Saturday, February 6, 2010

understanding fish


Marine and fresh water fish were an important part of mans diet long before the cultivation of vegetables or the rearing of poultry and other domestic animals. Fish provides vitamins and protein, and were easy to catch and prepare – it is even likely that a large proportion was eaten raw. In Egypt, fish was abundant and cheap, cheaper than even bread! Even in early history, people of the Iberian peninsula were catching fish like anchovies and sardines and exporting them to as far away as Asia Minor. In Europe, pike provided both sport and food and in 17th Century Scotland, salmon was so common that it was forbidden by law for employers to give their workers salmon more than three times a week. Carp, a fish that was often reared in ponds and lakes in Europe, the Middle East, China and Japan often provided inspiration for cooks and poets alike! The most valuable fish of all time is the herring, which still constitutes 1/3rd of the worlds catch, approx. 20 million tons. Cod, mackerel and tuna follow close behind.

The introduction of refrigerated air transport in the 1960’s precipitated a revolutionary change in the fish industry. This made fresh fish available anywhere a jet could fly. Another revolutionary change in the fish industry is aqua-culture. Although it has been practiced in limited forms for centuries, it has expanded widely only in the last few years. Fish is still regarded as an important source of food for man. One cubic acre of ocean can produce 3,000 pounds of edible product, which far exceeds the capacity of an acre of tillable soil. Trout, salmon, shrimps and prawns are now being widely cultivated. Consistency of flavor and texture is a benefit of farmed fish.


The edible flesh of fish, like that of meat and poultry, consists of water, protein, fats, small amounts of vitamins and minerals. The differences are however more important than the similarities. Fish has very little connective tissue. Therefore:

1. Fish cooks very quickly.
2. Fish is naturally tender.
3. Cooked and uncooked fish must be handled very carefully or it will fall apart.


Fish and seafood may be grouped into categories by their structure. Depending upon the structure, the method of cooking the various categories of fish will also vary. There are hundreds of varieties of fish all over the world but only a few are acceptable for human consumption.



The following points must be borne in mind while buying fish:

1. There should be no unpleasant fishy odor.
2. The fish should look fresh and shiny.
3. The gills under the dorsal fin should be red, not gray in color.
4. The tail should be stiff (you should be able to hold small fish upright!).
5. The flesh should be firm and not flabby.
6. No impressions should be left when touching the flesh.
7. The scales if any should be plentiful.
8. The eyes of the fish should be bright and shiny and not sunken.
9. If a piece of a large fish is involved, it should not be falling off the bone.
10. The flesh of a large piece of fish should not be discolored and yellowish.

In the case of Shell fish:

11. They should preferably be bought alive.
12. If not, they should be heavy for their size.
13. The eyes of crustaceans must be bright and protruding.
14. The tail of prawns, shrimp and lobster should be springy and not limp.
15. Bi valves such as oysters and clams should be tightly shut.


Ideally, fish should be consumed as fresh as possible to retain its flavor and texture. However, most fish can be frozen for later use but only after cleaning it of all internal organs. Freezing must take place at 0C (-18F) and must never be re frozen after defrosting. For very short time storage, fish must be stored at refrigerated temperatures of 3-5C. Fish should be cooked soon after cleaning and marinating. Certain fish such as clams need special storage (in salt water). Proper attention must be paid to the storage of fish, as it tends to deteriorate and spoil very quickly. When storing fish in the refrigerator, take care that other foods such as milk do not absorb the fishy odors!

Boiling: Can be done to obtain a court bouillon or when the fish needs to be flakes for a salad or for cutlets.
Steaming: Is ideal for large fish and to retain nutritive value.
Grilling: Usually oily fish is good for grilling, as it possesses natural fats.
Frying: White fish and be pan, shallow or deep fried normally with a coating.
Baking: Is suitable for medium and large fish and can be stuffed.











Nutritive value of fish
Doctors suggests that fish, instead of meat, should be used as the protein source several times a week because of the possible benefits of fish oils for coronary artery diseases.
Fish is a high-quality protein. Fish and shell-fish contain about 19% protein that is similar in amino acid composition to that found in muscle meats. The content varies from 1 to 20% depending upon the species and the season of the year. This is a substantially lower fat content than beef.
Fish contains protein of high biological value, essential minerals, vitamins and fats. Shellfish and salt-water fish are rich in iodine and fluorine, in addition to appreciable traces of cobalt, and for that reason make a valuable contribution the diet.
Fish is also a satisfactory source of magnesium, phosphorus, iron and copper. Shellfish generally have a higher calcium and iodine content that fish. Herring and oysters are exceptionally high in zinc.
A serving of fatty fish such salmon, mackerel and sardine will supply about 10% of the daily allowance of Vitamin D. The natural oil found in canned fish should be used, since it too is valuable source of these vitamins. An average serving of either fatty or lean fish will supply about 10% of thiamin, 15% riboflavin and 50% of the niacin required daily.
Fish and shellfish have high levels of poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), especially Omega-3 fatty acids, which tend to lower blood cholesterol by depressing low density lipoprotein (LDL) concentration Omega-3 fatty acids appear to also reduce levels of plasma triglyceride, in particular very low density lipoprotein (VLDL). The mechanism by which PUFA in diet lowers plasma lipid, especially cholesterol, is unclear.
Fish and shellfish are excellent source of easily digestible protein of high nutritional value. Tests have shown that 85% to 95% of the protein is assimilable.
Based on these facts, it is recommended that fish should be used as the protein source, instead of meat, several times a week because of the possible benefits of fish oils for coronary artery disease. Studies have indicated that by consuming more fish and oils (such as salmon or mackerel), cardiac mortality can be reduced and possible underlying coronary atherosclerosis improved.

Fish also contains important vitamins and minerals
Fish is an excellent source of the B vitamin niacin (Niacin assists in the functioning of the digestive system, skin, and nerves. It is also important for the conversion of food to energy) and B12 (Vitamin B12 is critical to building DNA and RNA, the maintenance of the nervous system, fatty acid synthesis, homocysteine metabolism and energy production), and in general is a better source of Vitamins D and A than beef, pork or chicken. The Vitamin D is vital for the formation of bones. Fish can also contribute appreciable amounts of dietary calcium, home iron and zinc, nutrients that tend to be low in people's diets. Fish is among the best sources of dietary selenium.
Fish and allergies
A food allergy is an immune system response to a food that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. Once the immune system decides that a particular food is harmful, it creates specific antibodies to it.
The next time the individual eats that food, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, including histamine, in order to protect the body. These chemicals trigger a cascade of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system.
At the present time, there is no cure for food allergy. Avoidance is the only way to prevent an reaction.
Allergic reactions to fish and shellfish are commonly reported in both adults and children. It is generally recommended that individuals who have had an allergic reaction to one species of fish or positive skin tests to fish avoid all fish. The same rule applies to shellfish. If you have a fish allergy but would like to have fish in your diet, speak with your allergist about the possibility of being challenged with various types of fish.
Fish-allergic individuals should be cautious when eating away from home. They should avoid fish and seafood restaurants because of the risk of contamination in the food-preparation area of their "non-fish" meal from a counter, spatula, cooking oil, fryer, or grill exposed to fish.

A brief history about fisherman’s community of Mumbai who are popularly known as “Kohlis”:
The Kolis-fisherfolk-of Mumbai are a distinct community. In Their dress, their language, their food and their lifestyle they are easily distinguishable. Especially the economically independent Koli women who are aggressive to the point of being quarrelsome.
Blocking the exit of the ladies compartment in the local train, dressed traditionally in their bright patterned sarees, noisily exchanging greetings, are the fisherwomen who squat on the floor of the train with their huge baskets of the fish. Working women hold their neatly pleated, flowing sarees well above their ankles as they gingerly tip-toe around them to avoid any close encounter with the fishy kind. If you hold your nose close to the offensive smell, the fisherwomen range in annoyance and God help you if you dare to object to the presence of her stinking fish in the commuters compartment. She’ll not merely threaten to douche you with fish water but I have been witness to a wrathful fisherwoman fling a fish rather accurately at a very well dressed young woman reducing her to tears!
Kolis, as the fisherfolk are known in Mumbai, are known to be easily excitable. Even an ordinary conversation between them often leads to a noisy quarrel in which abuses are easily exchanged. An exaggeration it may be but the statement is not inaccurate, that ‘a Koli sentence never begins without a vulgar epithet.’ Rather pleased with her aggressive image is the kolin and in the regional Marathi language kolin has become a synonym for an ‘abusive quarrelsome woman’. The kolis speak a local variation of Konkani which is a dialect of Marathi.
The Kolin’s entire position in society, her freedom of speech and action it a result of her economic power and independence arising from her kurga (her daily earnings). Dealing, as she has to, with all sorts of customers at the bazaar or during her door to door sales, she learns to quickly shed all coyness and freely interact with the men. She provides tremendous economic stability to the family and hence will not tolerate a bullying or wayward husband. Her financial position makes her more than welcome with her parents.
In return for her economic power she pays rather heavily by way of hard work. Her day begins at the break of dawn. After cooking for the family she takes off to the wharf to buy her fish and returns home only after the heavy load on her head is sold. At home, innumerous chores like mending fishing nets, fish baskets and drying to fish await her attention.
The Kolis are divided into two main occupational classes: the Dolkars and states. The Dolkars do the actual fishing while the latter purchase the haul wholesale. They usually set forth in boats to meet the returning Dolkars and buy the fish. Their popular folk song Dolkar dariyacha Raja (Dolkar, the king of the sea) underlines his supremacy.

The name Dolkar is derived from dol or dhola the large funnel shaped net. The smaller nets are known as jal. Every Koli house comprises an oti (verandah) which is reserved for weaving and repairing nets. Though house patterns differ, every house has a chool (kitchen), vathan (room) and a devghar (the worship room). Even in the poorest of families, living in one room tenements
one corner of the house is reserved for the God. Deeply religious, even the Christian converts, follow their original Hindu beliefs as well. The annual pilgrimage to the shrine of Ekvira, at the Karla caves in Pune district in undertaken by both the Hindus and the Christian Kolis. The chief Hindu religious festivals are ‘Gauru Shimga’ and ‘Narial Poornima’. No. Koli whatever his faith, will recommence fishing after the rainy season without offering a coconut to the sea on Narial Poornima day.
The Hindu Kolis worship Mahadev, Hanuman and Khandoba and the Christian Kolis worship these and images of Christ and Virgin Mary. A few worship ancestors (Vir) and are known in the community as Virkar in opposition to the Devkars who worship only God. The oldest members of the family both male and female are also worshipped.
Songs from an important part of the Kolis culture. Almost every ceremony of restival has its special song without which the ceremony does not commence. At the beginning of every such song a stanza is devoted to the deities. The deities are invoked andinvited to the ceremony.
‘Gondan’ (tattooing) to is given religious significance as it is considered a mark of recognition by God. They believe that after death at the gates of heaven a woman is asked Godhun aali ki choruni? (Do you bear the mark of God or are you sneaking in?).
The name Mumbai is derived from the goddess, ‘Mumba’, the patron deity of the pre-Christian Kolis, the earliest inhabitants of the island. In the present day the shrine of Mumbadevi, situated at the south-west corner of the Mumbadevi tank in the very heart of the city is accorded more reverence than perhaps any other shrine.
Various records reveal that Kolis have been found in Mumbai from early times. Dr. Gerson da Cunha in the book ‘Origin of Mumbai’ describes old Mumbai as ‘the desolate islet of the Mumbai Koli fishermen. The Kolis are reported to have occupied the land in A.D. 1138.
Mumbai-Heptanesia as it was once known, comprised seven separate and amorphous isles namely Kolaba, Old Woman’s Island, Mumbai, Mazagaon, Sion, Worli and Mahim (all of which have now been joined by bridges and reclamations). Records of the earlier settlements of Mumbai speak of Koli villages in all the seven islands. Though they are completely dwarfed by the highrise, congested apartments, Koli villages exist all along the sea coast of Mumbai even today. Mazagaon, it is believed, owes its name to fish, Machchagaun meaning fish-village, Kolaba means the Koli estate.
In the matter of dress too, Kolis possess an individuality. Standing out distinctly, even in the sea of humanity that is Mumbai, is the koli who has not given up his or her traditional attire. The dress of a Koli woman consists of two or three garments namely a lugat(sari), a choli (blouse) and a parkhi (a shoulder scarf). The Christian Kolis don’t use a parkhi and wear a typical red-checked saree with a tiny border and use the palla of the saree to cover their shoulders. Lugat is really the lower garment, nine yards in length in bright floral designs. It is worn in a peculiar way so that when draped at the waist it reaches just below the knees and is drawn up tightly between the legs.
The men generally wear a surkha (a loin cloth). It is a square piece of cloth, thrown diagonally in front on a string tied round the waist. The lower end of the cloth is tightly drawn through the legs and knotted at the back so as to cover the divided of the buttocks. A waist-coat and close fitting cap complete the attire. When not at sea the modern Koli wears a pair of pants and shirts.
Fond jewellery, even their men wear armlets, bangles and earnings. The women don’t believe in bank accounts and invest almost all their savings in gold. They wear traditional chunky typically Koli jewellery like the earnings patterned like the Pisces symbol (fish swimming in opposite directions) worn by almost all of them.
Otherwise the Kolis live a very simple life. The ordinary Koli meal consists of curry (ambat), rice, and fried fish. When at sea the men eat dried fish and rice gruel. They make a lot of sweet dishes at the Koli women are extremely fond of them. You only wish it would give them a sweet-tongue!

No comments:

Post a Comment