Following our post about seafood in India we take a culinary tour of the coastline to look at the different cooking methods and ingredients used in different coastal states.
Food styles here have been influenced by the Portuguese. The xacuti curry or the caldeina, for instance are Portuguese-influenced. Goans love their fish and seafood and have it in all forms – fried, curried and pickled.
In the monsoon, when fish is scarce, they make the molho – a pickle made of mullet or clams, eaten cold. Once you have tried the range of seafood dishes, you will understand the Goan fascination with fish.
Try the fish xacuti which has a liberal dose of the pungent local vinegar; the fish reacheado, stuffed with the signature fiery red masala, the unassuming but delicious fish curry and rice; a balchao (pickled and spicy curry), and the kalamari (squid) butter garlic fry.
In Mumbai, the more enterprising fish and seafood lovers head to Sassoon Docks where they joust with local Koli fisherfolk for the new catch being taken off boats that have just come in. It is quite an experience.
Maharashtra has a wide variety of seafood cooking styles. Malvani cuisine is the standard cuisine of the Konkan region of Maharashtra (and parts of Goa). Malvan is a town in the Sindhudurg district on the west coast of Maharashtra. It has its own distinct way of cooking food. Fish dishes dominate Malvani cuisine. For an authetic taste of Malvai homecooked food try the bangda fry (fried mackerel) and kolambi (prawns curry).
Tamil Nadu is famous for Chettinad cuisine with its spicy curries cooked in tamarind and roasted spices. The Chettinad fish fry uses a special masala for marinating tha gives it a special taste.
Tamil Nadu also has the rather unique fish podi (fish powder made from dried fish), used by fishermen. Nanjilnadu in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu is famous for its fish curry since the region is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal.
Like Goa and Maharashtra, Kerala too is renowned for its fresh seafood, caught daily by fishermen with nets in rickety narrow wooden canoes called vallams. Kerala’s long coastline and strong fishing industry has contributed many fish-based delicacies. The Malabar coast especially has some of the finest seafood dishes available in India.
Along the backwaters of the Alleppey region, a popular fish is the karimeen (pearl spot fish) which is fried lightly. Meen moilee (coconut-based fish curry) with appam (fermented and steamed bowl-shaped rice pancakes) is another popular dish. Choose an Alleppey, Cochin or Kottayam homestay to sample the best seafood. You’ll get the opportunity to join the fishermen in their forays for seafood, and later take part in the cooking process and learn how it’s done. You can also try some night fishing with the fishermen along the banks of Vembanad Lake. You may get lucky and catch an elusive lobster. A cooking class the day after your night fishing experience will round off an enjoyable culinary exploration.
Karnataka has the mildest spice content among the four southern Indian states. Seafood-based gravies called gassi are common with rice in coastal Karnataka. The cuisine of coastal Karnataka has similarities with the food of Kerala.
Andhra Pradesh is famous for its hot and spicy cuisine which includes both the original Andhra cuisine and Hyderabadi cuisine with the influence of royal recipes from nawabs. Hyderabadi cuisine is very similar to Avadhi or Lucknowi cuisine. Northern parts have cuisine similar to that found in Maharashtra. Chepa pulusu is a fish stew that is typically sour and cooked with tamarind paste. Other common bases are tomatoes or mangoes. with the majority being vegetable or lentil based.
Orissa and West Bengal
In Bengal, try the iconic Chingri Malai Curry (prawns/shrimps in coconut milk) said to be influenced by Malaysian cuisine, or Daab Chingri (prawns/shrimp cooked in the shell of a tender coconut).
Find out about the homestay experience and don't forget to check out our ideas on things to do in India or browse our India homestays.