Food Talk

Boneless wonder

One loves the taste of fish, if only there were no bones to pick, says Pushpesh Pant

When one was a child, eating fish presented a daunting challenge. Yes you have guessed it right—it was the bothersome bones.

Years later we found comfort reading the Baburnama that the founder of the Mogul dynasty too had found fish in India tedious.

The irony was that one loved the taste of fish—if only there were no bones to pick.



Blend the fish with the egg, curry paste in a mixie. Transfer to a bowl. Put in the remaining ingredients except oil. Mix well. Divide into equal ratios and roll into small balls, then flatten between palms into patty shaped cakes. Heat oil in a walk and deep-fry the cakes over low-medium heat till golden brown—about 4-5 minutes. If avoiding fat you can shallow fry or pan-grill these in a non-stick frying pan. Serve with freshly prepared mustard or bottled kasundhi. (This Bengali condiment too is available at many super-stores, otherwise English mustard can be pressed into service).

Note: If readymade red curry paste is not easily available you can prepare a passable substitute of what you require by grinding to a paste the following:

This is where Salim miyan came to our rescue. Employed as a chowkidar in a hospital, he prided himself on his culinary prowess. Hailing from nawabi Rampur, Salim boasted that he could outshine the khansamah in the dak bungalow any day and that too effortlessly. Ye to apne bayen haath ka khel hai was his usual refrain. Truth be told he did a great job of macchi kebab. Mahasheer from the Bhimtal lake was rendered harmless by painstakingly eliminating the bones after carefully boiling the fish in aromatic broth. The delicate patties were not overburdened with onions or strong spices. Finally, the exceptional kebabs were delicately pan grilled—not a drop of excess oil ever. Such is the stuff memories are made of.

Till a decade back the island restaurant at Bhimtal used to offer fish kebab but these were utterly lacklustre and one was somewhat relieved when they decided to confine their culinary adventures to kadhi-chawal. Alas, Salim took his recipe with him to the grave and we have never found another—not even the redoubtable Farouk Miyan—who could replicate the sublime stuff. We have missed that boneless avtar of tasty fish for decades.

Imagine our delight at the discovery of Thai fish cakes at the Octopus of the Orient, a specialty restaurant at the India Habitat Centre in the Capital. It was Chef Manish who fixed our high during a wonderful lunch that featured these foreign fish kebab redolent with lemon grass and kaffir lime. These, one must confess lacked the pate like texture of Salim Miyan’s creations but more than made up with fragrant flavour that lingered on. Best of all, these ‘cakes’ can be easily made at home without any hassle. Do try these out asap.