(Kinda) Shorshé Ilish (Bengali Fish in Mustard Sauce)

Loosely based on this

Cut 1.5lbs of Salmon into large (2") cubes, and sprinkle with 1tsp salt and 1tbsp turmeric. Mix it all up till well coated. (If you use your hands, you'll end up with yellow stains from the tumeric!)
Let this sit in the fridge while you get the gravy done.

Use a mixer to grind

 3 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
4 green chillies (serrano should work, but thai are better)
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
You might need to add a little more water to get the whole thing ground into a somewhat fine paste.  This is your spice mix
(If you have an Indian "mixie" or a "magic bullet", use it, otherwise, well, use a large mortar and pestle, and good luck)

Heat 1/4 cup mustard oil in a pan, and add 1tsp onion seeds. Let it heat up till it starts sputtering - around 30 seconds at med-hi.  

Add the spice mix, 1tsp turmeric, and 1tsp red chili powder. Stir fairly vigorously for about a minute or two, till it is quite dry, and changing color.

Add 1/2 cup of water, and stir continuously till the paste has dissolved, and everything is smooth(-ish. It'll still be kinda grainy from the onion seeds and the spice mix).  This should take at least 5 minutes or so.

Add another 1/2 cup of water, and the salmon pieces.  Lower the heat to around medium, and cook for around 5 - 10 minutes till the salmon is done.  Be careful to not shred the fish!

Serve with white rice - if at all possible, allow others to have some before you devour the whole thing.


  • Technically you're supposed to make this with Hilsa.  Good luck if you're in the USA (salmon tastes somewhat different, but works pretty damn well)
  • So does Tilapia, but for a very different (and sauce-forward) taste.
  • And yes, technically you should fry the fish in the pan before you start down the mustard-oil / onion-seed path but you don't have to.  It may be heresy, but for those of us who've never had the original version, it actually tastes pretty damn good.
  • If you make the paste quite a bit thicker, you can grill the salmon and use it as a sauce
  • For bonus points, make the rice with milk and a split clove of garlic.  It'll be pretty damn awesome...
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