Elish Macher Pulao or Ilish Maacher pulao is delicious rice based dish made with spicy hilsa fish cooked with basmati rice. This dish is an excellent meal by itself and does not require any accompaniments.
A Bengali meal without fish is incomplete. There are a variety of fish recipes from the Bengali cuisine which includes the Macher Jhol, Fish Paturi, Hilsa Fish Fry, Rehu Fish Curry etc which are prepared in the most nutritious and delicious way to complement any daily Bengali meal or occasion. There are also few innovative recipes that bring variation from the regular way of preparation during marriages and parties.
Pulao is an excellent rice based dish in which rice is cooked in a seasoned broth. In some recipes, the rice may also attain its brown color by being stirred with bits of burned onion as well as mix of spices. Pulaos also contain a variety of meat, seafood like fish or prawn and vegetables. Pulao or Pilaf and similar dishes are common to Middle Eastern, Central and South Asian, East African, Latin American and Caribbean cuisines.
The Elish Macher Pulao is a dish delicately cooked with basmati rice, Ilish fish and spices making it the most popular Bengali delicacy. Ilish is the most popular fish to Bengalis. Its also the national fish of Bangladesh and extremely popular in parts of India such as West Bengal, Orissa, Tripura and Assam. Ilish is an oily fish rich in essential fatty acids (omega 3 fatty acids). In Bengal, ilish fish is generally smoked, fried, steamed, baked in young plantain leaves, prepared with mustard seed paste, curd, Begun (eggplant), different condiments like jira and so on. It is said that people can cook ilish in more than 50 ways. Ilish roe is also popular as a side dish. Ilish can be cooked in very little oil since the fish itself is very oily.
In North America (where Ilish is not always readily available) the shad fish is sometimes used as Ilish substitute, especially in Bengali cuisine. This typically occurs near the East coast of North America, where fresh shad can be fished. The substitution is possible because of the fairly similar flavor and consistency of these two fish. Hilsa or Hilsa Ilisha is very popular among Bengalis and can be called an icon of Bengali cuisine. Ilish machh (hilsa fish), which migrates upstream to breed is a delicacy; the varied salt content at different stages of the journey is of particular interest to the connoisseur, as is the river from which the fish comes – fish from the river Pôdda (Padma or Lower Ganges) in Bangladesh, for example, is traditionally considered the best. To some part of the community, particularly from West Bengal, Gangatic Ilish is considered as the best variety.
To prepare this exotic and delicious Elish Macher Pulao, firstly wash and marinate the hilsa pieces with salt and turmeric. Fry slightly using any oil. Wash and soak rice for about one hour. Put rice in a strainer to drain off the water. Marinate rice with all the ingredients and keep aside for about 30 minutes. Heat ghee in a vessel or pan and put the soaked rice. Fry for a few minutes and then add required water. Bring to boil till the rice is half done and then drop in the lightly fried hilsa pieces in the rice. Lower heat to simmer and cook till done. Do not mix the rice or else the hilsa pieces would break.
Preparing this Bengali dish is quite simple and usually Bengalis love to eat a steaming bowl of fluffy, white rice, vegetable curry and a delicious bowl of Hilsa cooked to perfection! In fact, Hilsa is so common here that you could almost call it iconic of the Bengali cuisine.
Do try this simple yet delicious recipe and you would surely like the taste of the Hilsa fish. Click on the below link for detailed recipe:
Tip: You can also prepare the Chingri macher pulao/ prawn pulao in the same method using medium sized fried prawns instead of Ilish fish pieces. Before frying the prawns marinate them with little salt, pepper, lemon juice, turmeric powder and red chilli powder for 20 minutes.
One of the pleasant aspects of Bengali cuisine is their dislike for garlic and onion. While the rest of India believe in sautéing food with garlic paste and deep-frying onion till it turns a translucent golden color, Bengalis will have none of it in most of their recipes. They rely completely on their ‘Ponch Phoran’ or mix of five spices to bring out the rich flavor and aroma of food. This applies to their method of cooking hilsa too. In most cases, the fish is marinated so that its tender juices are preserved while cooking.