The Legend of Ilish

Ilish is the elixir of Bengali cuisine, it is the epitome of all fishes, a delicacy that is looked forward to by everyone. There are only a few rare fish haters among Bengalis spread worldwide who don’t revere Ilish – I know a few such people, can’t say I’m proud of them though. Much has been written about this enigmatic fish around the globe, and about an average Bengali’s obsessive compulsive disorder in buying the best Ilish for their family. Have you heard of people serving Ilish to goddess Saraswati to worship her on Basant Panchami? Multitudinous families in Bangladesh and West Bengal follow the tradition of serving the goddess with a pair of good stout Ilish on Saraswati Puja. Similar rituals are followed on Kojagari Laxmi Puja right after Dusshera. While rest of the country is content in worshipping Laxmi with laddoos and other sweetmeats, few Bengalis carry the legacy of serving the goddess a whole, consummate Ilish later to be cooked and consumed as bhog. A good harvest of Ilish looks somewhat like the image below, with red/purple streaks vertically along its spine and glittery silver scales.

Did you know? Ilish grows and thrives in the sea, but travels all the way to fresh water in the estuaries to lay eggs.

At Gariahat Market, Calcutta.

At Gariahat Market, Calcutta.

My earliest memories of Ilish obviously dates back to childhood when we lived in the Ministry of Defence staff quarters at Ishapore (about 25 km from Calcutta, in the suburbs) near the banks of Ganga. While my in-laws’ house is within 500 metres from the river, we lived a little away in the staff quarters. Those days, about 20 years ago, Ilish was still harvested from Ganga and it tasted better than its other river contemporaries. My father used to reach the river bank at dawn where fishermen would be ready with freshly harvested Ilish, gleaming in the rising sun. Due to global warming, water distribution issues between India-Bangladesh and heavy export, Ilish has become rare in Bengal now. They don’t flock to Ganga anymore, I believe, as the Farakka Barrage diverts the water. The availability of Ilish mostly depends on Kolaghat (Rupnarayan river) and Diamond Harbour (estuary at the Bay of Bengal). This year though, has seen quite a bit of supply from Bangladesh, probably illegally. My parents have bought some of it in Calcutta, where the seller informed them in hushed tones that his father in law sent a lot from Bangladesh though channels. We have seen an Ilish weighing 3 kg here in Pune, which looks like import from Bangladesh too, priced at Rs 1800 per kg.

Continue reading

Advertisements

From the Land of Usal, Misal and Pav

Thukpa at Shaolin in Pune

Thukpa at Shaolin in Pune

When we moved to Pune from Hyderabad, we were quite apprehensive about the food. While Mumbai and Hyderabad are considered food heavens with choices to die for, Pune was known to be low key without many options, and most of them vegetarian. While we’re strictly non-vegetarians and big foodies, we did eat in vegetarian restaurants (mostly when other options were sparse)!

After relocating to Pune, we began house hunting. It was a tedious job and we looked for places to eat in Pune after toiling whole day visiting apartments for rent. Since our areas of target were in the outskirts, it was more difficult to find restaurants of our choice. Hyderabad had literally spoilt us crazy with its food platter and spice buckets. Pune seemed more toned down and traditional. Though the traditional Maharashtrian food is far from bland, it’s spicy and blazing hot. While M loves the Misal Pav, I’m more for Pav Bhaji and Vada Pav. The idea of slathering dry sev into the spicy gravy and mopping it up with buns, somehow didn’t appeal me.

Continue reading

Stay, Ask and Order!

Can you recall the last time you had ordered food while surfing the internet? Isn’t it only a few days back when you decided to pick some takeaway food on your way back from office? It happens with all of us these days. Stress is gradually consuming our days, nights and peace of mind. And there are times when we relent to our circumstances and the all-encompassing pressure of multitasking.

I’ve been through days when I’ve been writing for an assignment throughout the day, with intermittent coffee and munch breaks. Later in the evening after I submit, my psyche goes on a toss and I tend to slump down. Coincidentally, if my better half is late from office the same day, we are left with no choice but to order food online or pick up a takeaway in Kolkata or call for home delivery. One of these days while browsing through various websites to order, I found Askme dot com.

Image Courtesy: Askme dot com

Image Courtesy: Askme dot com

The inquisitive me landed on their plush yet simple website andcruised through the home delivery page. I punched in my preferred area within Kolkata and the type of food I wanted. The page offered me a range of choices to spoil, with their menus, ratings, photos and reviews. The search takes a few seconds, so does the order. Askme has a very easy contact number to memorise in case you want to rest your eyes and step away from the computer. Dial their number and describe your preference for them to suggest and place the order for home delivery in Kolkata.

So, the next time hunger consumes you and leaves no time for cooking or even assembling food particles together in a dish, pick up your phone, dial Askme’s number and order your choice of fodder. I’ve been sceptical to order food online in Kolkata but Askme has provided an easy-peasy portal for everyone to explore the options, choose the most relevant and wanted ones and just click.

Remember, your food is just a click or call away from you. Celebrate any occasion, even your tiredness or a stressful day with something exotic or just your favourite pizza.