My earliest recollection of seafood is of mom making fried fish & chips. Of course this only happened after haggling like crazy over like Rs.5 or Rs.10 with our “machhiwali” Suman. White or Silver Pomfret were, by default, huge and cheap! Still, haggling, I always felt, was them having a relationship of some kind. Suman would then take the Pomfret to the balcony behind the kitchen to clean and fillet. This was something I’d always stand and watch her do. It was mesmerizing to me back then. It still is at some level.
Fried Fish & Chips with Tartar Sauce
Once the fillets were ready, Mom would prep them for frying later. Salt and pepper rub, a very light egg wash and before being rolled in bread crumbs. These went into the fridge until just before lunch. Mom would cook them straight out of the fridge and till date I do the same… force of habit I guess. The fish was always shallow fried until fairly dark brown and the chips were cut thin, long and deep fried till golden. I think I just might have to make this today.
And so it was fish, chips and Dipys Ketchup, until I was introduced to tartar sauce by our neighbour, Vera Aunty. It’s still my go to sauce for anything.
There were times when my grand dad would want to eat fried fish and Suman didnt show. His response was simple – call Khyber and order it. And let me tell you, Khyber at Kala Ghoda, Mumbai made arguably the best fried fish and chips I’ve eaten till date, after moms of course. Don’t know if they even do that anymore, but man it was good.
Going out back then was mostly about Kababs and Tandoori Chicken or Butter Chicken and Naans. Until we found Apoorva, a dinky little place in Fort that made a Rawas Tandoori to kill for. Suddenly our outings were more seafood centric. Mahesh and Trishna were unearthed and they’ve actually become huge, but Apoorva for me still has the same excellent food that they served way back when we were still in school.
Of all the things that Mumbaikars love, I can’t eat even now is Bombil or Bombay Duck. I know that when fresh its supposedly excellent. But my association with it is the smell of drying Bombil and it just will not let me eat it.
The weird thing about seafood and us was that even though mom and grand dad both worked in a seafood processing and export house (factory was in Veraval) in the late 70’s early 80’s, we only really ever ate pomfret and prawns. Oh yeah I cleaned prawns myself back then – taught meticulously by Suman to wash, peel and de-vein the plump fresh beauties.
Around the time of entering junior college is when I found Goa. It was defining for me as far seafood went. A whole new world opened up in terms of types of seafood. Squid, Chonak, Kingfish / Surmai, Lobster and my till date favorite seafood of all time – Crab! It’s amazing how easily these were available back then and so cheap!
Moving to Delhi got me introduced to fresh water fish and it was awesome! Spent all that time in Sanawar and seen pretty much all of Himachal, I’d still never eaten any fish there. Here I was eating Scampi and River Sole and Trout. It was great! Delhi is weird in it’s own way. The people there love their chicken. But they also love their fish. It’s fresh water mostly I guess from an availability perspective but thats changing now. Still, it will take time for the Delhite to come around to salt water fish.
This is where things took a turn that was not anticipated. I mean I’d always been interested in cooking, what with Vera Aunty running cooking classes which mom would attend. I’d tried my hand some stuff like simple cakes and bread, even meringues a couple times (man those are hard to get right). Let me tell you that its great growing up with Parsis. They know how to eat and the know how to cook. And its all non-veg. Heaven is a place in Churchgate, Mumbai.
We’ll pick up this thread from here next week. Happy memories people.