Bhapa Ilish Recipe (Steamed Hilsa)

For the Bengalis’ fish is an integral part of their lives. A simple fish curry with a side of rice and you are sorted for the day.

Bhapa Ilish Recipe (Steamed Hilsa)
2439 ratings.

For the Bengalis’ fish is an integral part of their lives. A simple fish curry with a side of rice and you are sorted for the day. It is not only an essential food in a Bong household but also considered auspicious at any occasion. Out of all the varieties of fish, Ilish always wins the hearts of the Bongs!

The steaks of hilsa are first coated with the mustard paste, seasoned with salt and turmeric, drizzled with pure mustard oil and steamed in a covered pot. The hilsa fish gets cooked fast so the cooking time is not that much. If you are using a pressure cooker, it gets done even faster. Traditionally the Ilish was first coated in the mustard paste and wrapped up in a banana leaf and then steamed along with the rice in a haari or handi. Now days it is steamed in a kadai or a saucepan covered with a lid. 

When you are serving Ilish you do not need too many items in the menu, since Ilish is the star of the day. Bhapa Ilish or steamed hilsa is served with plain white steamed rice.

Serve Bhapa Ilish along with Steamed rice for a weekday meal.

If you like this recipe, you can also try other Bengali recipes such as

  1. Bengali Style Chal Potol Recipe
  2. Bengali Luchi Recipe
  3. Bengali Chapor Ghonto Recipe

Cuisine: Bengali Recipes
Course: Dinner
Diet: High Protein Non Vegetarian
Equipments Used: Hard Anodised Kadai (Wok)
Prep in

10 M

Cooks in

20 M

Total in

30 M


4 Servings


  • 4 Hilsa Fish , large steaks
  • 4 tablespoons Mustard seeds (Rai/ Kadugu)
  • 2 teaspoons Yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Curd (Dahi / Yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt , or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder (Haldi)
  • 4 Green Chillies
  • 3 tablespoons Mustard oil , and some more before serving

How to make Bhapa Ilish Recipe (Steamed Hilsa)

  1. To begin making the Bhapa Ilish recipe, wash and tap dry the steaks of hilsa with a kitchen towel and set aside. In a small blender jar add both the mustard seeds, salt, 1-2 green chilies and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend until the paste is smooth.

  2. Transfer the paste in a big stainless steel bowl with a lid. Add the turmeric powder, yogurt and mustard oil to it and mix well. You may add couple of tablespoons of water to the spice paste. 

  3. Add the pieces of Ilish/hilsa and coat with the mustard and yogurt paste. Slit the remaining green chilies and add it to the fish. Close the lid and set aside.

  4. Now take a big saucepan, wok with a lid or a pressure cooker and add 2 cups of water. Place the bowl carefully and close the lid. Heat at medium and let it cook for 20-25 minutes. 

  5. Switch off the flame and set aside covered for 5 minutes.If you are using a pressure cooker, cook until 2 whistles. Let the pressure release on its own and then open the lid of the pressure cooker.

  6. Carefully take out the bowl and open the lid. You may add few drops of mustard oil.

  7. Serve hot with steamed white rice. Enjoy! Serve Bhapa Ilish along with Steamed rice for a weekday meal.