My mom and aunt ran a beauty parlor when I was just a toddler. They definitely were not professionally qualified but I guess they figured they do make up so the rest was just an extension thereof. They did one smart thing though and hired Mary a qualified hair and makeup specialist.
The parlor suffered a fairly quick and painless death but Mary became a family friend and there were trips to her home in Wadala very frequently. For a 6 year old boy turning more and more carnivorous everyday, Goan Prawn Curry was like nectar from the gods.
This was also the first seafood I ever cooked, with Vera aunty’s help of course. It definitely is not recommended as a first dish. It might not seem too hard now but as a know-it-all teenager it was like climbing Everest. I’d love to say I did a great job but it really was all Vera aunty. It turned out great and everyone lapped it up and I got a lot of kudos but everyone knew what had really happened. Still, the fire was stoked.
Seafood cooking can be very simple if you just let it. I think we Indians just like to complicate stuff that doesn’t need it. All fish has such great flavour and texture, well fresh seafood anyhow, that it really doesn’t need much to shine. It also cooks really fast. And then all those myths about what not to cook seafood with etc, rules just because we should have them.
The introduction to molluscs had happened at Mary’s house and then further stoked on trips to Goa but it was limited to Clams or Teesrya. I love them and can eat them for days on end. On a trip to UK, I happened to catch up with a college buddy and his gang. We ended up in some sort club/restaurant a bucked of Mussels were ordered. I was hooked. This was followed with more Mussels and an introduction to raw Oysters in the US shortly thereafter.
Now that was a setting. On the banks of Cape Fear river in Wilmington, NC there was dish gargantuan tub of Oysters on ice served with Tabasco. I do remember going a little nuts but nothing untoward happened so the memory is still a good one. I had the opportunity to grab a really humongous one in Bangkok a few years ago on a golf / bachelor party holiday. It’s what I really miss in India – to be able to eat Oysters raw. I’ve just never had the guts to do it. Probably misplaced but its where its at. Maybe Fishvish will figure out a way to bring us fresh Oysters in India.
It was also one one of these trips to the US that opened up the world of Baked and Grilled seafood to me. I mean I’d already had the barbecue prawns and fish tikka but this was whole fish stuffed with all kinds of goodies. Case in point was Squid Tubes stuff with minced herbed prawns and cheese, pan fried in a chilli garlic sauce. It is till date my favorite seafood dish of all time. Okay, okay maybe not but its a close second to Bacon wrapped Prawns with a cheese stuffing.
Shumu, KK and I took over management of a smallish restaurant in Pune for a little over year. It was defining. We got to try out ideas in the kitchen which went a long way in cementing our growing commitment to the food business. It was a super experience. A new found respect to all restaurateurs.
My brother Saahil and his wife Divya, introduced me to Sushi and Sashimi. I don’t particularly care for Sushi much but will travel great distances to eat good Sashimi. I think the Japanese have go their seafood down pat. Simple in terms of ingredients but yeah some of their dishes can be crazy complicated.
It’s been an awesome seafood journey so far and with our plans going forward with Fishvish it can only get better. I can’t wait for what tomorrow will bring.
Bijal Patel, Fishvish Co-founder