The bountiful sea offers us limitless choices of nourishment. 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered with water bodies: oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, bayous and streams to name a few. And all the water bodies – marine and freshwater ecosystems – contain a diverse array of seafood that has been tempting the human taste buds since time immemorial.
Seafood is a great source of protein, but that is not the only reason why it is so popular across the globe; it’s the plenteous aspect and versatility of seafood that accounts for its wide appeal. Think of any country, each has its own list of favourite seafood delicacies. The British love their fish and chips and smoked Salmon. Shrimp enjoys an almost iconic status in the US and appears in many of their dishes. Northern Canada is partial to the Arctic Char, which they often eat raw and frozen, dipped in soy sauce. Shellfish like Clams and Mussels are the leading stars of Curanto, the Chilean dish that is cooked in an earthen pit. Ecuador’s national dish is considered to be the Encebollado, a fish stew. Lutefisk, the traditional dish of most Nordic countries is made of Cod. Japan’s staple diet consists of seafood, their world famous sushi and sashimi is made with varieties of Tuna, Salmon, Japanese Yellowtail, or Red Snapper. Seafood dominates Southeast Asian cuisine. They like to flavour their seafood with fresh spices, be it the Tom Yum soup made of Shrimp or the Pad Thai with fish sauce and Shrimp.
Well, you get the drift. The list is endless. The fact is that there are multiple delectable seafood options and each can be, and is, cooked in a thousand different ways. All methods add a little something to the seafood’s inherent taste and enthusiasts crave to have a taste of it all. Foodies in Mumbai or Sydney would also like to eat sushi once in a while; similarly, people in Japan also might like to try the Arctic Char, and why not? Our boundaries, whether we live in the plains, mountainous regions or close to the sea, no longer dictate what we can and cannot access. This means that our range of options is as vast as the sea that provides us with these appetizing treats.
And while we are talking about the world, let us take a look at our own country
India, with its long coastline, has access to a wide variety of marine food. Most states close to the sea, or rivers and lakes, have cuisine that takes advantage of the seafood available to them. Be it Malvani, Mangalorean, Bengali, Goan, or Kerala, each cuisine specializes in seafood. Other regions also revel in the joy of seafood. The Nellore Chepala Pulusu, Andhra Pradesh’s tangy fish curry, capitalizes on the goodness of firm freshwater fish. Odisha’s rich and creamy Prawn Malai curry and the very popular Crab Kalia, have an unforgettable taste. Assam’s fish curry made with Rohu is unique because it is lightly spiced and has a slightly sour flavour. Way up, in the foothills of the Himalayas, they have a bunch of recipes that bring out the wonderful flavours of Mahseer and Trout. There’s so much more. The Shrimp biryani, fish Amritsari, Squid masala, dry Bombil chutney, Chettinad fish curry made with Trevally; what about the many types of fish kebabs, tikkas, and cutlets. To be honest, it’s going to take much more than one blog post to do justice to the variety of seafood produce, and the very many ways it is cooked in our seafood loving country. But you get the picture; we love our seafood; a love we share with other citizens of the world.
Mangalorean Fish Curry
So, what is it about seafood that makes it appeal to one and all?
Yes, seafood is endowed with many nutrients, which is why we began eating it, but over the course of time we’ve come to value it for many other reasons; it ignites our senses and enriches our lives.
Taste, touch, sound, smell and sight
Think about it. The sizzling sound of Silver Pomfret cooking on the barbecue, the vibrant display of colours on a seafood platter, the dense texture of Tuna, the subtle sweetness of Crab meat, the tender yet firm fleshiness of Squid and the aroma of butter garlic Prawns just when they’re turning pink! All of this enliven our senses.
It sparks our imagination, invigorates us and gets us in a social and conversational mood. It may begin with everyone discussing what seasoning suits the grilled Himalayan Trout the best, or about the delight one experiences when they bite into a crisp fried Anchovy, soon the talk turns to whether one should opt for a seafood salad or a Squid appetizer to begin their meal. Then the conversation just takes off, no longer just about the food they’re eating but about anything and everything under the sun.
That is the magic of delectable aquatic cuisine. It brings people together, gets them to talk and share, and helps create unforgettable memories.
Salmon & Green Salad
The Seafood Culture
Whether you’re a true-blue pescatarian or an everything-goes meat-eater, if you love seafood then you want to share this joy with others. It’s not just about eating together; it is about everything relating to seafood. It could be the yummiest Surmai recipe you recently came across, the easiest and most effective tips on how to fillet a Halibut, how to make a truly scrumptious marinade for Mahi Mahi, quick & easy methods for cooking Rohu, or the most popular joint in town for good seafood. Enthusiasm and a sense community are at the centre of the seafood culture.
You don’t just eat seafood; you celebrate it!
The appeal of variété
What images come to your mind when someone says seafood? A platter? Consisting of Snappers, Crab, Prawns, Lobster? Maybe, Octopus too? This is because the platter, and its Indian cousin – the thali, are a reflection of the abundance and variety that seafood is well known for.
The platter is an extravaganza, creatively put together and artistically presented, appealing to the eyes as well as the palate. Simply put, it is the joy of eating all your favourite seafood in one meal. It allows you to have Prawns and Swordfish, along with Tuna, Octopus and Lobster in one sitting. Well, it needn’t be this exact combination. It could be a different mix of seafood delicacies that are more to your liking, each cooked to perfection. That is the beauty of it. All that you desire, presented to you on a platter, literally!
Who doesn’t love a good thali? It is one the most well-balanced and wholesome meals out there. Due to the huge popularity of seafood, there are many varieties of the seafood version of it. They consist of an array of seafood dishes, roti and/or rice and condiments that go well with them. Or you can have thalis that are designed around a single type of seafood: Prawns, fish, and even Lobster, the possibilities are endless. To add to that, thalis from different regions use a unique set of ingredients giving each of their dishes and curries a distinctive flavour. Seafood thalis invite you to eat your fill and be merry.
Spread the cheer
What was once viewed to be the speciality of coastal regions is fast gaining popularity all across the country. The convenience of buying seafood online and having it delivered home, coupled with the plethora of options that the online seafood store offers, allows us to sample a lot more variety as opposed to the limited and seasonal choices available at the local fish market.
Seafood’s popularity keeps growing as we discover new techniques to cook it. The online food culture makes it possible for us to experiment and try new recipes. Our tastes and choices are not restricted by our geographies anymore. As we become more interconnected, it becomes easier for us to share and spread the joy that seafood brings to our life.
Here’s hoping that your joyful journey of seafood exploration continues.