Well hello, Mr Fish

The super-smooth tarmac from Rameswaram to Dhanushkodi is a scenic drive not to be missed, recommended a friend. So I take the road, flanked by a vast expanse of biscuit-coloured sand, beyond which the waters of the sea shimmer under the azure sky. As cars and tourist vans zip by on this newly-laid stretch, some halt by the side to watch the mass congregation of coastal birds, including exotic flamingos.

But that is not the only thing pulling crowds, I realise, as I see a lone shack by the beach, brimming with people. An obscure board outside the thatched-roof exterior announces ‘Mr Fish beach restaurant’, a rather funky name for a humble place. At 2 pm, there is a queue to enter the jam-packed space. A young man, tongs in hand, stands by a hot hissing tawa laden with spiced-up fish, and the smoky flavour engulfs the humid afternoon.

Well hello, Mr Fish

Giving into temptation, I quickly join the serpentine line of garrulous families and reticent foreign tourists. That is how my pilgrimage to the island — that began with fasting and a strictly satvik diet — turned into a sinful indulgence of fried fish, crab curry and smoked prawns.

For a coastal town, Rameswaram is dotted with a surprising number of vegetarian restaurants, and those serving Gujarati Jain food, but hardly any proper sea food place. Mr Fish comes to the rescue.

The food is simple, with the traditional meen kozhambu and rice. The kozhambu is a bright red curry that is tangy, spicy and soupy in consistency. “I learnt the recipe from a fisherman’s family. Unlike the usual tamarind-infused fish curries, cooked across Tamil households, we add slices of raw mango to give it a twist,” says the 28-year-old M Muthu Kumaran, a resident of Rameswaram, who started the business a year ago. Already, the restaurant has garnered rave reviews on Google. “The key is that we procure fish straight from the fishermen’s daily catch. We ensure they are fresh and cook them within a few hours of being caught.”

Well hello, Mr Fish

There is red snapper, cuttlefish, horse mackerel and seer fish on the day’s menu, and the curry is made of vila meen. I settle for the thali priced at ₹100 and it arrives with a mound of rice and a perfectly-fried butter ora. A bucket of curry is placed on the table. After attacking plates of garlicky squid, shredded crabs and tawa-fried shrimps, I call it a day.

“I usually get over 50 kilograms of fish a day and it gets over by 4 pm. The publicity is mainly through word-of-mouth. There are people who stay back a day and come again just to eat here,” beams Muthu.

“Home-made spices are another factor that attracts people. The marinade is a chilli-base mixture to which we add ginger-garlic paste, powdered pepper and cumin and a dash of tamarind extract. It has a piquant taste that is different,” he says. “We also customise preparations as per the customer’s demands.

For those who find it difficult to weed out the bones, we offer the fish puttu or thokku, in which the fish is steamed, the flesh is shredded and fried with chopped onions and garlic.”

As Muthu tosses another set of masala-lathered fish on the tawa, the hot oil arises in a sharp sizzle in tune with the roar of the wind and the rumble of the waves.

For details, call 8838428712.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 12:53:09 PM |

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