Kolkata: Come monsoon. And the Bengali platter is incomplete sans Hilsa (ilish), considered as one of the tastiest fishes due to its distinctly soft oily texture, mouth-watering flavour and superb mouthfeel.
The fish, locally called Macher Raja (king of fish), and monsoon go hand in hand for Bengalis.Bengal minus Hilsa - is unimaginable. Right from Bengali poets who have sung paeans to the fish, to the new age chefs, who believe that nothing can go wrong on a day you have well-cooked Hilsa, this dish might be able to define Bengal in a way nothing else can.
Notwithstanding the sky-high prices of the fish during Durga Puja, the festivities at every Bengali household seems incomplete without the good ol' Ilish Paturi.
Cooked inside banana leaves, and flavoured with mustard and other spices, this dish is a real must-try from Bengal.
The arrival of the hilsa season in the Bay of Bengal usually coincides with the onset of the south-west monsoon in the subcontinent. It is a moment every Bengali (worth their fish) awaits with bated breath.
The association with the monsoon is not just about nostalgia. Bengalis strap gastronomy to ecology, which mean that hilsa is not eaten between late October/early November and February.
Traditionally, the last hilsa of the season would be consumed after a pair would be offered to the goddess on Lakshmi Puja day. This abstention, timed to sync with the juveniles' journey to the sea from the river, allow the fish the chance to grow and then procreate.
Today, however, the hilsa is available almost through the year. It is gourmet fare. The fish that was once about meals with the family or bonhomie with friends is now a high-end commodity.
Many upmarket restaurants ? and increasingly, even the smaller ones ? sell hilsa delicacies round the year. Bengali food festivals in restaurants throughout the country are incomplete without the hilsa.(UNI)