Seafood’s are healthy, are nutritious, are tasty, and is economical. Seafood is one of the best foods you could have in any situation. They are rich in proteins and contain omega-3 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fatty acids). Though consuming seafood is supposed to be healthy, you cannot consume them on all days. Mainly because, they get contaminated with the minerals and adulterants in water, e.g. Mercury, Lead etc. Fish are tainted by mercury released from power plants, municipal waste facilities and medical incinerators, which are the primary source of methyl mercury in fish. Mercury is converted into methyl mercury by bacteria that lives in the water, converting it into the toxin that is then introduced to the fish, as reported by USA Today. So a controlled consumption of seafood (3-4 servings a week) is supposed to be ideal.
Let me get back to the story of my favourite delicacies. There may be many a variety of seafood that people love. My love predominantly orients only towards the foods I have tasted repeated across locations. Opinions differ. If you can add on, I will be happy.
Rank # 10 – Kadamba (Squid) fry
Kadamba is squid. Though hygiene is a thing to worry about in Marina, the taste beats me to it. Every time I go to Marina beach, I never return without having a mouthful of Kadamba fry. It costs very less, say about 30-40 INR. They deep fry the masala soaked squids in oil and add onions, chilly, and other condiments to it. Forget the way they make it. But taste wise, it does get a place in my list.
Rank # 9 – Fried Calamari
Calamari is the Italian word for squid. Since saying “Calamari” is better than saying squid, it makes it more palatable to. Fried Calamari is definitely one of the best starter’s at Tangerine. Its very tasty. You can also try Rabas de Calamar in any good Spanish restaurant, if you find a genuine one. Best would be a visit to Spain because their cuisine has a lot of varieties of squid. In India, I have tasted squids in very few places – Marina beach, Tangerine, Moonlight in Mahabs etc.
Rank # 8 – Ayilai (Mackerel) fry and Sankara (Red snapper) fish fry.
Two of the very best. Ayilai and Sankara are deep fried as whole. They are best eaten in any joint that makes them. All it takes is a lot of masala and lot of oil. My choices for the location would be Marina beach for Sankara fish fry and small eateries in Periamet for Ayilai fish fry. They have their skeleton still inside, so please execute care while consuming these fish.
Rank # 7 –Prawn biryani
Prawn biryani is a good choice. It’s my personal choice after mutton biryani. Since mutton biryani has a lot of fat, I would prefer prawn biryani anytime. Don’t get back to me saying biryani is fat. Sometimes we need to eat something tasty. My choice are not the best of the restaurants out here in Chennai or Trivandrum or Madurai. My choice is a small shop after Neyyattinkara in Kerala (on the road towards Trivandrum). I do not know the address or the name but the prawn biryani I had there was and is the best I have had ever.
Rank # 6 – Raattu (Prawn) masala
Raattu (prawn) masala is easily available. But nothing beats the prawn masala you get in Kumar mess in Madurai (Near Tallakulam). You would just keep swallowing the prawn curry if you go there. In my memory, during a lunch with 3 of my friends, we ordered a total of 11 raattu masala in Kumar mess. It’s that good.
Rank # 5 – Vanjaram/Neimeen (Seer) fish fry
I have always loved seer fish fry. The best for a fry. To avoid the confusion, let me clear one thing. Seer fish is called vanjaram in Telugu and in Northern parts of Tamilnadu. It’s called as Neimeen in Southern parts of Tamilnadu and Kerala. It is actually the Indo-pacific King Mackerel. The best Vanjaram fry i have had is in Mylapore near city centre. The place is a very small joint called Viswanathan mess. It can seat around only 10 people. The vanjaram fry they gave, was odourless and was immaculately prepared. They also have another item in their menu – Prawn thokku. Pure awesome food. Try the place. Its just after the Hamilton bridge in the road near city centre. Lunch with meals and vanjaram fish fry will cost you around 120 INR.
Rank # 4 – Mango fish (seer fish) curry
Tried the mango fish curry in Simran’s aappa kadai in OMR one day and since then, I have been a fan of it. Costs around 120 bucks if I remember it correctly. It contains raw mango pieces cooked with boneless fish pieces. It goes well with their aappam’s and is a good choice for dinner after a long day’s work.
Rank # 3 – Viral (Murrel/Snakehead) fish fry
Viraal (Murrel) fish fry is a delicacy in southern districts of Tamilnadu. Viraal is one fish that is bought live. Dead viraals don’t sell. It has to be scrubbed with brick powder to remove the slimy layer on top. Only when the slimy layer is removed, the fish fry tastes good. My mom makes wonderful viraal fry and that’s the only fish she eats. The best viraal fry I have had, apart from mom’s preparation is in Chandran mess in Tallakulam, Madurai. Each piece costs around 80 INR and I usually eat 2-3 pieces during the lunch. Worth the money.
Rank # 2 – Karimeen pollichathu (Pearl fish/Green chromide)
Karimeen is the official fish of the Kerala state. I do not want to explain it more. Karimeen pollichathu at Kumarakom (the restaurant, not the geographic location) is one of the most acclaimed preparation of the pearl fish. I love karimeen pollichathu and even tried it last week in the velachery branch of kumarakom. It is a evergreen favourite. This is made by wrapping the masala soaked fish in a plantain leaf. This is a favourite in toddy shops and house boats in the district of Alleppey, Kerala. A karimeen pollichathu in Kumarakon restaurant costs you around 200 INR. However, be aware of the fact that, the price of karimeen is very much fluctuating and may vary significantly across days.
Rank # 1 – Ayirai (Lepidocephalus thermalis) meen kolambu.
Ayirai is a freshwater bottom skimmer fish found usually in rivers and ponds. Making a curry of Ayirai is a very carefully manoeuvred procedure because of the intricacies involved in the preparation. The fish have to be bought alive and have to be cleaned by immersing them in milk. Immersing them in milk makes them regurgitate the sand they ingest and also kills them. Very few hotels serve them because of the difficulty in cleaning them. Ayirai fish kolambu is usually made at homes in the southern districts of Tamilnadu. The best ayirai meen kolambu was made by my grandmother who ran a mess (Elango mess) in Melahanumantharaayar kovil street in Madurai town. The mess does not exist now, but the taste still lingers. Even now grandmom makes it sometimes. Second best of ayirai meen kolambu is available in a lot of joints in Madurai. If you are in Chennai and need to taste the ayirai meen kolambu, I will suggest you – Madurai Saradha mess. This mess is located in Wallajah road opposite the MLA hostel (close to the sports shop named Pavilion). Try the ayirai meen kolambu there. The place does not look very hygienic but taste and quality are two different things in few restaurants.
*updated picture on 11 Aug 2012*
That’s the list I could prepare. Of special mention, I will list the following:
Raw salmon (Tartare) tasted in Budapest, Hungary.
Roadside fishes in Pondicherry.
Siruoola made by my aunt.
Mathi meen fry (sardines) in Bessy beach and many more.
Add on if you have any suggestions. Will meet you in the next post. Suggest topics if you have any. I would be happy to oblige.