By Rhea Almeida:
Note: This article was originally published on Homegrown.
When you’ve got endless miles of coastline surrounding a country, thousands of gushing rivers flowing through its inlands, and a large percentage of its population tending towards more carnivorous tendencies, there’s only one guarantee we care about—there are going to be fish preparations and delicacies like nobody could have imagined.
People have never been shy to consume anything they could throw a net around and prepare, while quickly realising that the right fish pretty much tastes great in any form. Dunked, fried, or smoked in any of their familiar flavours, this is exactly how much we lucked out by living in this land by the sea.
People who delight in fish come together to journey across this country’s refined culinary palate from fried to curried, from thick juicy Pomfret to thin delicate Bombil, from spicy pepper flavours to light tangy gravies – here’s 21 delicious drool-inducing fish dishes. And, for all you home chefs, you can even try recreating them at home because we’ve added some extra special recipe links for you too. Don’t ever say we don’t look out for your stomachs.
Regular ol’ pan-fried fish is a thing of the past, the new craze is authentic, Bamboo-sizzled fillets. Or, at least, it should be. Nagaland’s organic technique takes culinary experimentation to a whole new level, as lightly spiced pieces of fresh fish are stuffed into a hollow Bamboo tube, and are then slow-roasted in fire ash. If that didn’t sound exotic enough for you, the succulent fillets then soak up all these spices, ultimately left with a unique, smoky flavour like few other dishes on this list could compete with. When sizzled to perfection, these tender slices are lined in bowl and drizzled with a red chilli sauce, infusing just the right amount of fiery flavour to the bowl too. Somebody buy us a ticket to Nagaland, immediately.
Great Place to Get It: Nagaland’s Kitchen, Delhi nails the true authentic flavours of Bamboo Steamed Fish.
Unless you have your own Bamboo stick supply, we don’t recommend you try this one at home though.
Cuisine: No points for guessing
One whiff of this thick, light-orange curry’s unmistakable spicy-yet-tangy aroma, and you will undoubtedly drool with craving. Juicy pieces of fish soak in tangy tamarind extract and tomatoes, balanced out by a thick, red chilli paste. Topped with the always flavoursome curry leaves and coriander, this simple curry boasts of Kerala’s hill-grown organic spices and all the things we love about it most. Being a home-speciality dish, the true Kerala way is to bathe a bed of steamed rice with this turmeric-coloured curry. Or better yet, enjoy the rich liquid with a hot, fresh appam. Now that’s what you call a circular disc of heaven.
Great Place to Get It: If a trip to Kerala isn’t an option, the next best thing is Taste of Kerala, Mumbai.
Making It Yourself? Get the perfect balance of flavours with this recipe
From the lofty mountains of India’s paradise, we bring you a fish curry with all the makings of a true blooded Indian dish. Thick fillets of Surmai are drenched in an even thicker, orange curry teeming with a variety of hill-grown spices. Rich with dollops of desi ghee, as is the custom with most Kashmiri delicacies, this hearty curry is complete with thin slices of fresh lotus stem for the ultimate indigenous touch. As the spices tickle your taste buds, a real treat for your senses is in the warm scent of cinnamon rising out of the hot curry, best eaten with a mound of white rice, or a thick roti, slathered with some more ghee.
Great Place to Get It: This sinfully rich curry is unbelievable at Utupura, Hyderabad
Making It Yourself? Fill your kitchen with the sweet smell of this Kashmiri curry, and give it a try! Don’t forget to call us over if you nail it.
Known for its tender texture and unique taste, the oily Hilsa fish a much-loved local delicacy in Bengal. Marinated in a thick paste of hot mustard that’s grounded with turmeric powder, this silvery ‘queen of fish’ is then lightly fried in a little mustard oil and salt. But, don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the preparation. Though it’s unlike most of the heavier, complex flavours of most Bengali dishes, a little of the flavoured oil is drizzled into steaming hot rice, a green chilli’s broken into it and the tangy lemon juice cuts the hot mustard spice, heroing the fish like never before. Its crackling, crispy skin and deliciously sweet meat truly take the notion of feating fish up a few notches.
Great Place to Get It: The next time you find yourself in Kolkata, drop by Kasturi restaurant to try this seafood specialty
Or just follow this simple recipe and experience Bengal’s Ilish Machher Jhol in your own kitchen.
The distinct, sour flavour infused in this curry is enough to make you nostalgic, reminiscing the times you flung stones at your neighbour’s mango tree, hoping for one fleshy fruit to drop. Unless you grew up in big city, in which case, let’s pretend you have this memory anyway because you’re sure as hell going to be able to imagine it once you’ve spooned some of this into your mouth. From God’s own country comes this home-specialty, bathed in coconut milk and raw mangoes, lovingly coloured with turmeric powder. Thick fillets of Pomfret adorn the curry, best served with a bed of steaming brown rice, straight from Kerala’s lush paddy fields.
Great Place To Get It: Vembanad, Bangalore creates a pretty perfect version of this tangy Pomfret curry.
Alleppey’s fish curry in your own home isn’t too ambitious either. Just follow these simple steps.
While most people go to Goa for the wild beaches and palm fenny, they stay for the genuine Goan fish curry complete with white rice. Enhanced with a freshly-made masala of ground coconut, garlic cloves, tamarind and hot red chillies, this fish curry is the perfect blend of spicy and tangy flavours. Rather than try to achieve that fine, smooth consistency however, the Goans trust in their flavour palates and opt for a much more textural curry instead, and that’s probably what we love best about it. We recommend you throw out your cutlery, and get your hands dirty for this one.
Great Place To Get It: Drive up to Starlight the next time you’re in Goa for the most authentic version you’ll ever find, and start out by ordering two.
Making It Yourself? Try your hand at this Goan specialty and your friends are likely to never leave your house again.
Hyderabadi cuisine’s aromatic and spicy journey culminates in this staple fish curry, served with a bed of rice. The beauty of this mouth-watering dish is credited to the freshness of the juicy fish itself, caught from the Bommidayila region, then slow-cooked in a bright, red curry. Golden fried onions are then sautéed along with freshly chopped tomatoes and flavoured with tangy tamarind and mango slices, topped with curry leaves.
Great Place To Get It: Befriend a non-vegetarian from Hyderabad and pray you’re welcomed into their home for a good fish curry dinner!
Or you could whip it up yourself but we will say that it’s the quality of the fish that makes all the difference.
Fresh fillets of Rohu are uniquely treated in this culinary classic from Orissa. Far from a regular fish curry, this dish is wildly aromatic, rich with the bold flavour of fresh turmeric. The special preparation technique of Machha Besara involves the Rohu first being marinated in a thick, mustard-ginger-garlic paste, then lightly pan-fried, and finally cooked in a turmeric-yellow curry. It’s then garnished with fresh coriander leaves, accompanied with a side of rice.
Great Place To Get It: Head down to Little Orissa Restaurant, Bangalore for Machha Besara’s rich flavours.
Or try out your culinary chops and recreate Orissa’s classic fish curry at home.
An indispensable part of any authentic Assamese meal, this piquant curry is one of the state’s signature fish preparations. Lending this dish its classic, tart, tangy flavour is freshly squeezed lemon juice or a ripe tomato – the most vital ingredients in any Tenga. Fillets of Rohu fish are dressed in mustard oil and salt, soaking in the flavours of this turmeric-based curry, best enjoyed with plain rice.
Great Place To Get It: Delhi’s Heritage Khorikaa will transport you straight to Assam and back with their authentic Masor Tenga.
Or you could experience the tangy aroma of fresh Rohu curry right in your own kitchen. It’s a pretty easy recipe!
This household classic has many, many different versions, passed down through generations scribbled in each grandmother’s recipe books. Meen moilee is a popular, slow-cooked stew, flavoured with authentic spices brewed in coconut milk, which gives it a light but rich taste. A handful of green chillies blended in this thick curry lend it a perfect amount of spice, best devoured with a bowl of steamed rice.
Great Place To Get It: If not in a typical home in Kerala, Chennai’s Ayna (Hilton) serves a mean Meen Moilee
Making It Yourself? Sanjeev Kapoor’s guide to this delicacy is a sure-shot success.
Even though this South Indian fish dish is prepared as Meen Kuzhambu in Tamil Nadu and coastal Kerala, the fiery flavours primarily resonate with the Andhra style of cooking. Bubbled in tamarind juice and other spices, this thick curry has a signature tangy and spicy flavour. Prepared with a coarse paste of chilli, garlic and coriander, the key ingredient topping this dish is traditional black pepper sautéed in fresh curry leaves.
Great Place To Get It: Visit Tamarind in Kolkata for this traditional curry – a great meal for any seafood lover.
Making It Yourself? Follow this step-by-step recipe to create the South Indian delight for your own dinner table.
Walking the streets of Mizoram, you will inevitably be enchanted by the intoxicating aroma of freshly spiced fish. This popular Mizo snack of fish in a zesty sauce is served with a fresh, green coriander paste and finely powdered rice, topped with crushed black pepper. Prepared with a steaming hot bowl of rice porridge and pan-sizzled spring onions, street food has never, ever been this delectable.
Great Place To Get It: It doesn’t get more authentic that the streets of Mizoram, we recommend you book your tickets as soon as possible!
Making It Yourself? Don’t even try. Some dishes are just better left to the experts of street food!
Fresh bay leaves, onion, cumin, chillies and chives blend in a hot, pasty fish stew boiled with potatoes, and lend it a rich mix of spices. Authentic flavours from the valley of Manipur fill your senses as finely sliced fish softens and melts into the bubbling stew. This melt-in-your mouth Meitei delicacy is every seafood-lover’s dream come true.
This special stew is best kept a homemade affair so give it a shot and try making it yourself.
This lifeline of Manipuri cuisine is simplicity on a plate, marked by its piquant flavours and intoxicating aroma. Fermented fish cooked in blazing red chillies and fresh green leaves forms the perfect evening snack, and is usually served with a side of fluffy, smooth mashed potatoes.
Making It Yourself? If you’re feeling experimental in the kitchen, this simple dish is the perfect choice but it does require some patience.
Impeccably charred fish is tossed with golden-fried onions, fresh greens, and fiery red chillies to create this North-Eastern delectable delicacy. Enjoyed with Jadoh (traditional flavoured rice) this dry fish paste is a rich, thick sea-food flavoured chutney with a tinge of hotness, prepared with an assortment of herbs and spices.
For all home-chefs, this North Eastern delicacy is a fantastic spicy challenge.
Marinated in a blazing red chilli paste, fresh thin lady fish is coated in semolina and fried till it resembles a golden crisp, more than it does a piece of underwater goodness. An authentic dish from the Southern state, this crispy fried delicacy is light, and infused with spicy flavours, best enjoyed with a drizzle of lime. We assure you, one bite of this South Indian snack, and you won’t be able to resist a second helping. Followed by a third, a fourth, and a fifth.
Great Place To Get It: Great news, it’s close to home! Stop by Mahesh Lunch Home for the authentic seafood experience
Making It Yourself? Try your hand at this authentic recipe.
For those days when land-born proteins become too much too stomach, and you’re craving something a little lighter, this delicate tandoori fish snack will always come to your rescue. As you might imagine, delicate pieces of fish are soaked in an orange, spicy tandoori tikka masala and grilled in a tandoor. These kebabs are then charred to perfection, and if fresh, and cooked well, very likely to flake away into your mouth. Pro tip–squeeze that side serving of lime all over it for an extra zesty, acidic touch. The fish needs it.
Great Place To Get It: Chandigarh’s Amritsari Zaika serves mouth-watering fish tikka that will leave you wanting more.
Making It Yourself? Bring Punjab’s authentic grill into your home, before you give it a try.
Cuisine: Malvani, to state the obvious
With the wide spices found across Maharashtra, this fish curry has the unique fragrance of different flavours mingling to tickle your taste buds. A rish Malvani masala gives this orange curry a thick texture, making this a classic Coastal curry, best devoured poured over hot steamed rice, mopped up with rotis or pav. Basically, just find the closet carbohydrate and dunk it in there before it gets too cold.
Great Place To Get It: For authentic Malvani masala, drop by Zinga in Vashi
Making It Yourself? This recipe is every seafood chef’s guide to Malvani excellence.
Maharashtra’s speciality Bombay duck is a popular fried starter, roasted into a crisp and crunchy fish delicacy. Coated with a flavoured batter of semolina, salty, thin slices of Bombil are fried and served hot off the pan as a delectable seafood snack.
Great Place To Get It: Gajalee does crispy fried Bombil like no one else.
And it’s easy enough to bring this Maharashtrian dish into your home if you so please.
A common feature on the dining table of any typical Mangalorean family, this tangy fish curry is a traditional seafood dish. Cooked in a thick, coconut-based gravy, this curry has the flawless composition of light, acidic zest and a thick chilli paste that coats fresh slivers of pomfret fish.
Great Place To Get It: The Dakshin (Sheraton) in Delhi nails this Mangalorean dish
Making It Yourself? Home-made Meen Gassi is a fairly easily crafted traditional specialty
The distinct sour taste of tamarind lends this curry its tangy flavour, along with pieces of kokum, favourite ingredients in this Southern paradise. Kerala’s hill spices are brewed in this curry, and chillies spice it up to give the perfect blend of sour and spice, all soaked up by juicy, carved out chunks of fresh fish.
Making It Yourself? Aim for the perfect blend of hot and sour flavours with this recipe
Have we missed out on some spectacular fish concoction that you know all about? Don’t hold out on us, let us know in the comments section below.
About the author: Rhea Almeida is a features writer with Homegrown and is a mass media graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai who lives to travel and explore new things. When she’s not playing with her adorable dog or coming up with clever things to write in her bio, that is.