Hilsa Fry in Microwave

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I have never gone to any Fish market (macher bajar) other than in Kolkata (in Bangalore I like shopping my kitchen requirements at Spencer’s), and so am not aware of the non-Kolkata Macher Bajar scene. The mud-spattered floors of the fish market,  big chunks of ice being crushed in gunny bags, the fishy smell (which is actually a mix of smells of 20 different fish types) hovering all over and the shouts and calls from all the vendors gives the fish market its distinct feel. Bengalis love fish and to top it, Bongs love buying fish from those dirty fish markets.

I am sure there aren’t any fish markets in any part of India that can compete with the variety of fishes sold in fish stalls in Bengal. Fishes from the nearby ponds, fishes from rivers, fishes from seas – you name it and it will sure be available there. There are different seasons where some fishes are available predominantly; monsoon brings one such fish that you can call the “Queen of fishes”, the quintessential Ilish, or Hilsa. This sea fish comes to the river for laying eggs, their flesh gets sweetened by the fresh water of the river and that’s the best catch. Hilsa from the Ganges and Padma are world famous.

Hilsa costs a fortune so to say, the last time I went to the market a couple of days back it was 500INR per kilogram. But, price doesn’t make the fish lovers stay away from this silver delicacy. The shiny silvery colors with a pinkish tinge on its dorsal side make this fish a discrete item among all other fishes. Other than fish Bengalis have another obsession, its football, and nothing can better the fish football combo. It has almost become a custom for the fans of East Bengal Club (a county football club in Kolkata, for the uninitiated) to celebrate the team’s wins with a platter of Ilish. I’m not sure of the origin of this combo. If you know about the relationship, I request you to comment about the connection between East Bengal’s wins and hilsa.

The softness of its flesh and its awesome taste has made it the queen among all fishes. But, some people who are not so much efficient on taking out bones from fishes like to stay away from hilsa. So, to end this problem Marco Polo, a fine dining restaurant in Kolkata and now nationwide popular restaurant Oh! Calcutta had been hosting festival for Boneless Hilsa, not sure though how it will taste.

Fish is indispensable in any Bengali celebration, and if the festival / celebration is in the monsoons, Hilsa is always present at the dinner table. There are scores of different dishes prepared with Ilish –  Ilish Bhapa, Ilish pulao, Ilish macher  jhol, and many others. But the most quick and easy one is the fried hilsa. A tablespoon of the oil in which the fish was fried with warm rice and a piece of the fried fish – I’m sure any Bengali would give up his tooth and eyes to have such a platter.

I had seen my mom frying fish in the same old wok since the time I used to peek into her kitchen. This time I thought of trying out something new. I fried the hilsa in microwave. It turned out to be a success, the quantity of oil for frying was also less and was hassle free, that’s the best part of microwave cooking, I believe.

What’s your Ilish memory?

Preparation time: 2 min
Cooking time: 8 min
Makes 4 fish fries
  • 4 pieces hilsa/ilish fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoon Mustard Oil
  • Salt to taste


  • Wash the fish pieces and put it in an open microwave safe bowl
  • Coat the hilsa pieces with turmeric powder and salt
  • Add the mustard oil over the fish
  • Put the bowl in microwave oven and microwave high (800watts) for 7 – 8mins
  • Serve hot with warm rice

Hot Tips – You can also cook it in an wok, take a little more oil than mentioned here and heat it in a wok. Gently slide the fish into the wok and fry one side at a time turning it once the side has become brown and cooked.

Further Reading – Bengal-Hilsa, Ilish Curry

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19 thoughts on “Hilsa Fry in Microwave

  1. Pingback: nice}
  2. Hi All,

    I recently visited this Shop by the Name Fresco. It is in Bellandur area, Green Glen Layout. ( Opp Sobha Quartz ). They have Excellent Fish and the price is also resonable. They also focus on Bengali Varieties. The best thing i like about this place is their Fish Display. ALso for Mutton lovers, you must try their Mutton.

    1. Yes, you can certainly fry fishes the same way. But if the pieces are quite big, then better make some shallow slits on the skin side of the fish.

  3. Sudeshna
    If u are looking for fresh water fish, therez a shop in Koramangala near Raheja Apartments ….this fellow gets his stuff from Kolkata. We have been goin 2 that place for the past 3 years or so…u will get all varieties out der. Infact last week we had got Padmar ilish.

    1. Shritapa,
      Thanks for the info. Yes, I know this guy, I think his name is Feroze. I used to buy fish from there, but since I have shifted to Sarjapura Road, now I got a great shop here. Its called meat mart and they also get fish from Kolkata. I get a whole collection from pabda to bhetki and ilish to rohu.

      1. Yes, Firoz Sea Food it is. Good to know about the other option in Sarjapur Road…will definitely check that place out next time i go to Total.

        1. Yeah, do check that out. Try going there on Saturday mornings. They have the fresh catch from Kolkata brought in.

  4. Dear Sudeshna,
    You can try out the market near Yeshwantpur Railway Station on Sunday morning (dont know whether fish vendors are there on other days of the week)….my roommate used to buy fish from there so may be you can get sweet water fishes, what we Bongs prefer there…the Yeshwantpur market is also quite muddy and messy…somewhat similar to our bajaars in Kolkata…as we say “Dudher saadh ghol e mitiye nao”…..

    will surely try ur hilsa in microwave…and thanks for posting such easy and wonderful recipes…

    1. Debjani,

      Thanks for letting me know about the Yeshwantpur market. But alas, I stay almost on the opposite side of the city, so there is no way I can reach Yeshwantpur market on Sunday morning 🙁

  5. I like this conversation. Destined as I am to have ‘Gujarati ilish’ at Mumbai> I use the microwave for ilish dishes such as bhaapa and doi posto ilish. I go to the malrket at Khar Mumbai for fish and it has as much if not more variety than Calcutta…squids, crabs etc. No kochhop though

    1. Oh, please no kachap. ekhan Kolkatai-o pawa jai na almost, but of course there are places. I have never seen a good fish market in Bangalore. My only resort is Spencers and some fish stalls that to air-conditioned and they have more meat varieties than fish. Most of the fishes they have looks like they should have been in the aquarium.

  6. Dear Sudeshna
    I enjoyed the write up on Ilish. Padma or Ganges dont produce the best Ilish as such…it is the bay of bengal Ilish…So far the best Ilish that I have eaten was always from Thailand or Burma. Anyway, the main thing people say , taste depends what they eat during their movement into a river..
    I have been generally unsuccessful in cooking Ilish in micro, because a very oily Ilish disintegrates when the super heated water bubble explodes in the fat layer. One thing, in a micro each layer is fried unlike in Kadai and makes it tasty I have a good mind to try again. A less oily Ilish (invisible fat layer), has no problem at 450 W

    1. UshnishDa,
      My sole aim to try frying the hilsa in microwave was to lessen the amount of oil. I tried it out, and it didn’t burst. Probably because I had strained out the entire water that was there after washing. The pic you see is brought straight to the dish from the microwave.

      Regarding best ilish, of the ones that I have had I found the ones from Kolaghat and Falta are the best. Padma ilish is awesome. If the ilish is caught in fresh water it tastes better, so the ones from sea is not that good. Another observation is ilish should be a few days old after the catch when you have it. Until the blood solidifies inside the fish the taste is not enhanced. A fresh catch is less tastier than the same piece if you have it 3/4 days later.

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