today is Lakshmi Puja eve and the markets are flooded with people doing their last minute marketing for welcoming the goddess of wealth. Lakshmi Puja is carried out in almost all families, mainly the Bangals (families who came as refugees from East Pakistan). Ghotis households (the actual inhabitants of Bengal) worship the goddess on Kali Puja (Diwali) and they call it as Mahalakshmi Puja. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and the daughter of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Lakshmi is also depicted as the mother goddess, sitting or sanding on a lotus, holding a lotus on one hand and a vessel filled with grains on the other. The lotus in her hand symbolizes beauty and purity of woman. Her four hands depicts the four ends of human life – dharma (righteousness), kama (desires), artha (wealth) and mokhsha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death).

chand mala

Tomorrow is Kojagori Purnima and all households are getting ready for the day. Some families worship the goddess not as an idol but as a painting on terracotta discs (Paut in Bengali). The banana stem is modified to a small boat and filled with paddy and lentils signifying gold and silver. A pair of hilsa is offered to the goddess in some households.

Here is a quick and easy recipe with hilsa. I have used raw banana for the preparation, you can also use thin and long egg plants in place of it. Potato doesn’t go along with hilsa, so its better to leave potato out of this curry.

Serves: 4

Preparation time: 10min

Cooking time: 15min

Patla Ilish Jhol


Hilsa (Ilish): 4 pieces

Raw Banana (Kancha Kala): 1

Mustard oil (Sarser tel): 4 tablespoons

Nigella (Kalo jeera): ½ teaspoon

Green chili (Kancha lanka): 2

Turmeric powder (Halud guro): 1½ teaspoon

Salt to taste


  • Wash the fishes well, put in a bowl and mix well with 1 teaspoon turmeric powder and salt
  • Cut the raw banana longitudinally into half and then into 2 inch long pieces
  • Heat the oil in a wok and half fry the fishes, take out and keep aside
  • Throw in the bananas and toss for a minute, add the nigella seeds
  • Mix turmeric powder in 2 tablespoons of water and keep ready
  • As the nigella seeds start popping pour in the turmeric paste
  • Add the chilies (slit them if you like the curry to be hot), and pour in 1 ½ cup of water
  • Let the water boil and reduce to half
  • Gently add the fried hilsa pieces and cook for 2 minutes
  • Take out of flame and serve with warm rice

Patla Ilish Jhol

Further Reading – Bong Mom’s Hilsa Curry, Hilsa story

If you like this post, please consider linking to it or sharing it with others. I’ll love to hear your comments too.You can also Subscribe to BengaliCuisine by Email, or  Subscribe in a reader

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

23 thoughts on “Patla Ilisher Jhol (Hilsa with Nigella)

    1. Hi Sunita,
      You can use rui instead of ilish. But replace the raw banana with potatoes or even a concoction of vegetables like pointed gours, potato, cauliflower, ridge gourd. That tastes great.

  1. Hello,
    apnader ei site ti bhorsa kore ei bidesh bibhui e tike aachi aaj der mash holo. Ilish mache jhol ta try kori ni(seems easy, kintu kanch kola pabo kothay??? 🙁 )
    Kintu jodi plz Ilish er jhal ta ki kore korbo janan, khub upokrito hoi….dokane ilish dekhchi, kintu radhte pari na bole aante parchi na….dookhu ta bujhun plz.
    R o bhalo bhalo recipe e ashay thaklam.

    1. We as Bangals usually eat this ilish on Saraswati pujo. Tobe amra kachkola na diye begun di jeta apni easily paben, try kore dekhte paren.

  2. Dear Sudeshna
    Many thanks for visiting my site and the note you left. I came rushing here to see what all you have in store. You have an wonderful site indeed. I don’t know from where to all roads lead to Rome I mean to Ilish or Mangsho, I landed here. I often make this jhol with one green chili added in the seasoning and not with Kach -kala.I will try now. It will be great.

    I make , what I learnt from my Mom, is jeere-dry chili sombora, followed by kach kala and jeere bata etc ..In other words ” Ilish machh-er jhol with, Kach-kala & Jeere bata.
    I see you are a photographer too. You can see some rare photographs of Nanda Devi peak at my blog.
    Will be looking forward to more recipes.
    best wishes
    .-= Ushnish Ghosh´s last blog ..FISHY FISH FINGER AND NON FISHY PANNER FINGERS =-.

    1. Dear Ushnish,
      Thanks for dropping by. Bata jeera always taste good than the powdery one we use, but alas its a fast world, and the sheel-nora is kept solely for posto and some other special spices only :).

      Will definitely have a look into your blog for the pics. I just love the mountains. Do drop by again.

      1. Dear Sudeshna
        Actually the bata word came naturally with the name, like ” Aj Jeere bata diye machher jhol hob-e”. As you said, we all use powder these days. Of course some loss of aroma is there due to dry grinding and heat. Wet ground spices have a good aroma. But I only use powder. I think I saw in an ad. one brand, marketing wet ground, freeze dried spices. Will check and try.
        Today , will make this Ilish…4 tbsp oil will bring real great taste.
        see you soon and Happy cooking
        .-= Ushnish Ghosh´s last blog ..FISHY FISH FINGER AND NON FISHY PANNER FINGERS =-.

        1. We don’t have ilish between lakshmi puja and sarawati puja, the taste not so good at this time. But, well there is always the option of having the cold storage ones :). Enjoy the hilsa.
          I didn’t know about the freeze dried spices, will check that out. But still when I make some spicy preparations, I like to grind my own spices, the aroma has no comparison with those dry powders.
          As you said about 4 tablespoons of oil, it also depends on the quality of the ilish, these days mostly the ilish needs to be fried in a hell lot amount of oil though :(. Let me know how it turned up.

  3. Loved your story on Ilish.
    In our family, we dont have ilish from Bijoya Dashami to saraswati pujo. On saraswati pujo, we have jora ilish and beguner biye in front of the goddess’s idol!
    I never knew ilish is cooked on lakshmi pujo.
    My parents also worship the ‘Shora’ (Paut) Lakshmi and they have kola bou and kolagachher kholer nauka!

    I love this patla ilisher jhol and made it last sunday ! But I have never used kaanch kola or alu. But love begun in patla jhol!!
    .-= SGD´s last blog ..Black Beauties…BERRY BERRY TASTY! =-.

    1. I am not sure about alu, how well it will go, but mentioned it because most Bengalis think potatoes to be an indispensable part of the meal :). Kaanch kola goes very well with ilish, do try it out once and let me know whether you liked it. Wish you and your family a very Happy Diwali

  4. sudeshna, as they say the ‘best laid plans of men and mice’. Figured out after i returned that our maid was bunking agin. So cleaned everything and consigned it to th freezer. washing dishes is our least favourite chore.

    Re: chhola, i thought Sandeepa used punjabi chhole or chick peas in the pciture. i am not a big fan of the smaller motor. But wouldn’t be surprised if you get it in mumbai. The city is swarming with vegetarians
    .-= kalyan k´s last blog ..One good reason to wake up and smell the coffee… Costa Coffee =-.

  5. Hi Sudeshna, saw your comment in Sandeepa’s blog and being a fellow blogger and ghugni lover could not resist myself from letting you know that in Spar or Vishal or MK retail you could find yellow peas for Ghugni. hope this will help. besides Ilish ta khub bhalo hoeche. amader bariteo generally amon alu, jhinge aar begun diye halka jhol hay.

  6. So good to come to your site again. wasn’t surfing too much when i was travelling.

    Don’t fret Sudeshna. I just bought a 1.7 kg eelish an hour back. No deem so only fish. Your recipe was just in time.

    I disagree on the alu statement. Alu is a vegetable personally designed by Ma Durga and goes well with everything. Nigella seeds? I didn’t know that was the name of kalo jeere. I thought it was onion seeds. Well that’s the name of my favourite lady in the world of food. Present company excepted 🙂

    Can you imagine any other Hindu community where fish is so integral to prayers?

    PS: re your comment on Bong Moms, try shops where Punjabis shop or Specer, etc for Kabuli Chana
    .-= kalyan k´s last blog ..Life is like a box of chocolates… =-.

    1. Kalyan,
      I hope you had a feast with the ilish today :). I went to the Gariahat market, and seriously speaking I just get crazy with so many different types of fishes in there. Even I am not sure of names of quite a few of those species.
      You are definitely right, alu goes with everything, at least to us Bongs I believe alu is indispensable almost next to salt :D. Kalo jeera has got lots of names nigella, onion seeds, and also black cumin. I love the nigella word so use that one. You can get to know about it in the wiki link here.
      Ps; Punjabi chole is the chana that we call in Bengali, but I was looking for the round yellow chola for ghugni, seta Spencer’s eo paini.

Leave a Reply to Sudeshna Banerjee Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.