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A couple of years ago when I was flying back home on a monsoon day after a month long stint in Hawaii – all I could fantasize about was a plate of warm rice, some dal and a piece of the most coveted fish of Bengal – the Ilish or Hilsa. A couple of days ago, on a similar rain-soaked day, it was as if my fantasy plate was laid in front of me when I was privileged to be invited to be a part of the Ilish Fest that is being held at Taj Bengal till August 31st.

Most meals have a sweet ending but this had a sweet beginning too as we were served with sugarcane juice to start with and it was accompanied by the legendary Bengali delicacy Ilish Dimer Bora which was basically Hilsa Fish Roe Dumplings, served with crunchy salad and kasundi.

What followed next was a pre-plated meal with which I am sure, many a Bong dreams are made up of. Special Steamed Rice with Crispy Fried Hilsa served with its own oil, accompanied by lentil and green peas in home-cooked style and garden fresh spinach accompanied with Vegetables Sauted with Panch Foran – was served in the platter.  This just whetted my appetite for what was to follow.

The star of the afternoon however was the Ilish Paturi or Boneless Hilsa Marinated with Mustard, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed – this in-house specialty just had the right amount of tangy taste that so delights any food aficionado and it just melted in the mouth! The Paturi was brilliant and perhaps the best I have ever tasted in a long, long time. And this, was an add-on, by popular demand, we were told by Executive Chef Sonu Koithara. The public had spoken and Taj Bengal has heard them and acted upon their wishes.

For a true blooded Bengali there could be nothing as too much Hilsa and so the menu did not end here – Ilish Biriyani or Hilsa cooked with handpicked spices and long grain rice was served  next and then the exciting Smoked Hilsa followed, for those with a continental taste. Again a terrific add-on by popular demand, and a sure crowd-pleaser. The smoky flavor just highlighted and brought out the authentic taste of this delightful fish from the herring family.

However, despite the experimental, Hilsa to me is quintessentially Bengali and so I ended the meal with some fine rice and Shorse Bata Ilish or Spicy Hilsa Prepared in Mustard Gravy with Fresh Green Chili and Turmeric.

The dessert of Sandesh, Roshogulla and Misti Doi followed – but again who needs dessert after you have gorged on Hilsa! Nonetheless it was the perfect end to a fantastic meal.

This Hilsa Festival at the Taj Bengal will not last forever, so my strong recommendation is grab your spouse/relative/friend/Ilish lover and rush to make the most of a gourmand’s gastronomical delight. You will be truly contented with the quality of the meal and will leave with a smile on your face and a satisfied belly with a Terrific Taj Experience, this monsoon!