Muscles have never inspired me but muscles with intelligence have been role models. Isn’t that normal for any Bengali boy growing up in a middle class Bengali family surrounded by books, art and culture. A Rahul Bose or Anjan Dutta from recent times and Soumitra Chattaopadhyay from the yesteryears have attracted me more than the main stream heroes with a string of hits.  I first saw Kalyan da in Antaheen as Ranjan. That was 2009. I was 33 and for me, he portrayed every aspect that a 33 can aspire for when he gets older. Well to do, well read, suave, his pipes and cigars and the conversations and that famous dialogue – solitude is attained through years of meditation ..

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We were at Sonargaon Taj Bengal where it was the annual Ilish Festival and Kalyan da, was the guest of honor for his upcoming release Meghnad Bodh rohossyo. As we explored the various supreme delicacies prepared by Chef Sonu, we also got a chance to chat up with Kalyan da and his bagful of experiences of Ilish Machh. We started with Ilish machh er dimer Bora which is basically the hilla fish roe dumplings. This is considered as delicacy and when served with Kasundi, it just set the mood right. I must say that the kasundi also had a twist with a bit of panch phoron.

The Ilish machh eating ritual which gets repeated at my home and why it wont get repeated ever now – Read here 

Very rarely the 5 star properties serve Ilish machh er tel, which on a Ilish machh feast is like a tennis player’s First service game of a tennis match. Enough power, placement and unforced errors sets the confidence. The distinct aroma of the Oil and a significantly large piece of fried Ilish will set you rolling. As Kalyan da kept on sharing his experience of Ilish in Hudson river or the American shad and how the quality of the fish improved a lot in the recent years, somewhere 34/ b Belvedere Road and Hudson got connected over Ilish.

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Ilish Machh festival at Taj Bengal 10

Ilish Biryani

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The spread

The next item was Ilish Machher Paturi and the name may not excite you as Paturi is a dish which is a key member of Ilish and its family of delicacy but this one was a showstopper. Boneless Ilish wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf is no new thing but the marination and the balance of the mustard is the key over here.  Everyone present at the table said Sadhu sadhu (not the words in true sense but the reaction was at par with that). Kalyan da, who  was sharing his experience of cooking and how the news used to spread in his locality that he is cooking and the students and junior professors would flock in, nodded his head in appreciation.

Doi Ilish and the story of a newly wed coupleRead Here 

The use of onion and garlic in Ilish is purely considered as a feature of cooking Ilish in Bangladesh but the caramelised onions in the Ilish Biryani was uplifting. A thoroughly enjoyed dish, the stomach walls were already getting stretched however the smoked hilsa couldn’t be refused. Although the smoking process was highly appreciated, the taste failed to meet with most of us true bongs. The taste of the ilish had somewhat become sweet with perhaps the addition of barbeque sauce as a marination which did not sit quite well with the umami flavour of ilish. Nonetheless, we kept raving about the paturi as we went along and I noticed a few people leaving a bit of the paturi aside for the end.

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Who wants to try this out

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The prized catch

We missed out on the Ilish Tel Jhol as it made a blink an eye its gone guest appearance. However by the time we ended, everyone was too satiated to try anything more.

Kalyan da was carrying a cigar in his pocket and during the conversation we kept on asking him whether he enjoys a cigar after relishing the Ilish Machh. He kept his word as after the lunch was over, he rushed for his fix. Kalyan da, I am not sure whether you will ever read this but I have failed to manage a cigar but some day, I aspire to pick up Pipe as a company and then perhaps again, I will watch Antaheen to see how you held the pipe.

The menu is served as A La Carte however one can also try out Ilish Head to Tail Meal experience. The festival has started on 17th July and will continue still the August end.