Seafood in Delhi
Does Delhi Devour
Deep Sea Delights?
By Anwesha Mittra/fnbworld.com
Splendid shopping malls housing attractive food courts, pulsating nightclubs serving sizzling barbecued stuff, the authentic eateries in the bylanes of Walled City's Chandni Chowk or the myriad inter-continental chain of 5-star hotels---New Delhi has them all - flaunting a rich array of cuisines, providing a mouth-watering treat for food lovers.
Gradually climbing up the popularly charts in gastronomy are sea food delights. Among sea food, prawns and crabs form a special part of Delhi's acquired diet. Apart from prawns and crabs, pomfret, swordfish, squid, sole fish and lobsters are also served to the sea food and fish devouts. There are a few markets devoted to sea food viz. Jama Masjid, INA Market and Chitaranjan Park. Take for example 4S, a restaurant in Defence Colony that outsells sea food when it comes to Chinese dishes, be it sole fish served both fried and steamed.
The list of sea food items served at Swagath, a restaurant in Defence Colony, is diverse to the core. It comprises varieties such as the Pomfret, Surmai, Bangda, Rawat, Ladyfish, Bombay Duck (Bombil) apart from prawns and crabs. This restaurant caters to the consumers who have a taste for south Indian cuisines. All the recipes here are made in a specialized South Indian style of cooking that stresses on the use of coconut base. On the other hand, Pebble Street and Nothing Authentic in New Friends Colony serve only prawns and pomfrets as they feel the consumers are more inclined to this segment of sea food.
The spicy delicacies offered in the sea food speciality restaurants include crab tandoori (roasted crab), crab butter, prawn butter paper garlic, fish kuliwada, fish fry, other delicacies include banga- macherel, surmai- king fish, rawat- salmon, basa fish, prawns-kadipatha. Out of these mouth watering sea food cuisines, Swagath prepares amazing crabs and prawns in gravy.
While the all-time favourite fish & chips is the hottest continental cuisine at the Pebble Street which is absolutely non-messy to handle and easy on the palate. Exotic Indian condiments like Sabut dhania ( whole coriander), red chili-powder, mustard, turmeric powder blended with cocam makes a yummy, spicy and sizzling sea food delicacy. "Most of our spices are imported from South India, the cocam is bought from Mangalore" says Norbert of Swagath. "No additional colors are added either to enrich the look of the cuisines. The rule applies to the South Indian fashion of food making", he adds. Sea food is an expensive choice when it comes to the availability of typical fishes.
In Delhi, the INA market in south Delhi is the only sea fish depot that provides supply of prawns, crabs, oyster, lobster, pomfret to the restaurants and hotels of repute. Lobsters are not easily available in Delhi markets. So, the trend is to import a wide variety of sea food from Gujarat and Mumbai. Mumbai tops in the supply of crabs, prawns that are small, medium and jumbo sizes, ladyfish and Bombay Ducks.
However, the availability of sea fishes in Delhi is largely restricted to the favorable season. As a result, supply crisis tends to inflate the prices of sea fishes in Delhi fish markets. Hygiene plays a significant role when it comes to consumption of sea products. "But given the standard and quality of the restaurant serving, hygiene is the first and foremost aspect taken special care of." Justifies Mr. Sanjay Arya, Manager of 4S. He also reasons "Sea food is a stable industry with no much growth, though they have a good market but not a very big one. However, they are profitable." "Almost"75% of consumers come here only for sea food", explains Jayesh Shetty of Swagath.
Among Delhites, the South Indians and Bengalis are the ones who frequent this restaurant for sea food. The sea fishes served here range from Rs.250 to Rs.1000, catering to consumers from different stratas of the society by providing them a wide choice in the menu. A lobster dish costs about Rs. 700- Rs. 850 which is expensive, so it is not all that popular keeping the pocket factor in mind. In Pebble Street only five out of 100 customers go for sea food. Continental and Mexican food are preferred. Moreover, foreign tourists in the Capital are apprehensive about the hygiene aspect of the fishes at the point of purchase, as a result they prefer Indian and Continental food -mainly poultry over sea products.
Prawns are the fastest moving among sea delights but fishes like lobster do not have greater shelf life and are expensive as well. So, restaurants like 'Nothing Authentic' serve an array of Indian, Italian, Chinese and Continental cuisines, out of which Continental and Chinese cuisines have found a larger consumer base. For some, a mixed segment is more promising rather than concentrating on only one category. But that rich spicy aroma of the cuisine with prawns drenched in oyster sauce loaded with cheese, onions and red chilies call for a unique dining experience. So, go ahead to your nearest sea food restaurant and grab your crab!