Food

The fish you didn’t know Chennai eats

Educate yourself about lesser-known local species, as you watch fisherfolk arrive with the day’s catch in Chennai’s Nochikuppam

There is a reason the karapodi or kaaraipodi fish is called silverbelly. It glistens silver-white not only when fresh out of the water, but also when scaled and simmering in rich tomato gravies, inside the traditional Tamil Nadu kitchen. Though fished aplenty this time of year, the species is not commonly consumed in Chennai: most restaurant-goers are unaware of it.

“The rural halibut is another fish we expect to see this time of year, along with the tongue sole. Sardines are also common, and used only in particular preparations,” says Chaitanya Krishna of In Season Fish, adding that there are many such species found in plenty locally, but used only to a limited extent. It is one of the reasons why InSeason Fish is taking Chennaiites on a ‘fishploration’ walk through the city’s Nochikuppam, this weekend.

“The fish in India are very diverse, and the fisherfolk catch all this diversity. We want the people to see this for themselves,” says Chaitanya. A similar event is also being held in Mumbai, as part of In Season Fish’s years-long attempt to educate the country about endemic species, breeding seasons and conscientious consumption.

Adds Chaitanya, “Traditionally, in the fishing community, it is the men who catch the fish and the women who sell them. At Nochikuuppam, the men head out for fishing trips that are three to four hours long, starting before daybreak and returning by 7.30 am. We plan to be there when they return to the shore.”

He also adds that while the men undertake the task of fishing, it is the women here who are storehouses of information about each species. They are the ones cleaning them, dicing them, selling them and also taking them home to cook. “So if you notice any species that you cannot identify or have not seen or cooked before, all you have to do is ask them,” he says, adding that the transfer of recipes and culinary traditions is another thing they are hoping to achieve through these walks.

Since InSeason Fish has conducted such informal walks before, the fisherfolk are used to them, says Chaitanya, and have come to expect questions and queries. “We will also be there to facilitate the interaction,” he says.

Participants are also encouraged to carry bags with them and buy from the fisherfolk directly. “Usually, there are many interfering middlemen that come before the consumer. This is a good opportunity to ensure that the fishermen get the full price for their catch, themselves.”

The fishploration walk is being organised by InSeason Fish and Marine Life of Mumbai on February 9. For details, visit www.coastwise.in or call 7710000033.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 8:28:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/indian-lesser-known-local-fish-species-in-chennai/article30751283.ece

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