Soak in the flavours of the hilsa at Oh! Calcutta's River Water Hilsa Festival
THIS IS THE SEASON to gorge on all the wonderful and summery hilsa specialities, city chefs are whipping up for us. Every monsoon, our taste buds are serenaded by a number of well-curated hilsa festivals at city diners, and Oh! Calcutta definitely leads the charge in surprising us with their fresh menus.
This season too, the finedining eatery has come up with the River Water Hilsa Festival, which kicked off on July 23, and features a special menu with ingredients and flavours inspired by culinary traditions observed on both sides of the Padma. This time, Oh! Calcutta has also come up with a number of boneless Hilsa preparations, for all of you who crib about the ‘kaanta’ a little too much. “Besides the traditional Hilsa with bones, our boneless preparations have also been carefully made to make it easy for food lovers from other parts of India, who are not used to handling a bony fish like the Hilsa,” Oh! Calcutta’s chef Anjan Chatterjee tells us. We made our way to the moodily lit dining space at the Elgin Road outlet, and found some scrumptious hilsa numbers waiting for us.
The elaborate menu features many wide-ranging dishes, put together to give your palate a wholesome and adventurous hilsa experience. We were delighted to see the menu had listed a couple of our basic bhaja (fried) and bhapa (steamed) dishes, and has incorporated some authentic, obscure dishes, which we don’t usually find in most Bengali diners. The Posto Narkol Ilish is one such dish, which is luckily a boneless number, and has an undemanding flavour profile, which will leave you wanting more. It serves a generous portion of boneless hilsa, wrapped up in a robust blend of posto (poppy seeds) and coconut, and luckily leaves some room for the hilsa’s natural aroma to fill your senses. While we munched on some Ilish fish fingers, we were served with a dish called Aam Tel Ilish. This is a claypot dish, which had both on-bone and boneless variations on the menu, and is served steaming hot in a cauldron, so you can take in the flavours in all at once. It is basically steamed hilsa, prepared with pickled mango oil, which is sealed in a banana leaf, and steamed in a pot, along with the rice. Perhaps one of the best things we’ve had this summer, the Aam Tel Ilish is simple, succulent and carefully seasoned so as to not upset the natural flavour profile, and a revelation on all counts. We also found another boneless preparation called Meghna Majhider Ilish, which is a staple item for the fishermen of the Me ghna river in Bangladesh. It features hilsa braised in coconut milk and flavoured with simple curry powder. It has a delicious scarlet gravy, and an unassuming velvety texture. The Smoked Hilsa and Mochar Hilsa were of course, delicious, as was the Ilish Paturi. The Mochar Ilish, especially, was of a fried variety, which bought out the fragrant notes of the familiar banana flower. The Bhapa Ilish and Ilisher Jhol, are of course, Oh! Calcutta specialities and you can’t possibly go wrong with them. We found the menu to be quite economical. It starts from `525, and goes up to `945.