Ilish Maach Bhaja

Ilish Maach Bhaja (Hilsa Fish Fry) is a classic fish fry dish prepared in Bengali cuisine. It is prepared on all special occasion as fish is considered auspicious in Bengali culture. Hisla Fish Fry – Ilish Maach Bhaja doesn’t really call for a recipe, but it definitely needs to be recorded and shared.

What is Ilish Maach Bhaja?

Ilish Maach is Hilsa Fish, and it is the national fish of Bangladesh. It is freshwater fish and is very good for the heart with high content of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Ilish Maach is used in several ways to various different curry preparation. But the most common one which brings immense joy is this utterly simple Ilish Maach Bhaja fried in mustard oil.


Hilsa Fish is an emotion

When I moved to US several years back, I came across few Bangladeshi stores who would sell these freshwater fishes that I grew up eating back in India.

For a long time I was hesitant to buy those as I grew up eating fresh fish and now frozen.

It was during the time when I was writing my cookbook that I started to try these frozen fish. To my biggest surprise, they taste great with beautiful aroma.

And I started to buy since then. As a Bengali who LOVES Ilish Maach Bhaja any day, should have recorded and shared this dish long back. Why it took me this long, I really don’t know.

Ilish Maach Bhaja

Where to buy Hilsa Fish in Bay Area ?

If you live in Bay Area, you can find Hilsa fish and few other fresh water fish in Desi Bazaar in Sunnyvale, India Market in Milpitas and Bengal Tiger Food in Fremont.

These are the shops I am aware of, but there might be other Bangladeshi or Indian stores that sells these fishes.

Hilsa Fried Fish

How to make Ilish Maach Bhaja

Season the Hilsa fish fillet with salt and turmeric. Leave it aside for 10 minutes.

Fry the fish in a heavy bottom wok.

Pour the mustard oil and let it heat until you see smoke. It is very important to heat the oil properly, so the fish fillet doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Slide the fish fillets carefully in the hot oil and let it fry for 2 minutes. Then carefully nudge the fillet, if it moves, that means it is fried, and you can flip. If it feels stuck, then it might need a minute more to release itself.

One very important point to remember is that if the oil is hot enough, the fish will not stick to the bottom of the pan. Also, you have to resist the urge to flip too quickly.

Ilish Maach Bhaja

Be very careful when frying fish in hot oil

Deep frying must be done with extreme care and caution. Make sure kids are not around.

Hilsa fish can sometime splatter when frying in hot oil. I always place a splatter screen on the pan when frying fish to avoid any oil splatter accident.

Ilish Maach Bhaja

How to serve Hilsa fried fish

Ilish Maach Bhaja is enjoyed pipping hot served with steamed white rice and a drizzle of the hot aromatic mustard oil drizzled on top.

I like to fry some onion and green chili in that mustard oil, just for a few seconds until the onion is softened a little, and enjoy that with rice along with the pipping hot Ilish maach bhaja.

Try this light on the tummy Ilish Maach Curry – lish Maach Kacha Kola Jhol

Ilish Maach Bhaja

Ilish Maach Bhaja

Yield: 8 fish fillets
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ilish Maach Bhaja is a classic fish fry dish prepared in Bengali cuisine. It is prepared on all special occasion as fish is considered auspicious in Bengali culture. Ilish Maach Bhaja doesn't really call for a recipe, but it definitely needs to be recorded and shared.


  • 8 steaks of hilsa fish
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 cup mustard oil
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 2 fresh green chili


  1. Season the fish fillet with salt and turmeric and keep aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Pour the oil in a heavy bottom wok and let it heat until you see smoke. This is a very critical step. If the oil is not hot enough, and you drop the fish fillets, it will get stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Slide the marinated fish very carefully in the hot oil.
  4. Let it fry for 2 minutes and the try to flip it very carefully. If it feels like it is stuck to the bottom of the pan, give it 1 to 2 more minutes for the fish to fry completely.
  5. Flip and fry for 2 more minutes.
  6. Take it off the pan once done and switch off the heat.
  7. The oil is still pretty hot, so drop the sliced red onion and slit green chili. Let it fry for 1 minute.
  8. Serve the pipping hot Ilish Maach Bhaja with steamed rice and top it with the cooked soft onion, green chili and some of that aromatic mustard oil.
  9. Enjoy while it's warm.
Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 669Total Fat 43gSaturated Fat 16gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 21gCholesterol 226mgSodium 478mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 64g

All nutrition information presented are intended for informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Classic Bengali fish recipe
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