The Bangladeshi Kitchen

Ilish Polau = Hilsa Pilaf

Ilish Polau

Ilish Polau

After Shorshe Ilish (Hilsa in a Mustard Sauce), the Ilish Pulau is my favorite Ilish preparation. There are many variants and each person will attest to the superiority of their recipe. This particular one, while it does requires a little bit of an effort, is light and flavorful – enhancing the fish and not overpowering it.


  • 6-8 ilish (hilsa) pieces
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamoms
  • 1 tsp kalojieera (nigella)
  • 3 tbsp ghee
  • ¼ cup cooking oil
  • 3 dried red chillies
  • 3 green chillies


  1. Marinade the fish with 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp salt, and all the turmeric and lemon juice for 30 minutes
  2. Meanwhile cook the rice and let cool for 30 minutes
  3. In a large pan, heat the cooking oil and lightly sauté the fish steaks and set aside
  4. In the same oil add the chillies, cardamom, clove, bay leaf and stir fry over medium heat for 5 minutes
  5. Add the previously cooked rice to the pan and stir fry until the rice coated with the spices.
  6. Turn off the heat and remove the rice from the pan.
  7. Coat the bottom of the pan with 1/3 of the remaining ghee and add ½ the fish in a flat layer.
  8. Layer ½ the cooked rice over the fish, and drizzle ½ of the remaining ghee and ½ of the remaining salt on top of the rice.
  9. Repeat with the process with the remaining fish, rice and spices.
  10. Pour ½ cup of water over the rice.
  11. Cover tightly and simmer over low heat for 15 – 20 minutes.

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