Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

lobster roe in Indian foodways


Recommended Posts

Dear Friends,

Can you shed some light on how ‘lobster’/crab roe or tomalley are relished in various cuisines in India? Here is my experience from west Bengal.

Most Hindu west Bengalis profess abhorrence for the slightest hint of ‘raw fish smell’ [shunning, for example, the east Bengal practice of using ‘raw’ (i.e. not pre-fried) fish steaks in various stew-like preparations]. Perhaps in western Bengal, with its greater reliance on pond-reared fish, odors contributed by muck and algal compounds like geosmin may lie behind such attitudes.

There is one interesting dish, however, where this seemingly impregnable prejudice is set aside and the West Bengali comes closest to eating a raw piscine element. This is the case when ‘lobster’ bodies [as they are known in the US] or ‘golda chingri’ (Machrobrachium rosenbergii) heads in Bengali are prepared for occasional feasts, especially bridal showers (where only married women are present).

[Why showers? As these things are very expensive, and showers involve a fraction of the guests attending wedding feasts, a number of excellent dishes are often showcased at the former. Also, marriages are more frequent in winter, and the egg-laden giant prawn is at its best then.]

The lobster body, minus the entire meaty section or ‘tail’, is carefully extricated from the carapace, leaving its protective sheath undamaged. It is marinated in onion-ginger juice, with a bit of turmeric, salt and chili powder, then reinserted into the carapace. Dipped in a light chickpea batter, its deep-frying tests the cook’s skills.

Served hot early in the meal, the body is extricated once more and dismembered delicately to reveal a layer of well-done roe giving way to another layer warmed through, with the consistency of very soft-boiled egg, and then at last the prize, a gush of saffron-vermilion, soaking the pure white of the rice, redolent of [and I quote verbatim] ‘fragrans feminae, the scent of woman, wild, fetid, saline”!

Episure, the good Dr. Jones et al., looking forward to some pithy rejoinders!

Edited by v. gautam (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
The lobster body, minus the entire meaty section or ‘tail’, is carefully extricated from the carapace, leaving its protective sheath undamaged. It is marinated in onion-ginger juice, with a bit of turmeric, salt and chili powder, then reinserted into the carapace.  Dipped in a light chickpea batter, its deep-frying tests the cook’s skills.

My mother-in-law made a different, but something similar to this for my brother-in-law's birthday (not in the baby shower, as I said earlier, before the edit). She used the big tiger prawns, somewhat similar to bagda chingri, and made a dish from the marinated whole head of the prawns, in a light chick-pea ("besan"/"bashon") batter.

I even have a picture, although the picture is not very good:

i12214.jpg

However, I have never heard of the custom of eating raw prawn/lobster roe in Bengal though, at least in West Bengal.

EDIT: photo and some corrections

Edited by bong (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Bong,

You are quite right about it not really being raw. I meant ‘raw’ only in the limited or qualified sense that can be used to describe an egg soft-boiled or fried over-easy. In a vague way, I was also responding to the query of a long-ago thread asking if Indians ever consumed their seafood raw. I think this is the closest Bengal comes to actually eating underdone seafood.

Also, the ‘head’ of the golda chingri is often a bit larger and rounder than those of bagda prawns [striped tiger prawn, Penaeus monodon] within reach of the middle-class purse. This leads to a somewhat large portion of the ‘ghilu’ remaining in a more liquid state, adding to delectability as it is well-mixed in with steaming rice.

Thank you so very much for your photographs. You should write a thread about the usage of fish roe in Bengali cooking. Of the smaller, whole pan fish, Koi [Anabas spp., walking perch], Bata [a minor carp], parshey [a mullet], topshey [binomial unknown to me] and Bele [scatophagus spp.] , and tangra come to mind as ones especially prized when bearing eggs. Crabs too.

Of the larger fish, hilsa, rohu and catla carps would be most common, do you not think?

Do you remember eating pomfret at home? I remember how much we all grumbled at eating pomfret, as at Rs.12/kg it was cheaper even than the horribly bony chara pona [immature carp]. So it was a choice between nyadosh fish and pomfret; guess which one won out? How funny that pomfret should be so prized by other communities. Some Bangladeshis told me that they hold Bhetki in scant regard, and could not understand why it was so prized in west Bengal.

Anyhow, looking forward to YOUR thread on the fishes and fish cookery of Bengal! Seriously, please do start some threads, including one on puli pithey, which should go well with maple syrup.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Also, the ‘head’ of the golda chingri is often a bit larger and rounder than those of bagda prawns [striped tiger prawn, Penaeus monodon] within reach of the middle-class purse. This leads to a somewhat large portion of the ‘ghilu’ remaining in a more liquid state, adding to delectability as it is well-mixed in with steaming rice.
This is true. And the "ghilu" that you mention is my favorite as well. When growing up, bagda chingri, being so expensive, was a real rarity, making its appearance only on extremely special occasions. Mostly, all I heard were stories of eating bagda chingri.
Thank you so very much for your photographs. You should write a thread about the usage of fish roe in Bengali cooking. Of the smaller, whole pan fish, Koi [Anabas spp., walking perch], Bata [a minor carp], parshey [a mullet], topshey [binomial unknown to me] and Bele [scatophagus spp.] , and tangra come to mind as ones especially prized when bearing eggs. Crabs too.

Of the larger fish, hilsa, rohu and catla carps would be most common, do you not think?

Indeed. Rohu and Hilsa roe also happen to be my favorites as well.

Different households prepare it different ways, I think. In our house, a "bora" (a small ball shape) would be made out of the roe and then it would be pan fried. Sometimes spices along with chopped onions would be mixed with it, sometimes not. Either way, it was (and still is!) delicious.

And we never thew away the mustard oil that the fish and roe (especially if it was Hilsa) was cooked in. The oil was eaten at the start of the meal, mixed with steamed rice, a bit of salt and a green chili.

(BTW, on http://www.fishbase.org , there is fish called "Topshi" listed. But the picture is so bad that I can't tell if thats the same as a "Topshey" fish or not -- http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSum...esname=sexfilis . I am also happy to report that my local Bangladeshi grocery carries frozen Topshey fish. )

Of the larger fish, hilsa, rohu and catla carps would be most common, do you not think?

Do you remember eating pomfret at home? I remember how much we all grumbled at eating pomfret, as at Rs.12/kg it was cheaper even than the horribly bony chara pona [immature carp]. So it was a choice between nyadosh fish and pomfret; guess which one won out? How funny that pomfret should be so prized by other communities. Some Bangladeshis told me that they hold Bhetki in scant regard, and could not understand why it was so prized in west Bengal.

In my family, when I was growing up, I was the one who least liked to eat fish. (even then I ate fish at least 4-5 times a week!). I was doubly renegade because I also ACTUALLY LIKED to eat Pomfret (because the bones were so easy to take out)!!. I believe, I was made fun of by a certain Dr. Jones right in this forum, for suggesting a "Shorshe-pomfret" (Pomfret in mustard sauce) recipe! But you are absolutely right, among Bengalis (including my house), pomfret is a fish that is held in very low esteem. Actually, traditionally, any "sea-fish" is held in low esteem by Bengalis. They mostly prefer river-water fish over any other.
Anyhow, looking forward to YOUR thread on the fishes and fish cookery of Bengal! Seriously, please do start some threads, including one on puli pithey, which should go well with maple syrup.
You must be joking. I am far, far from an expert in starting any thread about Bengali cooking, especially about cooking fish.

Regarding puli-pithey, now there's an idea I hadn't thought of before. Incidentally, luchis also go well with Maple syrup (which is similar in concept to the liquid jaggery called "nolen gur" in Bengal).

Conversely, I have found that pancakes (I sometimes make buttermilk pancakes) go really well with nolen gur.

Link to post
Share on other sites

if you are thinking to use sweet potatoes in puli pithey, you may perhaps want to employ the ones from Okinawa. In the Bay area, a Japanese or Chinese greengrocer may have the requisite variety. If not, then the latino varieties will have to do.

Link to post
Share on other sites
The lobster body, minus the entire meaty section or ‘tail’, is carefully extricated from the carapace, leaving its protective sheath undamaged. It is marinated in onion-ginger juice, with a bit of turmeric, salt and chili powder, then reinserted into the carapace. Dipped in a light chickpea batter, its deep-frying tests the cook’s skills.

I think I am going to like this recipe as I prefer crustaceans to be lightly spiced and not drowned in curries. I'll make an exception for fish.

A few months ago, I made lobster, Thermidor style in a light sauce of coconut milk, red chillis, shredded ginger dotted with curry leaf pesto(for want of a better word).

To make the pesto I saute the leaves and coarsely grind them with some roasted almonds and raw peanut oil.

Machrobrachium rosenbergii can be made the same way too.

I reluctantly confess that I am not much into roe. :sad:

Served hot early in the meal, the body is extricated once more and dismembered delicately to reveal a layer of well-done roe giving way to another layer warmed through, with the consistency of very soft-boiled egg, and then at last the prize, a gush of saffron-vermilion, soaking the pure white of the rice, redolent of [and I quote verbatim] ‘fragrans feminae, the scent of woman, wild, fetid, saline”!

Hoohaw! Gautam, and I thought you are a plant man. :laugh:

I've also never much cared about the ever popular pomfret, but that may be because I like to swim against the tide. :wink: The rains are coming to a close here and I am looking forward to cooking some new species of fish. If I can get away I am going to spend a few days camping at a River bank and hopefully land some Great Mahseer.

I fry by the heat of my pans. ~ Suresh Hinduja

http://www.gourmetindia.com

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Similar Content

    • By Sheel
      Prawn Balchao is a very famous Goan pickle that has a sweet, spicy and tangy flavor to it. 
      For the balchao paste you will need:
      > 8-10 kashmiri red chillies
      > 4-5 Byadagi red chillies
      > 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
      > 1/2 tsk turmeric powder 
      > 1 tsp peppercorn
      > 6 garlic cloves
      > 1/2 tsp cloves
      > 1 inch cinnamon stick
      > Vinegar 
      First you will need to marinate about 250 grams of prawns in some turmeric powder and salt. After 15 minutes deep fry them in oil till them become golden n crisp. Set them aside and add tsp vinegar to them and let it sit for 1 hour. Now, make a paste of all the ingredients mentioned under the balchao paste and make sure not to add any water. In the same pan used for fryin the prawns, add in some chopped garlic and ginger. Lightly fry them and immediately add one whole chopped onion. Next, add the balchao paste amd let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the prawns and cook until the gravy thickens. Finally add 1 tsp sugar and salt according to your taste. Allow it to cool. This can be stored in a glass jar. Let this mature for 1-3 weeks before its use. Make sure never to use water at any stage. This can be enjoyed with a simple lentil curry and rice.
    • By Deeps
      This is one of my daughter favorite dishes, being mild and less spicy she loves this rice dish.  Its super easy to make and goes well with most Indian curries.
      Do try this out and I am sure you will be happy with the results.
       

       
      Prep Time : 5 mins
      Cook Time: 5 mins
      Serves: 2
       
      Ingredients:
      1 cup rice(basmati), cooked
      1/2 cup coconut, shredded or grated
      1 green chili, slit
      1 dried red chili
      1 1/2 tablespoon oil/ghee(clarified butter)
      1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
      1/2 tablespoon chana dal(split chickpeas)
      1/2 tablespoon urad dal(split black gram)
      1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
      A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
      Few curry leaves
      Salt to taste
       
      Directions
      1) Heat oil/ghee(clarified butter) in a pan in medium flame. I used coconut oil here because it tastes best for this dish.
      2) Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chana dal(split chickpeas), urad dal(split black gram), green chili, dried red chili, ginger and curry leaves. Fry this for 30 seconds in medium flame. The trick is to ensure that these are fried but not burned.
      3) Add a pinch of hing(asafoetida) and mix well.
      4) Now add the cooked rice and coconut. Stir well for about 15 to 20 seconds and switch off the flame.
      5) Finally add salt into this and mix well. You could add peanuts or cashew nuts if you prefer. Goes well with most curries.
    • By loki
      Sour Tomatillo Achar

      Made this one up from a recipe for lemons. It really works for tomatilloes. A unique spice mix, and really sour for a 'different' type of pickle, or achar. It is based on a Marwari recipe - from the arid north-western part of India. Tomatilloes are not used in India (or at least not much) but are quite productive plants in my garden while lemons or other sour fruits are not possible to grow here. No vinegar or lemon juice is used, because tomatilloes are very acidic and don't need any extra.

      Ingredients
      3 lbs tomatilloes husks removed and quartered
      1/4 cup salt
      1 Tbs black mustard seeds
      2 star anise buds
      10 dried chilies (I used very hot yellow peppers)
      1 tsp fenugreek seeds
      2 inch ginger (ground to a paste)
      2 TBL dark brown sugar
      1/2 cup sugar

      1. In a large bowl, put the tomatilloes and sprinkle salt over them. Cover it and leave for a day, mixing occasionally.

      2. Next day drain the tomatilloes.

      3. Dry roast the star anise (put in first as these take longer, the black mustard, and the chilie pods (add last and barely brown in places). Cool.

      4. Grind the roasted spices with the fenugreek and put aside.

      5. Add tomatilloes, ginger, sugars, and everything else to a large pan and heat to boiling.

      6. Cook till fully hot and boiling.

      7. Fill half-pint jars and seal.
    • By loki
      Sweet Eggplant Pickle

      This is an Indian pickle, some would call a chutney, that I made up from several sources and my own tastes. It is based it on my favorite sweet brinjal (eggplant here in the US) pickle available commercially. It has onion and garlic, which are often omitted in some recipes due to dietary restrictions of some religious orders. It also has dates which I added on my own based on another pickle I love. I also used olive oil as mustard oil is not available and I like it's taste in these pickles. Use other oils if you like. This has more spices than the commercial type - and I think it's superior. I avoided black mustard seed, fenugreek, and cumin because almost all other pickles use these and they start to taste the same. One recipe from Andhra Pradesh used neither and I followed it a little. It's wonderful with all sorts of Indian foods - and also used for many other dishes, especially appetizers.
      SPICE MIX (Masala)
      4 Tbs coriander seeds
      3 hot chilies (I used a very hot Habanero type, so use more if you use others)
      18 cardamom pods
      2 inches cinnamon
      24 cloves
      1 1/2 Tbs peppercorns
      MAIN INGREDIENTS
      1 cups olive oil
      4 inches fresh ginger, minced fine, about 1/2 cup
      6 cloves garlic, minced
      1 large onion finely chopped
      3 lb eggplant, diced, 1/4 inch cubes
      1/2 lb chopped dates
      1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
      2 cups rice vinegar (4.3 percent acidity or more)
      2 cups brown sugar
      2 Tbs salt
      2 tsp citric acid
      Spice Mix (Masala)

      1. Dry roast half the coriander seeds in a pan till they begin to brown slightly and become fragrant - do not burn. Cool.

      2. Put roasted and raw coriander seeds and all the other spices in a spice mill and grind till quite fine, or use a mortar and pestle. Put aside.

      Main Pickle

      1. Heat half the oil and fry ginger till slightly browned, slowly.

      2. Add garlic, onion, and half the salt and fry slowly till these begin to brown a bit too.

      3. Add eggplant, turmeric, and spice mix (Masala) and combine well. Fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

      4. Add rest of ingredients, including rest of the salt and olive oil and heat slowly to a boil.

      5. Boil for about 5 minutes. Add a little water if too thick - it should be nearly covered with liquid, but not quite - it will thin upon cooking so wait to add the water till heated through.

      6. Bottle in sterilized jars and seal according to your local pickling instructions. This recipe will be sufficiently acidic.
    • By rxrfrx
      South Indian Style Broccoli
      Serves 2 as Main Dish.
      Broccoli isn't a traditional Indian vegetable, but I designed this recipe to use up leftover boiled broccoli in the style of cauliflower.

      3 c broccoli, cut up and cooked
      3 T oil
      2 T cumin seeds
      2 tsp tumeric
      2 tsp corriander powder
      2 green chilis, sliced thinly
      1/2 c chopped cilantro
      salt, to taste

      Fry the spices in the oil until they smoke a little. Add the broccoli and chilis and fry for a couple minutes to get the flavors mixed. Add salt to taste and stir in the cilantro before serving with chapati.
      Bonus recipe: just before adding the cilantro, crack 2-4 eggs into the pan and stir them around.
      Keywords: Main Dish, Side, Easy, Vegan, Vegetables, Indian
      ( RG2107 )
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...