Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Pressure-Cooked Doi Ilish

Doi Ilish
It's not easy to get Ilish Maach, a.k.a hilsa, here unless there is a Bangladeshi market in the neighbourhood or at least within driving distance. I was so happy when Alladin opened up around the corner in a strip mall. First of all, they are my source for Balachaung-in-a box, better balachaung than I can make at home. A couple of days ago, I went there to replenish my stock of balachaung and casually inquired if they had Ilish Maach. I've watched a few videos on pressure cooking ilish that causes the bones to soften sufficiently that scaredy cats can enjoy this lovely fish.

The videos make it look pretty simple - all that's required is a pressure cooker and the ingredients for Doi Maach or fish cooked in yogurt gravy. The store owner was a friendly soul from Chittagong who was happy to clean and cut the ilish I picked out. 

Ilish (the closest to an American fish is Shad) is a fatty fish that's rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. It's taste and aroma when cooked is quite spectacular. I decided to follow the instructions in the video so what we had was Doi Ilish or ilish in yogurt gravy.

Cooking the fish for 1.5 hours under pressure was pretty daunting, but there was no reason to worry because there was plenty of gravy left and it didn't stick to the bottom of the pressure cooker. The secret? To use lots of sliced onions as the first layer and to bring it up to pressure and reduce the heat to its lowest setting then forgetting about it for 1.5 hours. 

The videos recommended simmering off the excess gravy for another half an hour after removing the cooker cover, but there was no need to do that because the amount of gravy was perfect! The dish tasted awesome and the best part of this experiment was to watch the hubster/DH eat a whole piece of fish. The bones really did soften, reminiscent of sardines or salmon in the can. 


1 Ilish, cut into steaks
1 (4 oz.) tub of Greek yogurt
1/2 (4 oz.) tub of sweetened vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup mustard oil, divided
2 onions, sliced
2 Tbsp. ginger paste
1 Tbsp. garlic paste
1 tsp. Gochujang (Korean chili paste) or chili powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala powder (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom)
salt to taste
4 Tbsp. mustard or vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. nigella/kalo jeera seeds
2 green chilies, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced 
3 green chilies, slit

  1. Marinate fish with 1/8 cup of mustard oil, turmeric and salt.
  2. Blend Greek and sweet yogurt with 1/8 cup of mustard oil, ginger & garlic pastes, chili paste, garam masala powder and salt to taste.
  3. Stir water and vinegar into mix and combine with fish.
  4. Heat remaining oil in a pressure cooker and sputter nigella seeds and minced green chilies, add onions and remove from heat.
  5. Layer fish pieces over bed of onions and pour the yogurt mixture over fish.
  6. Place pressure cooker over high heat and bring to a boil. 
  7. Cover and bring up to pressure, lower heat to minimum/lowest setting and leave to cook for 1.5 hours.
  8. Allow pressure to release naturally and if there is too much gravy, uncover and simmer over medium heat until reduced.
  9. Garnish with minced cilantro and slit chilies.
Serve with hot, steamed rice.

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