What is hilsa?

In Bangladesh, Hilsha is locally known as “macher raja” or the “king of fish,”and it is also the national fish of Bangladesh. “Ilish” (Tenualosa ilisha) or ilisha, hilsa, hilsa herring, hilsa shad fish comes from the family Clupeidae and associated with herring spices. It is one of the world’s tastiest fish, which is not only famous for its unique taste but also valued for its excellent flavor and smell. The size of the ilish fish can reach up to 60 cm while it can weigh up to 2.5. Female fishes are comparatively bigger than the male Hilsha fish.

Bangladesh has three types of Hilsha:

  • Padma Ilish – (Scientific name: Tenualosa Ilisha) – most popular species and grown, primarily in the Padma river. This is the tastiest and found in all the rivers of Bangladesh.
  • Chandana Ilish -(Scientific name: Nenuacosa Toli) – became rare because of over-catching of the smaller ilish, commonly known as jatka.
  • Gurta Ilish (Scientific name: Hilsha Kelle) – found only in the Seas.


Where to find it?

Though Hilsha is found all over the world, Bangladesh and West Bengal of India are the prime places to find this mouthwatering fish. The fish is found from the Bay of Bengal to the northern coast, Indian Sea, Arabian Sea, and Lehit Sea. The abundant number of hilsa is also seen in the Arab Sea from where it crosses the Oman and Hormuz system in the north and Persian Gulf in the west. Even, you can find this heavenly finish in the China Sea, where it comes from Bay of Bengal through passing the Andaman Sea and Malacca Sea.

 River or Sea?

Ilish can be found in both rivers and Sea. However, ilish from freshwater is tastier than that of the Sea.


Why is it loved to death?

The only answer to this question is its unique taste. The oily and soft texture, along with mouthwatering smell, make the fish tastier. Hilsa from freshwater is more appetizing than that of the Sea.


Popular Ilish Recipes:

There are more than 50 types of dishes that are made with hilsa. The most popular is “Sorshe ilish” which is prepared with hilsha and sorshe or mustard gravy. Other popular recipes are:

  • Fish fry: This is the most common as well as the most popular way of enjoying hilsha fish. In fact, Bengali people celebrate the first day of Bengal or Bengal New Year with rice and hilsha fry. Most of the time, this frying is done using mustard oil.


  • “Vape Ilish”: “Vape” means steam. From the name, you can guess, this recipe is prepared using steam. At first, all the things are marinated then steamed.
  • Ilish with brinjal and pineapple: Bangladeshi people use the fish with vegetables. However, a recipe like ilish with brinjal or ilish with pineapple is special.
  • Ilish Pollow: Another popular recipe is “ilish pollow”. As you made biriyani with mutton or chicken, or any type of meat, and rice, this dish is also made with flavored rice and hilsa fish. It is preferable to use big-sized hilsa for this recipe as big-sized hilsa gives the unique smell and oily consistency.

Apart from the above-mentioned recipes, there are more recipes. Actually, hilsa is so tasty that everything you made with hilsa becomes mouthwatering. Even, the head and tail of fish is used in the regular vegetable curries in Bangladesh.


How to prepare these amazing dishes? :

Hmm, you may get hilsa from the departmental store but what about the recipes. For each recipe, you may need special spices and ingredients such as “sorshe ilish”. For making ‘sorshe ilish”, you must need mustard and mustard oil. Similarly, other recipes may require different ingredients and spices. Don’t worry – in HateemTai, you will find all the necessary spices.