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The chances that you will find a foodie Bengali on a Sunday morning in a fish market is as obvious as finding kosha mangsho in a Bengali restaurant. It is a tradition which is as important as the family customs and gets passed on from generation to generation, just as the antique artefacts. A true Bengali will visit the market on a Sunday morning, buy the vegetables and pay a visit to the fish market. No amount of smell, dirty muddy puddles and extreme chaos can deter him from visiting his favourite fish monger, bargaining for his favourite fish and getting the best deal. Every Bengali believes that buying a fish is an art and like any performing art, it needs years of practice.
The way the Bengalis do not mind celebrating the Bengali New Year these days by devouring on to their favourite Chinese food, the same way the foodie Bengali who still loves his fish the same way has evolved. In recent times, the average age of the crowd at a fish market has gone up. One of the main reason is that time has become premium and scarce, so there is a reluctance in spending time to learn the craft of buying a fish.
The quaint little shop Machhli Baba (named after one of the famous characters of Satyajit Ray's film) from the owners of the reputed Bengali restaurant chain Bhojohori Manna, is a disruptive presence in the fish market scenario of Kolkata. Situated at 24 A Lake View Road, as a good friend once said that this is the 'Flury's' of the fish market. Open from 8.30 am till 1 pm and 4:30 till 9 pm in evening, this is all that one could wish for in a fish market minus the smell and other hazards. Such as a boutique, this is clean, air conditioned and it is a pleasure to visit this place. Of course, there have been departmental stores who have been selling fishes for over a decade now but there has not been any which has made buying fish sleek and suave. Machhlibaba stores both fresh fish and frozen fish. In addition to all the regular varieties of the fresh fish that are available with them, they also store Indian basa, Bombay duck, mackerel, tiger prawns, Kolkata bhekti and many more. One can also carry back the frozen varieties of crabmeat, crab claws, squid, shrimp and others. The most unique feature of this store, other than getting the choice of fish cut and dressed by in store experts, is that perhaps for the first time in Kolkata, one can buy fish by piece depending on individual need. I am also told that during the hilsa season, one can get deboned hilsa pieces, which is a great news for hilsa lovers who cannot handle the bones.
Is this the beginning of a new trend where the reluctant fish buyers will start buying fish and overall consumption of fish will increase? Let us wait and watch.>
A true blue Kolkata foodie, Anindya loves cooking and eating his Kosha Mangsho. Anindya weaves stories around food as he believes exceptional food is an emotional experience. Previously a restauranter, now a passionate photographer and traveller, he runs a successful blog called Pikturenama and contributes to other publications.