Bring on the FISH

November 19, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 02:04 am IST

A first-of-its-kind, the School Of Fish aims to raise the level of interaction between the seafood industry and its consumers through unique initiatives

The talk centres on fish over cups of green tea in a room with a strong smell of fancy coffee. For a generation that’s renegotiated its tea and coffee culture and to a great extent the way food is consumed, young and inventive director of Abad Fisheries, a century old seafood company, Faraz Javeed has come up with novel ways to bring seafood and fish to the fore of social imagination, much like the rehashed brews. Fish for him should no longer be the underwater staple caught indifferently, cleaned thanklessly, cooked dutifully and brought to the plate to be relished and claimed. He clearly wishes consumers to know the processes behind what they are savouring. He wishes to redefine the Malayali’s relationship with his primal diet food- fish. “We want more interaction between seafood and its consumers,” he says. As attestation he has begun two initiatives, both a first, in the country. Wild Fish, a seafood boutique, in Mattancherry opened its doors to the public earlier this year to good response. In August he began the Abad School Of Fish with a tie-up with Billingsgate Seafood Training School of Fishmongers’ Company in UK inviting noted chef Stephan Pini for the inauguration.

The school held its first workshop on Japanese seafood delicacy- Sushi at The Asian Kitchen in Fort Kochi last week. The one-day workshop brought together 40 odd enthusiasts - hobby chefs, senior chefs, homemakers, and kids - to learn the art of sushi from expert Amit Rai.

Tuna procured from local waters was used much to the thrill of the onlookers, its red meat shining succulently as Amit Rai filleted it neatly and placed it over sticky rice wrapped in seaweed. “There was a time earlier in the history of the fishing industry in Kerala when Tuna caught in our waters was exported to Japan but this saw a decline over the years. There’s been resurgence. Japan will pay top dollars to get this quality of Tuna,” he says, adding that learners will be educated on all aspects of fish be it in the use of latest technology and modern equipment in fishing to the finer aspects of cooking and consuming the product.

Sensing the existing disconnect between fish and the fork, be it in hygiene or product accountability, Faraz finds consumers lacking in awareness on the wealth of fish available. Many fish are shunned because of their strange appearance. These are tasty with excellent meat. There is misinformation or lack of information on them, which is what the school and the seafood boutique attempts to bridge. As examples he speaks of the fish, locally called, ‘cement’- Green Job, which is a delight to savour but consumers are sceptical about it, the same applicable to the Leather Jacket, Butter fish (punnarameen), Milk fish (poomeen) and such.

Careful that such initiatives don’t turn into exclusive clubs but retain their core purpose of placing our fish culture in its right, changing and new perspective, he believes that such workshops, like the one recently held, can be a family affair, “a class together, away from cell phones and TV”. Besides, hotels can send in their chefs for expert know how, as it happened, and homemakers, youngsters, food buffs and fishermen can all benefit.

Some of the likely topics that these workshops would address could be, seafood hygiene, eating with chopsticks, setting of cutlery, the original Kerala fish curry, serving oysters, preparing squid and such. An interesting awareness and sale initiative at Wild Fish that is fetching great response is of placing the catch of the day under the label- chakara of the day. “Whatever is in abundance that day, like the famed chakara phenomenon, that fish will be given its due,” says Faraz adding that Kochi’s art biennales have catapulted the city as one of art and he is adding to the canvas, food art.

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