Remember those sabzi mandis or bazaars our fathers and mothers used to take us to once a week, usually on Sundays? These were the original farmers’ markets—some of the farm-fresh produce was brought and sold by producers themselves, so even if you haggled and negotiated on a mutually acceptable price, the profit was pocketed directly by growers, and you came back happy with bags of bright greens, fragrant herbs, pantry staples and crisp veggies. Shopping for veggies, fruit and meat happened once or twice a week, and the refrigerator was the vault for the fresh produce stockpile.
Fast forward to present-day grocery shopping—from the supermarket announcing buy one, get one deals on fruit, to the app on your phone promising you fresh bhaji delivered to your doorstep (or the housing complex’s, as the case may be), your vegetables come packed in see-through plastic bags, with best before dates printed. Or maybe you pick them up at the neighbourhood sabziwala’s, ticking off your carefully put together list. Either way, you’re feeling virtuous, since you’ve stocked up on “fresh” produce, and since they come together in a home-cooked meal over the week, you can see the health and nutrition halo around your head shining.
Until the time you succumb, that is. When, at the worn-out end of a long, hard day, when you are positively sure you can’t be up on your feet rustling about in the kitchen to put a meal on the table. And you open that bookmarked site that lists restaurant menus, or the delivery app that promises you a meal on your table in 40 minutes, but sometimes messes up, only to have you fighting it out with customer care 90 minutes later, with no sign of dinner. Even the meal that is delivered to you is far from perfect, as everybody knows. Your seafood choices are limited to the clichéd fry and curry. But hunger strikes, as it only will, and you can’t always choose between a growling stomach and that promise of healthy eating that you make yourself every now and then, can you?
What if you didn’t have to choose between the two? What if your actual choices were easier to make and far more delicious—think Kerala-style roast squid or fish ghassi or mixed seafood lasagne? And they’d come from the familiar environs of your own refrigerator—you could point and eeny, meeny, miny, moe the meal for the day, if deciding becomes too much. No more last minute takeout tussle, dinner is ready when you are. No more bewilderment when you’re entertaining either, and your guests will be nevertheless impressed, and would want to know how long it took to put the meal together, and what recipes did you refer to.
Because who wouldn’t want to love to eat a gourmet home-cooked meal, that takes hours to perfect and serve? Wait a minute, we were talking about all these coming from your refrigerator, so this must be a meal kit, that you put together, right? Yes, and no. Presenting to you the new Heat & Eat range of ready meals from Fishvish, your new saviour in a crazy, hard world. How’re these different from takeout or ordering in, you ask? For starters (yes, great starters too), these meals are put together just the way it would be in a home cook’s kitchen. And you can order them at your convenience, when you or somebody else is around to receive delivery. This could be as early as a week before. So, are these meals one of these ready-to-eat ones at the supermarket, loaded with preservatives and other bad stuff? Oh no, these are as good as fresh, because they are frozen.
Frozen is Fresh
Just a minute, frozen is fresh? Haven’t we always looked at “frozen”: and “fresh” as two distinctly separate categories? Because even at restaurants, we ask for “fresh” seafood, not “frozen”. And freezing is a form of preservation, so how do fresh and frozen even taste alike?
Except that they do. And we eat our favourite foods frozen, without even consciously thinking about them. Golden luscious mango pulp to churn into ice cream in the middle of winter? Green, sweet winter peas to make curries when it’s blazing hot? Even prawns picked up in excess from the market to be finished some weeks later; all are great to eat, thanks to the magic and science of freezing.
Bijal Patel, cofounder Fishvish shares this view. “Our parents have been doing this for decades. I remember there always being aamras in the freezer or tomato puree ice cubes. In fact, when my mom came to visit she would mostly make some extra chicken curry and freeze it before leaving so we could gorge on it later.”
Freezing seals in freshness, and stops the growth of bacteria that “ages” food. There are several myths around freezing and frozen, some of which have risen due to the unreliable power supply problem that most of us have faced in our growing years. Not anymore; infrastructure has gotten better, as has the awareness about nutrition and health benefits that freezing food delivers.
Nutritional benefits in frozen food? Of course, as even the experts would tell you. The chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) says“Within three days of vegetables being pulled from the ground, 80 per cent of vitamin C is naturally lost from them and most ‘fresh’ food has a useful nutritional lifespan of up to five days.” Rewind to the farmers’ markets of yore, when produce from farms reached you directly, unlike the present-day bagged stuff that sits on supermarket shelves for days, before it reaches your kitchen. We’ve seen how seafood loses its nutrition and quality as it makes its way to you several days since it’s caught. Frozen seafood, on the other hand, retains freshness and taste thanks to the quick freezing and consistent storage conditions. Similarly, vegetables are flash-frozen quickly after harvesting, sealing in vitamins and minerals, and nutritional comparison tests supportthis too.
Here to Stay
Frozen food has been the norm in most countries abroad for a long time, and is the way of the future, as human lives get busier, but health remains a priority. The people behind Heat & Eat get this; Shumu Gupta, cofounder Fishvish says “I am really excited about this line of products we’re launching. There are a lot of people out there who want to try different kinds of seafood but are not confident about cooking seafood or don’t have the time. Why should you guys miss out on all this gorgeous seafood? Our new line caters to you.”
Of course, why should anyone miss out on the variety that the line-up promises? You could start with the Kerala Prawn Fry, and dine on the Chepala Pulusu, that tangy Andhra fish curry. Or maybe the daab chingri—the authentic coconut prawns cooked in an actual coconut and delivered to you the same way. Add a side of rice and some salad, and you have got a complete, satisfyingly scrumptious meal. The prawn lasagna roll-ups are superb on their own, or with a chilled Rosé. Or maybe you need the creamy comfort that the Fettucini Alfredo With Shrimp brings. Fancy yet everyday meals that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner, with or without your favourite people, because they come in single servings too. A variety of Indian & International dishes to take your pick from, your’ll be spoilt for choice with the range. Impress your dinner guests with a brilliant spread at the table, actually enjoying yourself since you haven’t spent hours in the kitchen. Shine at the next potluck you’re invited to, and tell your friends that the recipes are part of the family secrets.
Homecooking Done Best
Because these recipes are homestyle, curated and shared by accomplished homechefs. As KK, cofounder FishVish says, “Our Heat & Eat range is also about keeping alive tried and tested home recipes—some that have been passed on verbally by older generations, and newer recipes that have been learnt and tweaked by home cooks over many an experiment. We want to bring the result of all this rich knowledge and experience and skill to your table.”
The meals are all-natural, with no added preservatives, MSG, artificial colours, or hydrogenated vegetable oil. Each recipe has the ingredients and nutritional information listed, something even the most open restaurant or home kitchen wouldn’t share. And it’s all homechef-created and approved; these cooking wizards are carefully chosen, and the qualities common to all of them is the fervent love for food, and ace levels of cooking seafood and meats. Each meal is the result of some nostalgia, some inspiration, and hours of practice, until perfect.
Just the way our favourite meals came to be. Maybe you’ll finally find the homestyle taste you’ve been looking for all this while, you just need to heat and eat.
About the Author An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.
The shared passion for non-vegetarian food, especially seafood, led to the creation of Fishvish by three guys – Shumu (center), KK (left) and yours truly, Bijal (right).
The Founders Three
We have spent the better part of 4 years now travelling all over India, identifying the various types of regional favourites, export houses in these regions that process these fishes and tying up cold chain logistic loose ends. It’s been a long road that is coming to fruition now with a largish seafood variety on offer already which is continually growing.
From nearly missing a flight due to being stuck in a Telangana related “rasta-roko” protest between Bhimavaram and Vijaywada, to weird hour connecting flights to Cochin or Bhubaneshwar or the unexpected deliciousness of the food at the Bhubaneshwar Club to overcoming cold-chain logistics issues the hard way – destroyed or delayed shipments – it’s been one incredible ride. Looking back, we laugh about it now, but believe you me, we were not laughing back then! It was a combination of these experiences with our learnings along the way that have shaped almost all of our process both internal and external.
Our top most priority has always been and will remain the quality of product we offer. There are no compromises and we have always replaced product if and when a customer has complained. There haven’t been many. Our own learning experiences along the way, help of some professionals in the field and having someone with over 50 years of commercial seafood buying experience on board has fine tuned our product selection process. Dealing with certified export factories and availing only export grade product certainly helps the process along.
High Quality Seafood
The basics of identifying quality of fish is fairly standard:
crystal clear eyes that are still plump, wet and shiney
tail and dorsal fins should be wet, intact &healthy-looking
the flesh of the fish should feel wet, cold and slippery not sticky to the touch and when pressed should spring back to its original shape
the gills should feel clean &cold to the touch with a bright color to them
if the fish has scales, they should be shiny and firm and not dry and flaky
if you’re looking at filleted or cut fish there should be no dryness or breaking of the flesh
water pooling in the container would suggest the fish is losing its ability to hold moisture
white fish, such as pomfret or halibut, the flesh should look translucent
darker flesh fish, like tuna or salmon, the flesh should be bright and saturated in color
Filleting Station at the In-house Butchery
Steaks & Cuts Station at the In-house Butchery
We decided at the very start that we wanted to build a product and service brand. This would require not only plenty of time but also creation & implementation of processes that would aid the building of that brand. It meant we hire professionally trained staff for our In-house Butchery & Kitchen.
Vacuum Packing Station
It also meant we needed a chef in-house to ensure that our curation process was more complete and of the highest standards. Sure all three of us cook, but we’re home cooks with aspirations. Professionally trained staff will always remain a key part of our operations. The highest standards of hygiene are maintained at all times. The butchery is temperature controlled and all equipment is cleaned and disinfected immediately after use.
The Fishvish Kitchen – Yep, we really do cook!
Standards have been maintained with our product quality and the way it is handled, transported, processed, packed and stored. What seemed to be an area of concern was the weighing. In the end it was simple. We ensure that there is always more product added in than what we claim as packed weight. It made our processes simpler and less stressful for the weighing team and hey, happy customers are more than worth their weight in gold right?
Our delivery model has not impressed the pundits but we’re adamant about controlling the last mile. Our customers’ trust in our products is based on our control of the entire cold chain. It’s probably more costly this way, but it allows us to rest easy in the knowledge that our customers are getting the best possible quality of product and service.
Stages of Delivery
We’ve built a good team. And what’s most heart warming are the calls we get from customers to point out by name our delivery boys who have gone beyond their brief to help the customer out. It really is a good team and a growing one.
The foundation of our brand is quality and helping us maintain that is my wife, Pooja. She has a consumer research and advertising background which of course helps us in droves. But the most telling function she performs is keeping the three of us focused on who we are as a brand and we’ll steadily and surely get there.
The Fishvish Team
Bijal Patel Co-Founder Fishvish Hardcore food junkie, loves to cook for his wife.
I have been attempting recipes for the longest time but have only recently worked out a little prep process. Get all the ingredients out first, then measure them all out and have them ready to go as you need them. Just makes the actual cooking so much more enjoyable. Of course hunting for ingredients in our chaos of a kitchen leads to some edgy moments with the wife, but she lets it pass, most of the time, since shes got her eye on the final prize – lipsmacking food!
Ok so without much further ado, lets dive right in shall we?
Panna Cotta looks simple enough but has it’s little idiosyncrasies. I followed the directions on the recipe, did a little digging around the internet to find the time required to set the panna cotta and just went for it. Lets say for a first attempt, it was fairly good but has room for improvement to get it just right. The biggest learning from this was to ensure that if the recipe asks for a particular grade of any ingredient, that’s what should be used!
Coconut milk being heated with lemon grass for the Panna Cotta
The rest of the ingredients were easy enough, though the trick was in the timing of the prepping and cooking for plating. My prep plan worked wonders and the cooking was smooth and plating looked fairly decent – almost matched the original wot? I used the fresh frozen XXL Prawns from Fishvish.
The ingredients for the main paste.
This is the area that I think needs a little more work – small quantities do not work well in a food processor! The paste wasn’t the consistency that was needed though the flavour was there. Just powered through.
Got the Mango cheeks on the grill, the prawns followed and this is what Pooja and I ended up eating.
Yes the plate is all wrong but its the only one I had handy. If we keep this MasterChef recipe trials up, we’re going to have to get a lot more crockery!
There are some really awesome recipes by contestants on MasterChef Australia that can be fairly easily replicated. More so because a lot the ingredients are now available to us. If not, substitutes are available and they work really well too. Ok so maybe some techniques maybe we can’t use if we don’t have a sous-vide machine or a smoking gun or a foam container, but there are so many more that we can do. Happy cooking people!
Bijal Patel Co-Founder Fishvish Hardcore food junkie, loves to cook for his wife.
The last couple of weeks have been all about the wet chill in the air, made better by shades of lush green around—gorgeous verdant foliage dripping with tiny beads of sparkling moist shine. As much as the palate craves hot oil-produced crunch and crispness (succumbing, we dedicated a whole day to frying fish, true comfort lies in a hot mug, or a steaming tureen, or a scalding bowl. Whatever your choice of serving container, soups and stews will warm and soothe the coldest heart and smoothen the roughest edges of a long, soaked day; and when the sniffles come a-calling, these warm broths can be counted on to comfort, and sometimes even alleviate symptoms of the most merciless cold.
Seafood soups and stews are godsent for the cold and the season—light enough to be kind to your tummy yet hearty enough to satiate the appetite. And while there’s enough listed inspiration for fish stewsand soupson the Internet, what better way to get cracking than to ‘borrow’ a tried and tested recipe from people in the know and in the business? If you’ve never stewed and souped fish and other seafood before, now is the time to lose your inhibitions and give in to the pleasure.
Seafood chowder is a delish bowl of seafood & veggie heartiness, packing in ingredients that are great for you.
This recipe is from Hemant Thite, the affable founder of Stew Art, a restaurant in Pune unusually dedicated to serving fine stews and other soupy concoctions. A basic chowder recipe, Thite says this is also on the restaurant menu sometimes, served under the daily specials. A filling dish, this one has corn, potatoes and other veggies to match the plenteous seafood.
Add in stock, fish, veggies, herbs and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce flame and cook for 15- 20 min or till veggies are tender. Add squid and cream, stir and remove from heat.
Serve in bowls and garnish with Coriander or Parsley.
Eat with garlic buttered bread or rice.
The moqueca may sound Asian with the coconut milk, aromatics and herbs, but the paprika and chilli flakes pack a tropical punch.
Sajjani Nair, who also went by the covert moniker ‘The Secret Chef’ before revealing herself, is known to be the harbinger of delectable homecooked meals. The popular homechef shares this recipe for prawn Moqueca, a Brazilian fish stew made with coconut milk (especially in the state of Bahia), tomatoes etc. Almost Asian in resemblance, the Brazilian touch is evident in the traditional use of palm oil, red chilli flakes and paprika.
Place the prawns in a bowl with 2 tbsp of lime juice and 1 tbsp of the chopped garlic. Refrigerate for an hour.
Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan and add the spring onion and onion; fry for a couple of minutes, then add red pepper, chilli flakes, paprika and remaining garlic.
Pour in the tomatoes, coconut milk and a little salt. Simmer and let reduce for 10mins. Add prawns, all the marinade and remaining lime juice. Simmer for about 3 minutes until prawns go opaque. Serve with steamed rice garnished with coriander.
Asian Noodle Broth with Fish
This Jamie Oliver recipe is light, delicious and healthy; which makes it perfect for wet weather.
Jamie Oliver is a great champion of fresh produce and healthy eating, and this recipe shared on his website, is all about that. It calls for fresh egg noodles, but you could use heartier dried soba. The sesame oil is essential—look for a toasted seed version in the Asian section of your supermarket or on specialty stores online. If you can’t find mangetout or snap/snow peas, leave them out. The sole can be replaced by tilapiafillets. A one-pot meal, this makes for a great light lunch or dinner.
Pooja and I finally managed to take a short break and spent a week celebrating her cousin Anjali and Vipul’s 20th wedding anniversary in Phuket end of May.
On their previous trip Vipul had unearthed this smallish eatery, located just off Sarasin Bridge. Very understated place but boy is it a great place to spend a lazy afternoon! Given that we had gone at the start of the monsoon, their outside tables were put away so we settled on a table with the best view of the sea inside one of the salas. And the rain did come down really hard for about 20 minutes. Fantastic spectacle to watch with the open sea at short distance.
One of Vipul’s childhood buddy’s, who’s been in Bangkok for almost 25 years now, was visiting us for the day and helped us with the language since their manager (who spoke English fluently) was on holiday. The staff was attentive without being intrusive and the service was fast and always with a smile.
Now these guys are obviously sticking to their name when it comes to menu composition. Other than a few beef, pork and chicken dishes, it’s pretty much a seafoodie’s paradise. They have it all except that on the day we visited, they didn’t have oysters. They made up for that in spades with the rest of it!
We started with some Morning Glory, Raw Papaya Salad with Prawns and Tom Yum Goong clear soup. For those who know me, eating green leafy stuff means the planet’s run out of non-vegetarian options. Completely. I was wolfing this salad down like there was no tomorrow. In a word – Brilliant!
Tom Yum Goong…. yummmmmmmmmm! Piping hot, served in this volcano shaped dish with a little fire inside to keep it warm. Just tangy enough for the bong in my wife, just spicy enough for her 9 year old niece Anaya, loaded with shrimp and some squid and cuttlefish thrown in for good measure. There’s something really nice about sipping on a hot and delicious seafood broth while its pouring cats and dogs outside.
Tom Yummmmmmmmmm Goong
The Raw Papaya Salad was so fresh and crunchy, it totally hit the spot. There was just a hint of some finely chopped birds eye chili in there and it totally elevated the dish.
Raw Papaya Salad with Prawns
And so more of the same was ordered!
We then moved on to the main course. Oh yeah we were being gluttons for sure.
Anaya had had enough seafood and was craving her favorite chicken so we got some chicken and rice for her. For us we got the Phad Thai, Steamed Asian Sea Bass, and Honey Tamarind Chili Prawns.
The Pad Thai was okay but the prawns and the fish – oh my god they were good!
The fish was moist and perfectly cooked. Loads of garlic and lime with the birds eye giving it enough heat without being spicy. The fish was not overpowered by the condiments and its flavours came shining through. We did order a second one just to stay with the gluttony theme.
Steam Asian Sea Bass with Garlic and Lime
What can I say of the prawns? Large, succulent, juicy, crunchy – in a word – delicious!
Honey Tamarind Chili Prawns
Tamarind is not on my favourites list of flavours. But these guys have got it just right with the honey and chili pairing. Thick sauce coated the prawns and we just dove right in with our hands. It really was a standout dish.
The rains and seafood really did it for me that day. Very enjoyable afternoon. What was weird though was that none of us wanted any beer to wash it down with. I tell you, good food makes you do silly things sometimes. It really was a great afternoon.
Bijal Patel Co-Founder Fishvish Hardcore food junkie, loves to cook for his wife.