Tuesday, May 08, 2007

On killing fish…

Indian cooks have this bad habit of overcooking seafood. They kill the fish. Kill it till the flavor is lost and the fish looses identity. I like my seafood coaxed into the pan, gently cooked and identifiably served – pretty and palatable.

I like Japanese food. But I am not a great fan of sushi and it has nothing to do with the food. Once long back as I was traipsing out of a tube station in London a Korean kid in a sushi brand t-shirt offered me a free (promotional) sushi from a blister pack and I took it. Yes I know. I should have thought twice about raw salmon on the roadside. That mouth size packet of the fashionable global delicacy slammed me to my bed in an attic in North London and kept me there for two days. It was a foul case of food poisoning. So no raw fish for me, thank you.

However I took to lightly cooked seafood from other Southeast Asian cuisine – Korean, Vietnamese and Thai. There are two Indian instances where I know my seafood order.

The masala-fried prawns in a local restaurant in Panjim called Anushka are to die for. Anushka is a restaurant in the car park of a house right after Miramar beach. This is a place where locals land up for Kingfisher stubbies and seafood munchies after a hard day at work. (How does one work hard in Goa?) The family that owns Anushka is from Salcette and Salcette cooking is imaginative – a bold mix of spices, vinegar and jaggery. The prawns in Recheado masala are large enough to hold by their unshelled tail and crunch into the juicy meat with vinegar packing the punch and jaggery soothing you all at once. The prawns are cooked right always. They are crunchy and not rubbery.

There is friend of mine in Mumbai who loves her seafood. We love going to a Gomantak (Goan non-christian) cuisine restaurant called Gazalee (means conversation in Konkini). Of course, we end up eating a significant part of the ocean food chain. But we never miss the steamed white Pomfret. Elsewhere, I am not a great fan of white Pomfret as a fish. It is a fish designed for the uninitiated. I prefer black. However, the steamed Pomfret here cannot be disregarded. This is filleted fish with a spicy paste of coriander leaves, mint leaves, green chillies and coconut generously applied across the de-boned split. Without much ado the fish is steamed. I guess it is very difficult to overcook when steaming (unless the chef has passed out or is watching a 70s candy floss love comedy on the tube).
When it comes to the table the fish is intact in little bit of soupy sauce all ready with a squeeze of lemon on top. The fork (always) flakes the fish into pristine white bites of heaven.

Next time you cook fish, coax it and cook light. Enjoy!
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