How to Make Ilish Machh’er Pulao – Hilsa Festival Special #270

Ilish maachh/Hilsa fish is one of the most popular fish in Bengal. Mostly available during rainy season, this fish is enjoyed by us in many different ways. Ilish Maachh’er Pulao is a must during the season.

The first hilsa fish of the year is always special to the foodie Bengali households. And at my home, it’s almost mandatory to have this pulao at least once (if not more) in a year. This is such a fancy thing, but you can’t find it a restaurant!!

Steaming hot hilsa pulao on rainy day is nothing less than heaven to me, specially when it’s made by my mom. It will be unfair to not share the recipe with y’all when I have been sharing so many other recipes already.

Ilish Maachh’er Pulao

Things you need

  1. 1 kg Basmati rice
  2. 16 pcs Hilsa / Ilish
  3. 250 g plain yoghurt
  4. 2 tbsp Ginger + green chilies paste
  5. 2 tbsp turmeric powder
  6. 1 tbsp chili powder
  7. 2 tbsp cumin powder
  8. 1 tbsp garam masala
  9. 8 cardamom pods, 5-6 cloves, 5-6 small barks of cinnamon
  10. 5-6 bay leaves
  11. 50 g cashew nuts (optional)
  12. 50 g raisins (optional)
  13. 4 tbsp ghee
  14. 2 tbsp cooking oil
  15. 4 tbsp mustard oil
  16. 1 tbsp sugar
  17. Salt
  18. 1 tbsp lemon juice


  1. Wash the pieces of hilsa fish thoroughly and marinate with turmeric and salt.
  2. Wash Basmati rice and soak in water for 30 mins and then drain the water.
  3. Make a thick paste with yoghurt, lemon juice, 1 tbsp turmeric powder, 1 tbsp chili powder, 2 tbsp cumin powder, 1 tbsp ginger-chili paste, salt, sugar and a dash of water.
  4. Boil 8 cup water in a saucepan.


  1. In a pan heat 4 tbsp of mustard oil. Add the spices into the oil and cook the spices until the raw smell is gone and spice starts seperating the oil. Add a little bit of water after that.
  2. When the water starts boiling, add the pieces of fish in. After 5 mins flip the pieces over and cook for 3-4 mins more and set them aside.
  3. Take a heavy bottom saucepan and place it over flame. Pour 2 tbsp vegetable oil and 4 tbsp of ghee. Throw the whole spices in (bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks. Roast the cashew, raisins for 20-30 secs.
  4. Add the Rice into the sauce pan. 1 tbsp turmeric powder and 1 tbsp ginger-chili paste to be added at this point.
  5. After stirring and mixing the rice for 1-2 mins pour 7 cups of boiling water in with a pinch of salt.
  6. When the rice is almost cooked through, add some of gravy from the fish preparation.
  7. Once the rice is fully cooked, sprinkle some garam masala, add the pieces of fish and rest of the gravy.
  8. Cook the pulao on low flame for 10 mins. It shouldn’t be stirred much at this time, as that would break the long and delicate rice grains or the fish pieces.

Ideally the rice grains wouldn’t stick together in the pulao, the spice level is controlled by adding right amount of gravy to the white rice!

Plate of happiness

Ilish pulao is ready to be served- this is a star dish by itself. Sometimes we fry some extra fish and fish-eggs as well. My personal preference is to have the pulao with a little bit of mango pickle!

If you like this, you can also check out my other posts-

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Post Author: Molten Cookie Dough

A typical Pisces person.

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