Ilish, hilsa, hilsa herring or hilsa shad is a species of fish in the herring family and in my humble opinion the undoubted Queen of Fish. For me the Hilsa has no completion that comes close in terms of its unique taste and versatility. And for the last few years Chef Sharad Dewan and his talented team have showcased that versatility like no one else has without forgetting its strong roots in the heart of Bengal. I was delighted when I received my now annual invite by the management of The Park, Kolkata to their Hilsa Reinvented Festival which will be ongoing at The Bridge , Zen and Saffron.
My earliest memory of eating this gorgeous flavorsome fish was as a young kid …. Dad would go buy a lovely fresh Ilish at New Market and it was brought home, marinated with the family spice mix and deep fried. I still remember coming home from school and smelling the tantalizing aroma of the Hilsa being fried and salivating at the thought of lunch. We usually ate it with steamed rice and a simple yellow dal and I would wait patiently till my mom lovingly removed the bones and I could dig in to my lunch
The Hilsa has been served up in multi-dimensional avatars like the Bridge Caesar , Grilled Ilish Risotto with Dill walnut Ice Cream , Ilish vindaloo with steamed rice , Crispy fried Ilish with Thai Chilly paste and Ilish Teriyaki amongst others . We sampled the Crispy Fried Iilish with Thai Chilly paste and absolutely loved it. What was wonderful was that the chilly paste did not overpower the lovely flavor of the fish. It was perfectly cooked with a crunch outside and moist flakiness inside. An awesome way to start our meal. Next up was what is perhaps my all-time favorite way to eat this fish … Smoked Hilsa and it was absolutely gorgeous and delicate. Loved the grilled potatoes they served with it. This dish is boneless and so for those of you who avoid this fish because of all the bones a perfect dish to order.
However there are those who like their Hilsa served up traditionally … never fear because there is an entire selection comprising of Ganga Ilisher Paturi ,Doi Bhapa Ilish , Kalo Jeera, Sorshe diye Ilish Macher Jhal ,and Daab Ilish that will leave you satiated and delighted. We were served up a fantastic Ilish Borishali Biryani with some lovely Prawn Curry that was a great combination to tantalize our happy taste buds further.
We ended on a sweet note with some yummy hot Malpua’s that were absolutely delicious and left us too full to move. . If you like fish and are a fan of Hilsa don’t miss out on visiting The Park and surrender yourself to Ilish overload.
Picture Credits : Suneha Saha
Disclaimer : The author was invited for this tasting as a guest of The Management