Iilish (Hilsa) Fish Besara By Ushnish Ghosh

Many of you may wonder what besara is. It is a signature spicing system of Odisha used widely with a common name Besara. It has mustard cumin paste in pure vegetarian or temple version and garlic paste is added for fish and other vegetables in non-temple versions, most of the time a souring agent like dried raw mango, lemon, sour tomato etc. is added. Here I am giving a fish besara using Ilish. You can use any fish of your choice, small, big, dry fish etc.








Ushnish Ghosh, culinary enthusiast.


• 4 pieces of Ilish about 200 grams or more, marinated with salt and turmeric
• Dried mango ( ambula) 1 large piece ( or sour tomato, lemon juice)
(I have used sour lemon here)
• Green chili 4-6 whole, and 3 broken
• Besara
6 heap tsp mustard
2 heap tsp cumin
6 cloves garlic
1 level tsp of turmeric powder (you may use less)
Red chili powder (optional, as per your heat choice)
• Salt
• Tempering use mustard or cumin 3/4th level tsp or about half a teaspoon of nigella (kalo jeerey)
• Mustard oil 2+1 tbsp ( you can use any oil)


    Grind the mustard in water on a sil noda or dry grind in mixi and soak in water for 30 min,,,, you may filter and take the filtrate.
    Grind cumin to a paste or of you want to use cumin powder, take the quantity that would be 1/3rd of the mustard powder/ paste being used.
    Grind garlic and 2 green chili to a paste.
    Mix all and add the turmeric.
    Add water if needed to make a slurry.
    The besara spicing is ready.
    Heat 2 tbsp. oil, and temper with cumin or mustard and Bengalis known for their affinity towards kaalo jeerey (nigella) can temper with Nigella (kalo jeere)
    Add the besara, dry mango or sour tomato if using. (If using lemon don’t add now), salt, broken chili and bring to full boil for 5 minutes
    Add the fish, 1 tbsp. raw mustard oil, reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes with each side of the fish. Add the whole green chili, add lemon juice and mix, switch off burner and cover to give it a little standing time before serving
    Goes best with riceNOTE
    You can use the spicing system for any dish — stretch your imagination, you may use this to cook any combination of ingredients — fish vegetable combo, dry fish vegetable combo, mix vegetable or single vegetable
    Remember besara is mustard cumin combo, garlic is optional.



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