Chennai Fish Markets – Sunday morning outing!

Fishes are to be bought, sand crusted, fresh off the nets under the blazing sun against the backdrop of the magnificent Marina beach, the second largest (and possibly the filthiest) beach in the world. Buying fish at the fish market is really an experience in itself. It’s not for the fair-and-lovely brigade – be ready to get super tanned. It’s not for the faint hearted and sensitive nosed. You don’t have to go pick up a fish, just roll your window down while driving through the road and the fishy smell will hit you right in the face (Gappu Guppu!). You’ll have to navigate your way through several Chennai-28 type cricket matches on the road leading to the market. Goats and Chicken laze around the edges of the road on either side. This road is rife with speed-breakers. These speed breakers have a sound reason to be there. One side of the light-house road is lined entirely by huts and shacks and many people who’ve just waken up from their bedroom (the hut), stroll languidly across their hall (the road), towards their bathroom (the sea). So, drive slow. This side of the lighthouse, the beach is much narrower and the sea much nearer, you can see the boats parked casually along the coast, the fish sellers mostly women seated along the edge of the road under large parasols with Vanjaram, Sura, Koduva, Sankara, Vavval, Kelluthi, kadamba, Eral and so many more fishes that I can’t even identify, laid out on their make-shift wooden stands. Sunday mornings are the busiest. You’ll find lots of husbands and wives with wire baskets haggling with the women. You’ve got to be good at bargaining and knowledgeable about the fish rates to buy here.  Whole Vanjaram or Koduva cost anywhere between 500 and 1000 bucks depending on the size of the fish and the women quote at-least 200 to 300 rupees more than what they finally agree to.  These women are really impressive. They’re tough, skilled and totally street. There is so much variety, it truly is amazing. At this point I’ll have to digress a bit to address a long-time grouse. A long time back I came across a very prejudiced, pretentious article on the net, something along the lines of Chennai eating out guide by an IMSC person and I remember him saying Chennai diners don’t care whether it’s Vanjaram (mis-spelt “Banjaram”, here in...

Pan fried Shark fillets – Varutha Sura

Let me tell you at the outset that I am no great seafood expert. I am a relative newbie who has grown to appreciate and slowly enjoy seafood through a combination of peer pressure, joint family dynamics and my daughter’s seafood love. Actually I don’t really have much choice. I am married into it. I am now eagerly learning up everything about cooking seafood. The most important and also the most time-consuming part of cooking seafood is cleaning it. However this recipe requires little or no cleaning whatsoever which makes it an ideal recipe for beginners. Now these sharks (Sura) are not the type of huge ones you saw in “Jaws”. The ones commonly available in the market are the much smaller ones. They’re sharks alright, but just smaller. We bought these at the lighthouse fish market (near Marina beach – more on this fish market in another post). There is another famous fish market at Lloyds road. In all these markets, there’ll be women (men at Lloyds road market) who’ll skin and fillet the fish for you for an extra fee. Shark is usually made into puttu, so you’ll have to specifically tell them that you want these as fillets for frying.   I am really amazed at myself at how much I’ve changed. The very first time that I cooked chicken (this was before being married), I had to clean it but I wouldn’t touch the chicken, I used a spatula to push it around in a bowl of water. Last weekend, I sat and scaled thirukai meen (sting ray fishes). Shark fillets (sura) are extremely soft and fragile, so handle gently, especially while frying. These pan fried shark fillets are delicately flaky on the inside and crisp on the outside and are best had hot as a starter or as a side with rice. The pan fried Sura doesn’t smell as overpowering as the Sura puttu and is also a nice variation. Also Shark (sura) is great for nursing mothers like I mentioned in my earlier post. It really improves your supply. Try it.     Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 5 mins Serves: 6   Ingredients Shark/Sura – 1 whole shark skinned and filleted (about 1 inch wide fillets) Red chilli powder – 2-3 tbsp (adjust) Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp Tamarind extract – 1/4 cup Black Pepper powder – 1 tsp Salt to taste...
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