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A wag once said that basa is a vegetable that swims. He has a point there, because it has neither taste nor the iodine flavour of the sea.
Swagath is the Mecca for fish and shell-fish. Besides white pomfret they have ladyfish, surmai, mackerel, sole and rawas flown in from Mumbai regularly. Though there is an exhaustive menu, by far the most popular item on the menu is pomfret gassi. Rich with coconut milk, slightly sour with cocum and pungent with Karnataka’s bedgi chillies, this is best had with steamed rice.
Steamed pomfret is a show-stopper in Nanking, the under-rated gem owned by Baba Ling, who is a second generation restaurateur. Nanking prides itself on its fresh seafood, cooked to the kind of perfection you rarely see in Delhi. In season, the same dish is cooked using garoupa instead. There is the option of having a dressing with steamed sliced pork atop the whole fish, in the style of Teochew, from where Baba Ling’s father came. Whether you order it with the sliced pork option or not, the dish owes its provenance to Teochew and is unique in the NCR.
Monkey Bar has food from all over the country – and further too – yet in its own inimitable style. Their Tikki of Joy (a typically Manu Chandra play on words) features bhetki crumb fried and served with kashundi. Though it has spicing that would be familiar to a Bengali, it is avowedly not supposed to be a copy of a Bengali dish: the very special talent of this remarkably talented chef.
Amaranta at The Oberoi Gurgaon has a treasure trove of fish preparations. However, if one were to pick just one, it would have to be Andhra Snapper with Green Gram Dosa. The Red Snapper is cooked in the Andhra Pradesh style, with a spicy, sour tomato and tamarind sauce that is served separately in a sauce boat. The magic of Amaranta is that though the presentations are completely western, the tastes embody grandma’s cooking.
However, the best-known fish preparation has to be tomato fish. Served in all the old-time Connaught Place restaurants like Kwality, The Host, United Coffee House and Embassy, its popularity has never dwindled and its provenance has transcended geographical borders.