Dried fish is a much-loved alternative to fresh fish across the country

Many have turned to dried fish as an alternative to the fresh selection throughout lockdown, with its versatility making it in style across the country

One of Jeslin Sleeba’s earliest and lasting meals reminiscences is watching her mom work a grinding stone, making chammanthi (chutney) of dried prawns, shallots, coconut pink chilli and salt. “I remember the taste so vividly,” she says. Jeslin grew up in Muvattupuzha, close to Kochi, the place in contrast to immediately, fresh fish was not accessible every single day and so dried fish was used as a substitute — fried or as chutney.

Borne out of necessity, at a time when consumption relied on native catch, fish has historically been dried for no-fishing months. “Easy entry to fish has modified all that, dried fish has now turn out to be infra dig. When you will get fresh fish from across the country, why would you eat unnakkameen (Malayalam for dried fish)?,” asks Chef Saji Alex, chef de delicacies at Kochi Marriott’s Kerala specialty restaurant Cassava, which has chemmeen dried prawn chutney on its menu.

With the pandemic making it tougher to go to the market, individuals are as soon as once more turning to dried fish. “The process of drying involves enzymatic or microbial activity in the presence of salt. When packed and stored properly, dry fish has a shelf life of more than two years,” says Pradeep Kalidindi, who runs a seafood agency in Andhra Pradesh.

Dried fish has a sturdy flavour and an overwhelming scent, which makes it an acquired style. While smaller fish akin to prawn/shrimp and anchovy are sundried, the course of is totally different for fleshier fish akin to king fish. Traditionally, cleaned fish can be rubbed with salt, packed in palm leaf baskets and hung to dehydrate; now machines do that job.

In Kerala and Tamil Nadu the preparations stick to template — curry, fry, and chutney. Bengal’s shutki maach is maybe the most versatile take. The Bengalis imagine that including shutki elevates the style of greens. For occasion, shutki mixed with brinjal or pumpkin is a in style model.

At Anwesha Banerjee’s house in Kolkata, the battle between soccer golf equipment East Bengal and Mohun Bagan started about 5 years in the past when she married Amlan, a Ghoti (Bengalis of West Bengal). That battle — this time for the humble shukti maach — moved into the kitchen. Popular varieties consumed by Bengalis are Bombay duck, shrimp, ilish and shidol. The solar dried fish was historically consumed by Bengalis of East Bengal (now Bangladesh), the place Kolkata resident Anwesha Banerjee’s ancestors hail from.

“I have so many childhood memories associated with it. My husband though can’t stand its strong pungent smell,” she laughs, including, “My favorite is shutki bata (mishmash or chutney). This is a fiery creation made with onion, garlic and chilli cooked in mustard oil. It tastes heavenly with steaming rice,” says Anwesha.

Monsoon delight

Bombay duck (bombil), christened thus by the British, is maybe the most iconic dried fish. Dried bombil is generally used to make pickles and added to curries in Maharashtrian households.

“Many households crumble the dried-and-salted fish and sprinkle it over their dal or rice to add a crunchy texture. While making bombil curries, we often soak it for half an hour to rehydrate and soften the fish,” says Asavari Koli, a banker who is additionally a meals fanatic.

Bombil vadas at Bombay Canteen

Soaking not solely softens the fish, but in addition washes off the salt decreasing its focus. “Koli, Malvani, Konkani and Goan communities every boast their very own distinct bombil preparation. The Mangaloreans use rava for coating whereas the Konkanis use rice flour. In Goa, the bombil is cooked utilizing a mixture of each rava and the rice flour. The Koli group use their signature Koli masala to cook dinner bombil,” says Asavari.

Of all the recipes that she learnt from her mom, dried Bombay duck masala is her favorite. “Served as a starter, dried Bombay duck masala is a quick recipe using chilli powder, lemon juice, curry leaves and turmeric,” she provides. In Bengal, too, it is had as a starter: dried fish is roasted on charcoal, combined with onion, inexperienced chilli, coriander and lemon juice.

Versatility at its finest

Andhra Pradesh is certainly one of the greatest producers of dried fish in the country together with Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. In Visakhapatnam alone, over 5,000 fisherfolk, principally ladies, eke out their livelihood by drying ribbonfish, lizard fish, sliver bellies, anchovies, crocker ray finned fish, goatfish, sardines and different pelagic fish. Not solely are these exported to Sri Lanka, Thailand, China and Bangladesh, they’re additionally despatched to different States akin to Kerala.

Everyday, three to 4 tonnes of dry fish is produced on common in the area, which is sufficient for native consumption. During the season, the manufacturing goes up to 10 tonnes per day. The course of, after salting fresh fish, takes three to 4 days to dry.

A style of house

  • Manik Deb, who lives in Nagpur, says the finest shutki maach is the shidol sort. A passionate cook dinner who now takes care of an natural farm close to Pench forest, Manik recollects cooking the shidol shutki introduced all the manner from Tripura by his good friend. “Shidol or puti mach (pool barb fish) is saved in an earthen vessel and sealed correctly earlier than it is buried. It is left there for months to present anaerobic situations for fermentation,” says Manik. He prepares the shidol shutki jhaal cooked in mustard oil with onions and a beneficiant dose of chilli, savoured with steamed rice. The pungent appetising aroma grows stronger when cooked. “Just ensure that all the doors and windows are closed while cooking,” chuckles Manik. (Nivedita Ganguly)

Among the regional favourites is the endu chepala vankaya (dry fish brinjal curry) — seasoned with urad and chana dal, mustard and curry leaves, it is finest had with steaming sizzling rice. Vineela Raju, a resident of Visakhapatnam, says, “The dish is known for its robust flavour. It is prepared with a paste of tamarind, red chilli and asafoetida. I learnt this recipe from my grandmother who lived in the West Godavari district. It used to be prepared at a time when we did not get fresh fish in local markets. Now, it is a festive special in our household.”

Pride of place

In Tamil Nadu, fish laid out to dry in entrance of houses, roofs, and terraces is a frequent sight in fishing villages. At the larger fish markets akin to Kasimedu Fishing Harbour in Chennai, there are designated areas for the preparation of dried fish.

Raised concrete platforms organized in rows by the quay, with ample area for folks to stroll in between them, and close by, concrete tubs for soaking the fish with loads of rock salt — this is what the dried fish space of Kasimedu appears like. Here, over 150 ladies are concerned in the preparation, and all of them are members of the Karuvaadu Sangam (dried fish union).

Fisherman R Vinod from Odai Kuppam, Besant Nagar, says that ladies in his locality put together dried fish with unsold fish, and people who don’t make the lower to the market. “They rub rock salt on to the fish, and let this sit for a day. Then, the fish is dried till all the moisture runs out,” he explains.

Vinod says that ladies are concerned in the laborious course of by way of the yr. “Demand is excessive particularly throughout the Tamil month of Aadi, since dried fish curry is a part of the feast that follows a pooja that some folks carry out at house,” he explains.

For some sorts of dried fish, pricing will be the identical as that of its fresh variant. “A kilogram of seer fish today, costs between ₹900 and ₹1,200. For dried seer fish, the price is ₹1,000,” says Vinod. “The pricing also takes into account the fact that for one kilogram of fish, we get only half a kilogram of dried fish.”

Nevertheless, these concerned in the preparation stand to acquire since their merchandise are good for up to six months. “Kedacha varaikkum laabam (It’s a revenue, nevertheless a lot we make),” he says, summing up the philosophy of dried fish from the fisherfolk perspective.

(With inputs from Nivedita Ganguly, Aishwarya Upadhye and Akila Kannadasan)

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