World of Delicacies: Dried fish (I)

There is a thin line between weird food habits and delicacy food, certain part of the world consider few items to be unedible while the rest consume it as a delicacy. For example, caviar, my mother would refuse to have it in it’s original and very cured form but a five star restaurant serving the similar thing is fancied by most of us! This situation is very much similar to the mindset of diversified,cultural, socio-economic beings that is the homo sapiens, which is contradictory .

Going back to food preferences, since ancient times there has been the practice of drying and curing proteins like fish, meat; today I’m writing about a small part of the world where drying of fish is still followed passionately and people have build up a living out of that profession. Not only this place has all sorts of dried fish delicacies it has a whole fish market with a number people depending on the revenue earned from the trade. Dried fish has been widely appreciated as a sophisticated food habit all over the world from Egypt to Imphal, Korea to Portugal and Maldivian cuisine alongside Srilankan cuisine they have cured tuna as a staple. These are the unique points which somehow unite the diversity through common food patterns. 

We see the dried fish market in a lesser known place called Digha, in the state of West Bengal, India.

This is a place where the land meets northern end of Bay of Bengal, leading to ample seafood availability to the dwellers. Over a period of time it has developed a market place where you get varities of sea food and thus a paradise land for seafood lovers. Drying fish is done relegiously in the rural sides and then brought to the market, a visit to this place recently got me excited as I am ardent lover of dry fish. Some may find the place filthy because of the smell which covers the area for about a kilometer, but as we have different choices and preferences some may actually love the haul as I did. Few shots from the market place as to different varieties of fish, crustaceans have been added for a Better visual aid.

A trolley of shark.
Huge lobster.

These are the few beauties I got to see over there, now who wouldn’t want to go to such a place like this where you travel among food delicacy! Coming to the practice of eating dry fish, well it is widely accepted all over the world as I discussed earlier but the method of consuming seems to be different over the cultural diversities. 

Cod fish, stock fish, anchovy, tuna are some common fishes which are dried and consumed. Philipino food habits has a very common usage of dried fish in their everyday meal; Indonesia, Portugal and few other countries under Portugal colonies had this famous dish called bacalao which is a dried fish item consumed on the days meat was prohibited by the church. In North Eastern states of India such as Manipur, nagaland, meghalaya dried shrimp paste is an exotic staple food which is sometimes consumed as a pickle. While in my native place we cook it with vegetables, grind and spice it up with red chilies, garlic to have it with boiled rice. This is a distinctive cooking process which holds our identity, our culture, our food pattern that creates the diversity although the roots are connected, somewhere down the line.

Would you like to share how you consume dried fish? 

Author: Somashri



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