“Following Fish” by Samanth Subramanian……what search terms do you need to enter into Amazon to throw up such a book? 🤔Any guesses?? It’s not a collection of recipes on fish; it’s not a Moby Dick nor a Finding Nemo kind of a story.
It’s a travelogue as the author traverses along the coast of the Indian sub-continent on a quest for the unique fish delicacies in each state and learning the stories each place has to offer. Considering the diversity in the country, you would conclude that each state along the coast and its inhabitants are unique or peculiar, but the author proves otherwise “A fisherman in Tamil Nadu looked very much like a fisherman in Gujarat, as slender as a mast and scorched dry by sun and salt….The rhythms and habits of lives on the coast are so alike because they have been shaped by the same force of nature”
All the Amazon reviews were partial to the author’s Hilsa story in West Bengal; me on the other hand thinks, author’s adventures in Kerala were most interesting. It’s nothing to do with the fact that it’s my home; but everything to do with the unfortunate truth that I discovered new facts about my home state through the author’s travelogue.😇
It is not a continuous sojourn from coast to coast; a journalist by profession, the author takes time out from his regular work every now and then and ventures out. He starts in West Bengal with the famed Hilsa fish, the Pearl Spot or Karimeen in Kerala, to the fish treatment in Hyderabad (involves swallowing live murrel fingerling stuffed with a medicine), the Fish podi in Tamil Nadu, the Bangda curry and Rawa fry in Mangalore, then to Mumbai, Gujarat along India’s coast…🐠
A good read, the fish dishes are simple local fare, common man’s meal; he takes you to hole in the wall places and not the five star restaurants. The author serves it with the stories scripting the lives of the fisherfolk; you get a peek into their ordinary lives; remarkable tales that otherwise find no voice.
One fish that I felt was left out in the Seer fish or Neymeen. It’s a meaty fish and any celebratory occasion at home meant we cook Neymeen. It is relatively expensive and tasty and my grandmother referred to it as the biscuit fish as you can slice it thin and easily without the flesh flaking. You count the number of people eating and divide the fish to the exact number of portions. Cooks fast and is very versatile.
One of my favourite Seer fish preparations is the Fish Molee, fish cooked in coconut milk and it’s not spicy. The heat in the dish is from green chillies and small amount of crushed red chillies. The absence of red chilli powder, gives it the characteristic yellow colour. The spice mix is turmeric powder, coriander powder, jeera powdered and crushed red chillies. Tomatoes are added for a hint of sourness and colour.
Fish Molee is most suited with Appam or even bread to soak up the delicious gravy; but here I made chapatis and a carrot stir fry to complete the dinner.
And…. I was searching for books on Goa and this book came to view. It’s not a travel guide, but a travelogue, in author’s words “A record of my journeys, my experiences and observations, my conversations with people I met…” A good book and worth a read. Wishing everyone a happy week ahead…🌸
Till next post, take care !!