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Photo credit: Vikramjit Baruah

“Flying fish, really?” was my reaction when a fish vendor at Russell Market, Bangalore, excitedly called out to me from across the street, “Madam, come, see flying fish!” Now I am familiar to freshwater fish. Courtesy, growing up nearby the Brahmaputra which nurtures a gamut of spectacular species, each distinct in appearance, taste and form. Seawater fish, however, is a category I am still exploring. And therefore, I landed up in Russel Market early on a Tuesday morning when the fresh stocks arrive to get a better understanding of the different kinds. 

Being new to flying fish, I let the vendor fill my ears with all that he could including an easy pan-fried recipe to try at home. In his narration, he also mentioned the scene from the movie, Life of Pi, where they had made a short but rather comical appearance. Impressive!

Flying fish is commonly found in all the oceans, especially the Atlantic ocean. In Barbodas, it is their national fish and a significant cultural symbol. They have a popular dish called Steamed Flying Fish with Cou-Cou. The Cou-Cou is made by first boiling okra, onion, red peppers, garlic and herbs with water and salt. The liquid is then strained and cooked with cornmeal in a heavy bottomed saucepan at low flame. Meanwhile the fish is marinated in lime juice and Bajan seasoning, rolled, and steamed in a pan along with herbs (parsley, thyme, marjoram), tomatoes, onion and garlic. It is served hot with the Cou-Cou and okras.

In Japan, fresh flying fish is used to make sushi. However, it is available only in certain regions. The roe of the fish is popular which is golden-yellow in colour and is called tobiko. Sometimes, wasabi is added to give it a greenish tone which is then used to garnish sushi.

Other recipes across the globe call for marinating the fish in lime or pineapple juice and herbs, and grilling it. Then you have your simple batter-fried fish method.

In South India, they are coated with spices and semolina, and deep-fried, or prepared in a spicy curry made of mustard seeds, red chilli powder, coconut milk and tomatoes. But according to my well-informed fish vendor, they are best when coated with mild spices and pan-fried. “Super taste, madam,” he guarantees.

Flying fish is available in Russel Market and costs Rs. 120 per kilo.

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