Curries are great to make in big dishes, they keep well through the week and are chock full of healthy spices. Shorshe ilish (Hilsa fish mustard curry) is one of, if not the, most popular dish of Bangladesh and if you’re into curry at all, this dish will totally blow you away.

For those wishing to skip to a recipe, I’m basing my prep off of a combination of Bangali Net‘s Hilsa recipes and Bengali Home Cooking‘s Ilish Curry recipe.


  • 4-6 pieces of ilish/hilsa fish (I purchased a whole fish of about 2.5 pounds) – you will likely need to go to a Bengali/Deshi or Asian fish market to find this
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon onion seeds (nigella/kalonji)
  • 4 green chili peppers
  • 2 red chili peppers
  • 2 teaspoons red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric (in two talf-tablespoon portions)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 large onion, cut into medium-large pieces
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound gold potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed
  • about 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or canola, sunflower, etc.)
  • 2 cups Basmati rice, soaked

“Wait, why was there no bigass fish in your shot?” Well there’s a couple of reasons for that:

Not pictured: the Lovecraftian horror leading up to these filet
  1. I knew it was going to take me forever to eviscerate, scale, and filet a fish so I did it the night before
  2. Once I started it was…gory. Gorier than I’m comfortable photographing lest it be flagged for gore and animal violence. Personally, I do feel people should be acquainted with and aware of the cost of their food products (in both animal sacrifice and human labor) but I understand why some people can’t deal with seeing it.
  3. I am not good enough at cutting filet from a whole fish to provide instructions. I followed this, which uses drawn pictures versus photographs.
  4. Frankly, it was a huge mess. I couldn’t remove the bones prior to cooking as I was losing too much meat, I wanted to de-skin and couldn’t do so before cooking without losing meat, I was covered in fish blood (and didn’t want to touch my camera), etc.

Total prep time (excluding the fish) was 45 minutes (18:00 to 18:45), you time may vary. The fish took me two hours the night before.

Here’s what you’re going to do:

  • Using a grinder, processor, mortar, etc. as available to you, paste the chili peppers, mustard seeds, onion seeds, chili powder, cumin, and half the turmeric with some water.
Coffee tomorrow will be…interesting
  • Coat the potatoes, squash, and onion in this mixture and set aside
  • Sprinkle the other half of the turmeric on the fish. Bring the oil up to medium-low heat and cook the fish to nearly done. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the potato, onion, squash, and spice mixture to the same pan. Cook for 8-10 minutes
  • Add 1 to 1 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for another 10-20 minutes until the potato is starting to soften.
  • While the curry is cooking, prepare the rice
  • Add the fish back to the pan and an additional 1/2 to 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to thicken.
  • Serve the curry over the rice
  • That’s it! Total time is about 2 hours, 30 minutes ( 18:00 to 20:30).