We launched high quality chicken and mutton (goat meat) just over 2 weeks ago. And just last Sunday our first few Heat & Eat chicken and mutton dishes were rolled out. A few more will be added over the span of this week.
It’s taken us a while to introduce these products, I mean we started with just fish and all kinds of seafood a fair amount of time ago right? We just wanted to be sure that the quality of chicken and mutton we offered met the same high standards of quality we had set ourselves for fish and seafood.
As has been our wont we took our time identifying the right suppliers. We had spent about 6 months researching and talking to domain experts on what constitutes “high quality meat”. In a word – exhilarating!
But as the saying goes “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” so more than a few tests were done by yours truly using various cuts of our chicken. I have photos of 2 of these attempts so am posting about those here. The others were as good, probably better, since they barely made it out of the kitchen hence the lack of photos!
The plan was to make a lemon and thyme roast chicken (thank you, again, Heston Blumenthal). I started with a whole chicken with skin which was promptly brined. This brining of chicken before roasting pro-tip comes courtesy the same mad genius that is Heston. I have used this technique before and it works like a charm.
The next day however, I changed my mind and decide to make my version of a tandoori roast chicken in the oven. I felt this method and masala called for a no-skin chicken so had to skin the bird – no mean task if you don’t have the right knife at home. I managed easily enough though.
The marinade was fairly standard – yogurt, coriander powder, red chilli powder, ginger garlic paste, salt, garam masala, turmeric powder and some tandoori masala. Nope, no red colour. A few choice gashes on the legs and back of the chicken and then just massaged the marinade into the chicken – inside and out. Back in the fridge for 6 hours (yeah just did not have the patience for a 24-hour marinate).
I did do something that needed to be done a long time ago. I weighed the bird before it went into the brine and it was a healthy 1.15 Kgs with skin – after brining and removing the skin it was still a healthy 1.02 Kgs. With the marinade on it, it went up to 1.12 Kgs. And wonder of wonders, just before it was wolfed down it was a magnificently juicy 932 gms! It really is fantastic quality chicken – stayed juicy and didn’t release oodles and oodles of water.
I sprayed it with some oil and it went into a pre-heated oven at 120°C and sat there for 2 hours! Yeah nice and slow. The last 6-7 minutes, I cranked up the heat all the way up to 300°C just to crisp it up a little and get that char on the little skin I had left on the wings and neck.
Sadly the only photo I have is this one:
Tandoori Masala Roast Chicken
As you can see I used my fingers to pick at it – just a quick nibble. The photo does not do justice to this absolutely awesome tandoori roast as I like to call it.
A momentary lapse of reason had me sending this picture to a friend – he was incensed at not being called so I had to promise to this again – which is where the next escapade comes in.
The prep was really simple – as always, Pooja did all the grunt work – cut the onions (quartered), tomatoes (thick slices) and green bell peppers (thick slices). These were layered on the bottom of an oven proof dish. Dusted with garlic and ginger powder and lightly drizzled with sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar. A dash of salt, pepper, chilli flakes and dried basil and oregano. The drumsticks were laid on top of this gorgeous bed and a quick drizzle of sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar and just a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
Before going into the oven
This went into a preheated 150°C oven for 1 hour. I cranked it to 250°C for the last couple minutes and this is what it looked when it came out.
When it came out of the oven
Absolutely yummy. The onions and tomatoes added the sweetness and the peppers gave it the body it required. It was very juicy on the inside and this was chicken that had NOT been brined. Man that’s good chicken! It looked brilliant and to quote Jamie Oliver – “was absolutely delish”.
I have now used every cut of chicken we have for various dishes at home and even our kitchen help commented once that it cooks faster and looks better than any chicken she has seen. That for me was the only endorsement I needed. She knows her meats whether chicken, seafood and mutton and this was big coming from her.
Bijal Patel Co-Founder Fishvish Hardcore food junkie, loves to cook for his wife.
Octopus is as common as prawns and fish along the coast.
I can’t really remember the first time I ate octopus; it was definitely not in my growing years—we stuck to freshly caught river fish, since salt-water fish was almost impossible to procure in our nook of the hinterland. Adulthood ushered in experimenting with newer foods, which was further supported by the move to a bigger city with more food-crazy people to make friends with and eateries that welcomed patrons looking for new experiences. Honest confession: I’ve stuck to grilled octopus all the times I’ve had the privileged option of ordering this not-so-good-looking eight-armed “monster of the deep”. The last time this happened was at a teeny South Beach store of a popular Miami ceviche chain; we carried our order out to the beer lounge of a youth hostel next door, ordering a round with our tasty dinner, the last night of our trip. I ordered a fish and shrimp ceviche aji amarillo-style, grilled octopus and a side of mango slaw. Of course it was a lot of food for one person, and I surely would’ve been happy with the grilled octo and tangy slaw.
Octopus may be an exotic ingredient for a lot of us inlanders, but it’s as common as prawns and fish for the folk living by the sea, along the coastline. While not the most popular of seafood galore, octopus has its own following of fervent fans who appreciate its deep-sea brininess and distinct flavour. And while grilling seems to be the most popular way of enjoying this fascinating creature around the world, there are plenty of stews, curries, and even raw dishes to line up for the bucket list. Raw octopus may literally be the last one on the “things to eat before you die” list; Korean sannakji is still-wriggling octopus cut into small pieces, served with salt and sesame oil. These are to be chewed well before swallowing them down your throat; the suction cups on the arms have been known to latch on to the inner walls. Very few seafood varieties can claim to bring on such excitement and thrill.
You may think there’s something royal about octopuses; they literally are blue-blooded, and are marked in shades of purple, that colour most associated with nobility. Considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates, they exhibit complex behaviour, including using coconut shells to conceal themselvesand changing body shapes to mimic other animals. They are all venomous, but the venom is mild in most species making them perfectly fine to eat. The strikingly pretty blue-ringed octopus, however, carries enough venom to kill twenty-six adult humans within minutes. Just like the other cephalopods that include squid and cuttlefish, octopuses eject a dark ink when threatened. Masters of camouflage, they can change colours to match surroundings. Most species inhabit the deep depths of seas and oceans, but some are found closer to the surface and also tide pools and coral reefs.
In The Raw
Baby octopus is prized all over the world.
Raw, octopus meat is white and purple, gelatinous and firm. When cooked, the outside turns a reddish pink, while the inside is all white. The arms, misleadingly termed ‘tentacles’ have rows of suckers, similar to those seen on squids; the array patterns may differ between species though. Octopus meat is lean in fat, low-calorie and full of protein; dieters and gym rats revel in the 160 calories and 30 grams of protein each tasty portion of 100 grams has. The meat is especially rich in iron and Omega-3 fatty acids, with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, selenium and vitamin B12 thrown in. The cholesterol content, just like in some other seafood, may be a little higher than what’s ideal, but a small serving eaten regularly is just what keeps the nutritionist stoked.
Getting hold of freshly caught octopus may be easier if you live next to the coast, or have access to a supermarket or fishmonger getting daily deliveries of fresh catch. Cleaning fresh octopus can be a little tricky, but there are several tutorials available, breaking the process down into easy steps for noobs. The processis riveting, from the removal of the eyes and beak to the blanching of tentacles in boiling water, so that they curl up evenly. Using the frozen versionmakes it so much easier though, since it is usually cleaned and prepped, ready to be cooked, so no advance planning is required. Another bonus—frozen octopus is much easier to work with. A lot of home cooks recommend freezing fresh octopus to tenderize it for faster cooking, so you already have a head start. Thawing 10-12 hours in the fridge before cooking is an option, or accelerate this by putting the sealed package in cold water for about 30 minutes. Open package, and use contents as needed. Remember to maintain a constant cold temperature for the meat, if not cooking right away.
The Long and Short of It
Octopus is either flash cooked or stewed for a long time.
Which brings us to the best part, where it gets more exciting. Also, sometimes confusing. Octopus is one of those ingredients that elicit a cluster of cooking suggestions ranging from the obvious to the aberrant— either flash cook it or braise or simmer for hours, as for squid; thwack it against rocks(or a kitchen sink for the modern version); boil in a copper pot; simmer with a wine cork. Scientists, however, suggest adding a bit of vinegar and lots of cooking time for a richly flavoured dish with the right bit of bite. All however don’t agree, but old, inherited wisdom and hands-on experience do seem to have the authoritative edge.
Many of the suggestions for cooking squid can be applied to cooking octopus as well; which only makes sense since they both belong to the same cephalopod family. Octopus that has been cooked longer than a minute or two, but lesser than the hour or so recommended to break down the gelatinous tissue will be chewy and rubbery—exactly the thing some diners complain about, and cite as an excuse to avoid eating. But blame the unskilled hands, since well-cooked meat is a pleasure to eat—not exactly melting, but tender with a bite. Baby octopuses cook faster than fully-grown animals, so it’s not uncommon to find grilled baby octopus served with a dipping sauce, or in salad.
Low and slow simmering is the key to cooking. “The average simmering time should be about an hour for a one pound (450g) Octopus, two hours for a four pound (1.8kg) Octopus, but that will vary.” suggests Cook’s info. You could simmer the meat in water, or stew it in a stock, adding onions or leeks, garlic, herbs like thyme and parsley, even spices like bay leaves, peppercorns etc. The tenderized meat can be finished on the grill, quickly charring it, or added to stews and curries. The braising stock can added to the latter for better flavours. The meat shrinks quite a lot during cooking, so account for that when deciding portions.
What You Gonna Do?
Grilled octopus is very popular in many cuisines.
What can you do with octopus? Plenty of dishes. Cook the meat until tender, and stuff it into flaky pastries like this. Fry the cooked meat with potatoes and chorizo for a Spanish-style stir-fry or toss with cooked potatoes to make a polpo e patate. Another salad from italy, more specifically Puglia, mixes together celery, carrot, parsley with cooked pieces. For an Italian-Asian thrill, serve octopus stir fried with sesame oil, mushrooms and basil over angel hair. Speaking of Asian, Korean cuisine has a lot to offer, octopus-wise. Nakji Bokkeumtraditionally uses baby octopus to stir fry with veggies and sauces and hot pepper, but tenderized discs of larger tentacles can be used too. For Jjukkumi Gui(Spicy Grilled Baby Octopus), you could use braised meat; marinate for at least 3 hours before the final stage of cooking.
Octopus, known as makul in Marathi, is quite popular among fishing communities in and around coastal areas in various states in our country. While Indian dishes using this seafood have not made it to mainstream eating out yet, there are plenty of recipes developed around it. Uday Potdar, a medical professional with a passion for everyday local cuisine explains his favourite ways of cooking octopus: “Baby octopus chilly fry—the Goan way; octopus moilee—the Kerala way; octopus koshimbir (salad)—stir-fried octopus with fresh roasted and crushed cumin, a dash of kokum extract, coal-roasted shallots, crushed sea salt, garnished with freshly scraped coconut and chopped coriander”.
Octopus curry is relished not only in India, but also Jamaica, Seychelles, Mauritius etc.
Octopus dishes can be paired with many wines, including most whites, even some light-bodied reds. A fruity Zinfandel will be great with grilled octo, but a Rioja should couple equally well too. Look at a pinot noir to match with an octopus salad, and a viognier with curry.
It’s All About The Now
Life is pretty dull if it’s all about reaching out for the known and familiar every time. A little excitement, a tad of thrill on your plate will keep you chugging along splendidly. A tasty adventure is just the ride you need. Go ahead and cross that off your bucket list.
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.
Now that the festivities are over (only temporarily, of course) it’s time to get back to humdrum routine of the daily grind. You know what they say about taking a vacation to cope with the after-effects of a vacation? That is definitely needed after the stressful holiday season—stressful, since cleaning, shopping, cooking, entertaining, gifting, celebrating with your dearest ones is never the easiest job in the world.
What is, however, easy-peasy is cooking each of these 12 seafood recipes compiled for your gastronomical pleasure. When we say easy cooking, we also mean easy prepping, since each of these feature 5 ingredients or lesser, not counting basic salt and pepper, water, oil and butter—cooking essentials in every kitchen. You may think they’re all probably grilled, since how many dishes can you come up with that include 5 ingredients, one of them being seafood? We have stir-fries, baked fillets, kebabs, and even a curry. Easy to prep, nifty to put together, these are just what you need to kick back after the festive flurry has died down.
Of course, if you want to make it even more no-sweat, you can always look towards the Heat & Eatrange from Fishvish. Featuring curries and pasta, fried fish and roast squid, these are made from recipes shared by expert home chefs that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Because you deserve a break too, and because everyday meals can also be small celebrations.
1. Five-Spice Tilapia
Tilapia is an amazing ingredient to work with; it lends itself mouldably well to dishes ranging from subtle to spicy, soup to samosa. Add to that the delicate yet robust one-two punch of fennel, and cinnamon, cloves, star anise and Szechuan peppercorns, collectively known as Chinese five-spice mix; the conclusion is a sweet-salty, fragrant dish flecked with green onions that is great on its own with lemon wedges, or even better with rice. If you can’t find reduced sodium soy, use the light variant mixed with a little cooking sherry.
The rich oiliness of salmon is further augmented by a nutty crust that includes lemon zest for brightness and parsley for its gentle herby flavour. Spinach stir-fried with garlic and olive oil makes for an appropriate accompaniment. Also consider serving a simple kale salad that has chopped garlic and olive oil ‘massaged’ in. The tangy, vegetal bitterness of the salad offsets the salmon and almond crust well, and does away with the need for any cheese or dairy.
Find great salmon fillets for this delish recipe here
Diced tomatoes with oregano and basil may not be easy to come by in our part of the world. But the temperate weather assures all-year access to fresh tomatoes and herbs in most regions. For another twist, consider replacing some of the love apples with their cherry-sized and shaped cousins. Leave the capers in as is, they go compellingly well with tomatoes. Also, you would be totally forgiven if you swap in a couple of chopped garlic cloves with the onion; in fact, you may be hailed as a culinary genius. Of course, there are more chances of that happening if you serve your Tuscan baked fish topped with bits of soft robiola. Serve with a simple salad and garlic bread.
So autumn may not be fresh mango season, but do not let that stop you from planning a light lunch or dinner around this easily done and healthy dish; it’s done in 15 mins (excluding marination time), and is only 158 calories per serving. Consider using chopped fresh pineapple that is easily available all year-round. Cook the shrimp briefly as instructed and tip into a bowl; in the same pan, sauté the pineapple until a little soft. Add the half-done shrimp, seasoning, onion greens and basil, toss quickly and serve as an appetizer or a side.
The herbed butter, with notes of lemon peel, melts on top of the red snapper fillets, echoing the citrus whoop of the lemon slices the fish bakes on. Some may be tempted to add a little minced garlic to either the butter or the seasoning for the fish, but restraint will make you appreciate the light subtlety of the dish at the dining table. Serve with sautéed parsley potatoes for a filling meal, with a glass of a zesty Chenin Blanc.
A typical crab cake recipe will ask for everything from scallions to garlic powder. These, however, come together in a jiffy, and since you have mayo, Dijon and lemon included, you can do away with the other seasoning bit too; add a little freshly ground pepper if you have to. The mayonnaise and mustard, in fact, make a great dip for these savoury cakes. A little lemon won’t hurt either. Toss together a green salad with mustard dressing to serve alongside.
Wondering where to score crab meat? We have you covered
Now Indian cooking demands a long list of ingredients, dried and fresh, and hours of slow cooking, or that’s what we’ve come to believe. This recipe belies all such notions and calls for essential staples like ginger garlic, lemon, chilli and turmeric to be smeared on fish steaks. After a quick marinating time of 15 minutes, the steaks are coated in semolina and pan fried until crisp. The curry leaves to be added to the frying oil may be optional, but add great flavour. Opt for surmai or river fish like rohu, or even prawns if you like them the best. Either way, this is as delicious as it gets, with bare necessities.
Calling these just ‘fish kebabs’ doesn’t really do them justice. These entail a total of 5 ingredients, including salt and pepper and olive oil, and feature lemon peel threaded between fish cubes on skewers. The lemon oil from the peel flavours the fish beautifully during grilling, and the garnish of chervil or parsley heightens the fresh lightness of the dish.
For a recipe like this that counts on the freshness of ingredients to make it shine, you absolutely must use great quality ingredients, including fish. Find some here.
A slow cooker recipe for shrimp is not something you come across every day. However, it’s the sauce that’s simmered on High for 2 hours, with the shrimp thrown in during the final 15-30 minutes of cooking. While the now easily-recognizable Thai curry ingredients of curry paste, coconut milk, fresh coriander (cilantro) are all in there, the lemon-garlic seasoning makes it the different dish it is. Either way, these shrimp are made to be served atop rice or quinoa or any other cooked grain of your choice. If you don’t have prawns with shells on, the shelled variety will work just fine. Just be careful about cooking them right; prawns are easily done, and can go from perfectly cooked to rubbery in less than a minute.
Halibut is another firm fish that pairs well in a wide variety of ingredients. Here, however, it takes on the simple and tart flavours of a lemon basil pesto which is surprisingly nut-free, and couples bright lemon zest and juice with pungent garlic. The fish itself is kept simple, grilling it with a simple salt and pepper rub. No fancy antics, and yet here’s a pleasingly flavourful dinner. Bring on the long days, there are treats to look forward to later.
The grilled zucchini, corn and pepper stir-fry in the image look appealing and appropriate to serve on the side.
11. Sautéed Tilapia Tacos with Grilled Peppers and Onion
Tacos are a saviour on rushed days, just like wraps are; combine your favourite protein with veggies, place in taco shells or soft tortillas, squeeze some lime wedges and eat. The beauty of these tilapia tacos is the unusual cooking techniques incorporated—the fish fillets are sautéed, and the veggies are grilled, instead of the expected other way round. The twist results in soft fish chunks wrapped with charred, smoky onions and peppers. To ratchet up the smoky heat, consider grilling the jalapeño too, then slice and add. Also, creamy avocado slices add texture and smoothness. Corn tortillas can be replaced by wheat, or even taco shells if desired.
Okay, so the original recipe is one for garam masala haddock, but the spice rub that this uses is so versatile, it can be used on everything from basa to tuna. More like a Western take on an Indian spiced fish, this is different from regular fried fish in that it is not coated with any semolina or panko or flours, but relies on the spice rub to create a slight crust around the fillet, sealing in flavour and moisture, thanks to the quick sear in a hot pan. Try using the suggested ghee instead of olive oil for a richer, smokier flavour.
Pujo or Durga Pooja, as known in the rest of the country, is the high point of every proud, passionate Bengali’s life. It’s what Diwali is like in the other states, save for the communal fervency amid myriad colours, similar to Navratri in Gujarat that is unsurprisingly celebrated around the same time. However, while Navratri across most of the country focuses on fasting, feasting in the name of pandal-hopping is the numero uno agenda of Pujo, for both Bengalis and non-.
You may or may not make it to a teeming pandal, but let that not stop you from celebrating Pujo in your heart and in your kitchen. Presenting for your gourmand pleasure ten spectacularly delicious dishes and recipes that will make the bhadraloks go “Khoob bhalo!”.
1. Prawn Chop
Bangalis and pseudo-Bangalis (yours truly included) commence the pandal-hopping routine by first queuing up for the Pratima Darshan, followed by standing in line at the chingrir or macher chop stall. The ‘chop’ in the name may be misleading—these are croquettes rather than meat ribs—but the golden-crisp, spicy, popular street food made with chopped prawns and potatoes will more than shine at a community gathering of delicious meat and seafood dishes. Some people stick in an icecream stick in the croquette to play up to the name, but all variants, non-rib-alluding too, must be served with kasundiand tomato ketchup, with a little garnish of crunchy cabbage and sliced onion sometimes. Think of this as a little prelude to the feast that awaits.
Another variant has wonderfully complex and meaty banana flowers mixed inwith the cooked shrimp—this really is a cross between the chingrir chop and mocha’r (banana flower) chop, essentially combining the best of both worlds—but start with the simple classic to get into the groove of things.
The quintessential pandal announces itself by way of 3 distinct whiffs—the deep woody aromas of dhoop burning in the dhunachis, elegantly dressed women wearing perfume not quite close to the skin, and fish frying. Bengali-style fried fish may or may not be served with chips, but a splatter of the Bengali version of hot dog condiments, a.k.a spicy kasundi and ketchup alongside are non-negotiable. River fish like rohu is a popular choice for frying, but bhetki is equally loved. The fried fish makes appearances in different forms— you have steaks or fillets smeared in spices and herbs, crumbed and fried until they can’t take it anymore, like this one; there’s maach bhaja— fish steaks dabbed with a simple salt and turmeric rub, then fried in mustard oil to crisp deliciousness; and kabiraji— soft pieces in a lacy, egg-turned-to-edible golden net. The last comes from the days of the Raj. Either way, fish fry has been around forever; Pujos may come and go, addas may disperse, but fish fry will be around. Much like the unmistakable aromas in the pandal.
Kathi rolls may be a cult Kolkata export, but not many people outside of the state may have heard about these epic ‘rolls’; maybe because they will effortlessly outshine the meat-in-an-egg-wrap snack? Conspiracy theories aside, fish rolls take the Bengali devotion to marine dwellers (and all things crumbed and fried) to mind-blowing proportions. We’re talking a spicy mix of cubed fish stuffed into marinated fish fillets that are rolled into fat cigars, spun in breadcrumbs and eggwash, and submitted to hot oil. Who would want to settle for kathi rolls ever again? Bhetki fillets are great for rolling, as are tilapia. Use diced rohu meat to stuff the fillets.
So the Bengalis have their own version of fish in banana leaves, along with the Thais, Indonesians, Parsis, Oriyas, Malayalis, and other fish-adoring cultures. What the Bengalis do differently is to pit their favourite mustard against sweet, creamy coconut on a fillet of firm white fish. Since the sharp mustard paste just isn’t enough, there’s hearty mustard oil to ratchet up the heat, along with green chilli paste doing its bit. Tightly bound in green banana leaves to seal in flavours, the fillets (or steaks) are pan-grilled till the leaves show scorch marks on the surface in contact. Unwrapping the leaf parcels is a fragrant experience, one that may give you a head rush with the mustard fumes. Fish en papillote? No thanks, we’ll take the bhetki macher paturi. With a side of white rice please.
Consuming dairy and fish together may be taboo in some cultures, but the long-time presence of doi maach will assuage most fears in a delicately delicious way. Fish fried in turmeric and salt is gently poached in a tangy yoghurt curry redolent with aromatic whole spices. The yoghurt needs to be cooked carefully; a little goes in at a time, and is constantly stirred until well cooked and incorporated into the onion masala. Frying the fish in mustard oil is a given; its smoky depth riffs against the creamy lightness of the yoghurt, resulting in a well-balanced main dish. A side of vegetables and steamed rice will make for an indulgent lunch for one or for a tableful.
Rohu/rui, beloved of the Bengalis is a favoured choice for doi maach; choose steaksor curry cut fish. Catlaworks well too.
The heartthrob of every Bengali, young and old, male and female is the hilsa, the best of which comes from the rivers of Bangladesh. Also the national fish of the neighbouring country, the Bengalis consider ilish an offering worthy of the Goddesses of Learning, and Prosperity. Cooking with golden mustard and chilli paste flecked with dark bits of the outer mustard husk brings out the beauty of the bony fish; the mustard oil adds a layer of unctuous pungency, the richness of which is augmented by the naturally oily ilish. A side of white rice will be served without being requested, the perfect neutral foil to the sharpness of the crushed yellow mustard. Whether you eat it in a thin curry sauce (shorshe bata ilish), or steamed with a thick smear of the glistening paste (bhapa ilish), ilish is an experience that will make the toughest Bengali heart melt with nostalgia and fondness.
While this Bengali crab curry may not have the silky smoothness of the chingri malaikari, some of the ingredients used and the method of cooking bear a strong similarity to the prawn curry. There’s ground onion, ginger and garlic-small portions of each, so that the inherent crab flavour shines through-, sweet spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves, and chopped tomatoes for acidity. The crab is first poached in boiling water, and the liquid reserved for the flavourful curry base. Unshelled crab is not the easiest thing to eat at a pandal, while gleeful droves mill around and you’re trying to juggle several plates of chow together, so a lot of families prefer a doggy bag to go. You of course don’t need to get out at all; stay clear of traffic woes and crowds and order your cut crab here
Bengali cuisine may not use coconuts as extensively as, say, its Konkani counterpart in the coastal region cluster, but it is this slightly restrained presence that catapults the dishes featuring the ingredient into prominent significance. Now you may find variations of the prawn curry that call for ground coconut, but coconut milk—the rich, full-fat kinds—will escalate this dish to sublime superiority. Notice the ‘malai’ in the name? It refers to the creaminess of the coconut milk, no connection to the dairy version. Add to that a dash of whole and ground earthy spices—remember the restraint mentioned above—and a soupcon of sugar to bring out the coconutty sweetness some more, and you have a dish fit for the Gods. Why isn’t this offered in poojas instead of ilish, you may wonder as you mix in soft rice on your plate with silky prawns. Probably because we want to save the best for our selfish selves. We are only human, after all.
Use medium or large sized prawns for this, find them here.
You could call daab chingri the tender coconut version of malaikari, but you would be describing in too-simple terms a delicately nuanced dish. Agreed that both use coconut flesh and prawns, but the flavours of the finished dish, if not only the presentation, couldn’t be more different. The daab or young coconut is an integral component; the flesh, water, and even the shell have a role to play in the making of this regional culinary masterpiece. Coconut meat is blended into a paste which forms the base of the thick sauce; the water is blended with mustard and poppy seeds for a touch of gentle, nutty bite; the shell serves as a sealed vehicle to cook and present the prepared dish. Cook the sealed coconut stuffed with the stir-fried prawns and sauce either in the microwave, oven or even in a pressure cooker on the stovetop. Pretty easy to dish up, and yet so distinctly elegant, this is the showstopper you want to serve at that intimate dinner for two and the dinner party. Serve a Bengali mishti pulav to go along.
A lot of Bengali moms and grandmoms will credit centuries of eating fish for their beautiful skin and hair, and while this may be true, a little part of that could also be attributed to the love of fish heads. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, fish bones, brains, cartilage and fat are nutritious, containing extra-high levels of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and calcium. Looks like Bongs have been in the know all this while.
Some recipes for muri ghonto, made with rohu, catla or any other fish head of choice, ask for teaspoons of rice, while others put in a whole cup, making it a flavour-packed fish pilaf. The latter is such a convenient option— a one-dish meal that you could serve with a salad. Gobindobhog rice is the go-to choice, but use another short-grained white if that is available. A spoonful of ghee on the prepared dish is how it comes of a Bengali rannaghar (kitchen).
We live in the times of chicken tikka pizza and curry noodles, Parle-G cheesecake and Baileys gulab jamun, khichdi arancini and masala risotto. The most ‘foreign’ flavours, right from cheese and mayonnaise, ketchup and soy sauce, and especially chocolate have permeated our culinary DNA so deep, cheese pav bhaji and chocolate burfi are now mainstream menu items. Fusion food has been around for several centuries, and the simplest everyday example is that of the samosa. The samosa was introduced to India in the 13th or 14th century from the Middle East, where the origins of the name also lie, in the word “sambosa”. The filling, originally made with meat, took on new form with spices and then vegetables, now commonly potatoes and peas.
Call it fusion or regional influence, but the world has been bestowed with game-changing gastronomy heroes thanks to the confluence of diverse cooking traditions and introduction of new ingredients that the movement and migration of people across regions have brought about. It’s what gave us the bánh mi, katsu karē, Tangra Chinese, Tex-mex cuisine. An introduction to the different foods of the world also encourages us to look at our own in various contexts. From street food carts peddling sev puri sandwiches to fine dining establishments serving lobster makhani, we are more open to experimenting with dishes than ever. Thai golgappas and masala chai kulfis are here to stay, and it can only get better.
Even more reason for you to experiment with little-known but unbelievably delicious seafood recipes that are the result of two or more diverse cuisines and cooking techniques. Here are 10 of them, that are going to make you fly, whether you have your cape on or not. Swap that with a cooking apron maybe?
1. South Indian Fish Sandwich: This carb-less stunner is the handiwork of a Michelin-star Indian-origin chef, no less. (Keto dieters, this is the answer to your starchless prayers.) Fillets of plaice are marinated in spices and tangy tamarind, and stuffed with a fragrant crabmeat masala, and this is finished in the oven. Served with cherry tomatoes tossed with a balsamic-turmeric vinaigrette, this is a go-to choice for a fancy-schmancy dinner, that is easily put together even on a weeknight. No plaice? No problem, substitute halibutor even tilapiafillets.
2. Poha Prawn Biryani: Sanjeev Kapoor has been cooking before food shows became a hit on TV, so has impeccable bona fide fusion credentials to his name. His prawn tempura in pita pockets may sound quick-meal worthy, but it’s this everyday-breakfast-meets-festive-dish that really gets your attention. Poha Prawn biryani includes all the eponymous ingredients it so proudly proclaims, and even begins the way a dish of poha does. What comes later is the stuff that’ll amaze your dining guests, even if it’s at the breakfast table.
3. Asian-Spiced Fish Tacos with Asian Slaw and Sriracha Mayo: Tacos already make for such great crowdpullers, it doesn’t take much to dress them up some more. Throw in an Asian twist, and you’re looking at cleaned out plates and smiling happy faces around. Crunchy panko-coated bites of tilapia in a tortilla get the Oriental treatment with an Asian-style slaw and some seriously addictive Sriracha-spiked mayo. It couldn’t get any better, but may be serving a cold beer along will make it just perfect.
4. Curry Flavored Pan-fried Spanish Mackerel (Sawara no karee munieru): Curry came to Japan from India, indirectly though via the British, so it’s considered a Western import. Origins aside, curry is much loved in the country even though it’s put together in a way that’s more French than South Asian; a curry powder and flour roux is added to simmering meat and vegetable stews for the Japanese version of curry. This dish is the crispy soft version of the spiced stew; curry powder-dusted mackerel is fried golden and steamed with a cube of butter and white wine. Like we said, it’s more French than Indian.
5. Indian-spiced Fish Cakes: Considering how popular Thai fish cakes are, and how excellently they’ll adapt to any cuisine that loves its spices, these Indian-style ones are a no-brainer. Bengalis may recognize in them Macher Chop, while the other regions may call them tikkis thanks to the potato quotient, but serve them with mango chutney, or “raita” made with yoghurt and mint jelly, and they are as pukka as they come. A good idea to use leftover salmon, these can also be made with mackerel.
6. Grilled Fish Kebobs with Parsley and Garlic Butter: Kebobs, kabobs or kebabs—call them what you will—come in various forms, but globally, especially in the West, denote grilled meat or veggies on sticks, a.k.a the Indian tikka. In this Giada De Laurentiis recipe which is a fish feast, cubes of salmon, halibut and tuna are marinated in a lemony garlic and parsley oil and skewered to be grilled. The fish is brushed with butter with more parsley and garlic, true to the name. A simple but tasty lunch on a hot day or dinner on a warm evening.
7. Japanese Salmon Burgers: Wasabi, nori, panko, Kewpie mayo—what may sound like someone reading out labels from the Japanese food section at the supermarket is actually the ingredient list for this Jap take on the now universal favourite burger. The salmon patty, which starts as a fish cake of sorts, gets panko-crumbed, to be laid on squirts of cult fav Kewpie mayo and shredded veggie slaw with an Asian dressing. Feel free to replace the regular burger buns with sushi rice burgers from this recipeto take the Japanese theme all the way.
8. Asian-spiced Kedgeree: “Kedgeree started life, in India, as a dish of lentils and rice and then, translated into the kitchens of what could be called the Anglo-Indian Ascendancy, became an eggy, golden pile of rice punctuated with slabby chunks of smoked haddock.” says Nigella Lawson in the introduction to her recipe, which, with its Asian twist, returns the kedgeree closer to its place of origin, the Indian subcontinent. Khichdi got corrupted to kedgeree, and mutated into its British breakfast avatar, almost unrecognizable cloaked in smoked fish and eggs. Nigella adds kaffir lime/makrut leaves and fish sauce to give it an Asian perspective, and replaces the haddock with salmon. Great on the breakfast table as well as for a light lunch.
9. Mexican Shrimp and Grits: The celeb Southern staple, with a massive following thanks to the jumbo shrimp, andouille sausage, and in some versions, bacon it calls for, gets a Mexican twist. Similar to the Cajun version, this one employs garlic and red pepper, and Mexican seasoning. Add to it the convenience of a one-pot dish, and you’re looking at comfort food that can save the world. The avocado and cheese add much-needed creaminess, and the olive oil can be replaced by butter for a heartier version. Choose large or jumbo prawnsfor this dish.
10. Miso Maple-Glazed Salmon: Japanese savoury hero meets Canadian syrupy beauty and together they produce a lovechild that announces itself as Miso Maple-Glazed Salmon to the world. The two ‘M’s are distinct ingredients from their countries of origin; miso is a salty soy paste from Japan, while Canada produces some of the world’s best maple syrup from its multitude of trees. In a marriage solemnized by acrid rice vinegar and hot sauce, these two come together as one in a glaze that goes on top of salmon that is first pan-fried and then broiled till the top caramelizes a little. Serve with asparagus spears and a lemon wedge.