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Best fish to eat in India

Discussion in 'Food & Drinks' started by hiten, Dec 22, 2016.

  1. hiten

    hiten New Member

    I will be going to India, and this time I will be visiting a couple of different destinations. As well as taking an interest in travel I also take an interest in tasting various types of dishes. I know that during the winter season fish is a big hit especially in North India when it is only available in winters, I know that in South India and places like Goa it is available throughout the year.

    I would like to know what is the best fish to eat in India?

    The places I am considering to visit are Delhi, Goa and possibly Kerala.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hi, welcome to the forum!


    The coastline of India is over 7,500 kilometres long, including the coastal areas of the union territory of Andaman. As such, it's only inevitable that the fishing industry is a thriving field in the country. The species of fishes in India are very diverse, accounting to more than 2,500 in both categories of cartilaginous and bony fishes. Of course, the variety of fishes in the coastal areas are more extensive as compared to the metro cities like Delhi or Mumbai. Further, distribution of fishes caught by fishermen from rural areas is not that extensive too, so the fishes that make it to the cities are quite few. If you venture further into the southern areas, you would get more options, especially around Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat and Kerala. In this guide, we would highlight some of the best species of fishes to eat in India, classifying it further into the north and the south.

    Best Fishes to Eat in North India

    Fish availability in the northern parts of India is less when compared to the south. This is because of their geographical location, they're further away from the coastal areas. As such, fish is priced higher here and you don't have as much variety. North India is comprised of the capital of Delhi, the states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Punjab. The only saving grace is the state of Uttar Pradesh where there are a number of lakes, canals and rivers that provide for many fish species in the northern part of the country. Further, there are also places that fishes are raised, so-called farm-raised fishes, like in ponds.

    1. Catfish - Catfish is a specie of fish that is abundant in many parts of America, Europe and also Asia. Because catfishes are relatively easy to breed and raise, they are the prime choice for ponds around North India. During recent times though, the breeding of the African specie of catfish was banned in the country. There are other varieties of catfish though that are widely available in North India like the catfish clarius and catfish wallago. Unlike other fish species, catfish doesn't have scales and has signature cat-like whiskers, which is how it got its name. Catfish has several names in India, like sangtam in Hindi and magur in Assamese. Catfish is high in vitamins such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as minerals like magnesium and potassium. A favourite dish in the northern part of India using catfish is the Catfish Curry. The mixture of garlics, turmeric, coriander, ginger and many more spices help to flavour the catfish. The thick consistency of the curry goes well with breads or white rice.
    • Cooked As - Catfish Curry
    2. Catla - Catla is type of fish native to the country of India and other surrounding countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar. This fish is commonly found in the water bodies of North India like lakes and rivers. In India, it is also known as the Indian carp, but it goes by many names like tambra in Hindi and baudhekra in Assamese. Catla is recognisable by its large protruding lower lip and black-coloured fins. It is also very rich in sulphur and zinc, helping to maintain the skin and boost the immune system as well. The Catla Fish Stew is popular amongst North Indians. Ingredients like onions, chilli paste, ginger, turmeric and other spices are cooked on slow fire along with the fish. It makes for a nice side or starter dish. Or you can opt for the Grilled Catla Curry, wherein the fish is grilled after being marinated and then added into a delicious spicy curry.
    • Cooked As - Catla Fish Stew or Grilled Catla Curry
    3. Rohu - Generally, rohu is commonly found in many water bodies around North India and South India. This type of fish is extensively found in the rivers around Uttar Pradesh and even the states of Tripura and Assam. Rohu is a part of the carp family, having a reddish scale colour and has a narrower head as compared to the catla. It is also known as tambadu masa in Hindi and rau in Assamese. There are many different ways of cooking rohu but the most common ones are that of grilling or making it into a curry. Just marinate the rohu in a mixture of garlic, onion, masala, turmeric and coriander before grilling and you're good to go. The Rohu Fish Curry is equally delectable especially when you pair it with steaming hot white rice.
    • Cooked As - Grilled Rohu or Rohu Fish Curry
    Rohu Fish Curry.jpg
    Rohu Fish Curry (Image from Bethica's Kitchen Flavours)

    4. Trout - Because trouts are usually found in colder water bodies, North India has an abundance of this fish specie. Brown trout was first introduced in the middle of the 18th century in the Himalayan region. By the early 19th century, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has numerous numbers of this fish specie. Trouts feed on other small insects and fishes though, which is why they taste quite uniquely, especially if their diet consisted mainly of shrimps or other crustaceans. A favourite dish made from trout is the Kullu Trout. It's a very simple dish, the fish is marinated in crushed coriander seeds, lemon juice, coriander and mustard oil, before being fried into crunchy perfection. It can serve as an appetiser or main meal when eaten with white rice.
    • Cooked As - Kullu Trout
    5. Hilsa - Although hisla is mainly found in the waters of Bangladesh, it can also be caught in some waters around India. It is transported in the northern part of Delhi and is a favourite fish of the Bengals and Mizorams. It can also be found in market areas of Delhi, although it is priced a bit higher. It is also known locally as ilish. There are many ways of cooking this type of fish but even simply frying it is enough to make its flavours come out more. As compared to other fishes, hilsa has a slight oiliness to it, which makes it even more delicious. Packed with lots of omega-3 fatty acids, it's also good for the heart and health. Cooking it is very simple, as it's just marinated in some turmeric powder and salt before being fried and added into a delicious masala gravy. This dish is known as the Sarsoon Macchi, native to the Bengal region but can also be found in some areas in the north.
    • Cooked As - Sarsoon Macchi
    6. Sole - Sole is a type of flat fish found in many continents such as America, Europe and Asia. Because of their lower prices in the market, sole fishes are consumed by the masses. It has a white, lean flesh but the texture of the skin is a bit on the hard side. It can mainly be found on the coastline of Malabar. The taste of sole is moderate, so you need proper cooking skills to make it more tasty. In Amritsar, sole fish is usually fried after being marinated into a vinegar mixture for a few minutes. The vinegar needs to be throughly washed before marinating it again into a mixture of chilli powder, garlic paste, ginger paste and other spices. Once done, it would then be fried until it achieves a nice golden colour. If you can find sole fillets, they are great for making Sole Fingers, a starter dish that can also be paired with rice.
    • Cooked As - Fried Sole Fish or Sole Fingers
    7. Tilapia - Although tilapia is a known fish all over the world, its breeding is limited in India. However, newer breeding programs are being introduced to raise tilapias in the country. Tilapia is relatively cheap, has a juicy taste and easily prepared. It's no wonder that it is an in-demand fish specie all over the world. Even just frying this fish and serving it with white rice can make for a fulfilling meal. But if you want something a bit different, North Indians have a special dish known as the Baked Tilapia. The fish is just marinated in cumin powder, chilli powder, masala, coriander chutney, ginger paste and garlic paste before being baked. It's best to use a tilapia that has been de-boned for this dish. Otherwise, a typical Fish Curry would also work for this type of fish.
    • Cooked As - Baked Tilapia or Tilapia Curry
    Tilapia Curry.jpg
    Tilapia Curry (Image from Monica Raj)

    8. Indian Salmon - One of the most expensive fishes in the Indian market is the Indian salmon, also known as rawas. Its availability depends on the season and even then, buying it means giving in to the higher prices of vendors. The succulent white meat of the Indian salmon is enough to win over fish lovers. You can usually spot this fish in markets during the winter season, from October to December. There's a myriad of ways of preparing and cooking the Indian salmon but the simple Baked Salmon is a favourite amongst North Indians. You simply marinate the salmon fillet in yogurt, pepper, ginger, garlic, cilantro and other spices overnight. The next day, you can bake it and relish in the unique flavour of the dish. The Salmon Tikka Masala is another good option, the combination of tomatoes with the tandoori masala soaked fish is divine.
    • Cooked As - Baked Salmon and Salmon Tikka Masala
    9. Pomfret - Another expensive but delicious fish is pomfret, mainly found in the waters of Maharashtra. There are three main varieties of pomfret, silver, black and Chinese, with the former two being more prominent in the coasts of India. Pomfrets have wide, circular bodies, with large fins and tails. The best way of cooking pomfrets is by baking or frying so that they retain their natural flavours. A Tandoori Pomfret Fry is a favourite delicacy in the northern part of India. The pomfret is marinated in a spice mixture of garlic paste, turmeric, chilli and coriander powder before being fried. Or you can try out the Masala Pomfret Fry, wherein the fish is marinated in a spice mixture of ginger, garlic, turmeric, red chilli and lemon oil before being fried. The former tastes savoury with a hint of spiciness while the latter tastes savoury with a hint of tanginess and some spiciness.
    • Cooked As - Tandoori Pomfret Fry or Masala Pomfret Fry
    Best Fishes to Eat in South India

    Fish availability in southern parts of India is quite abundant. Both the eastern and western coasts provide for the seafood needs of the regions. As such, much of the cuisine in the south relies heavily on seafood and fishes. Kerala is primarily known for its coconut-based curries which usually have fishes or prawns in them. Likewise, Goa's signature Portuguese-Indian cuisine also relies on lots of fishes and prawns. In the coastal Karnataka areas, fishes, prawns and crabs are also part of the local cuisine. There is no shortage of fishes and other seafoods in the southern areas of India.

    1. King Mackerel - This fish is also known as the Indo-Pacific king mackerel, locally as surmai in Marathi and as vanjaram in Tamil. The king mackerel can be found in other Asian waters of Thailand and the Philippines. This type of fish is distinguishable by its thinner body, flanked by sharp fins on the sides. It is mostly found along the coasts of the Indian ocean. The king mackerel can be used in many types of stews because it has a very firm body that holds out well in cooking. In Kerala, the king mackerel is cooked in a tamarind curry, Tamarind King Fish Curry, which gives it a distinct tangy taste. The curry is prepared first, a mixture of garlic, ginger, coriander, turmeric, tamarind, cumin and other spices. Once done, you add in the slices of the king mackerel, better if they are in fillet form, simmer for about 15 minutes before serving. In Tamil Nadu, king mackerel is cooked in a spicy and sour curry, known as the Hot and Sour King Fish Curry. This dish is especially spicy since the king mackerel is marinated in red chillies for a few hours. The tangy gravy compliments the spicy fish though.
    • Cooked As - Tamarind King Fish Curry or Hot and Sour King Fish Curry
    2. Barramundi - Barramundi is a native specie of fish found in both West Bengal and Goa. In West Bengal, the fish is known as bhetki while in Goa, the fish is known as chonak. Aside from omega-3 fatty acids, barramundi is rich in minerals such as selenium, zinc and magnesium. Barramundi has silvery scales, a protruding lower lip and darker fins. In West Bengal, barramundi is used for the famed Fish Fry. The fish is first seasoned with spices such as chilli, coriander, garlic and ginger powders before being covered with flour. The barramundi is easily covered with flour, unlike other fishes. And when paired with chutneys, the resulting taste is quite delicious. In Goa though, barramundi is cooked in a curry, in the simple Goan Fish Curry. Whichever dish you choose, the exotic flavour of barramundi is sure to stand out still.
    • Cooked As - Barramundi Fish Fry or Goan Fish Curry
    Barramundi Fish Fry.jpg
    Barramundi Fish Fry (Image from Food 52)

    3. Mangrove Red Snapper - Next is the mangrove red snapper, which breeds in both the east coast and west coast of India. As the name suggests, the fish has a signature red colour in its scales, even its fins are of the reddish hue. Even in Goa, these fishes can easily be caught along the coastline. The mangrove red snapper is one of the most affordable fishes in India and also widely available so a good option for the fish lovers. There are many ways of cooking it but to enhance its naturally sweet taste, you can try the Red Snapper Fish Fry. Before frying though, apply a marinade mixture of turmeric, chilli powder, tomato sauce and other spices to the fish overnight. The next day, you can fry the red snapper in deep oil to fully ensure it's cooked well.
    • Cooked As - Red Snapper Fish Fry
    4. Karimeen - This fish is also known as the green chromide and can be found in waters along the southern part of India, mainly in Kerala's backwaters. It has a very stout appearance, with greyish scales and darker fins. The karimeen is actually the state fish of the state of Kerala and there are a number of ways of cooking it just from the state alone. However, this is also one of the more expensive fishes in the state owing to the demand for it. The taste of karimeen is neither sweet nor salty, because it has a bit of both. When fried, Karimeen Fish Fry, it is marinated overnight in spices such as garlic powder, coriander and turmeric, before being fried. Sometimes, some places cook karimeen in a traditional way, via oven wrapped in banana leaves, known as Karimeen Pollichathu. If you're feeling adventurous, karimeen also tastes good when curried in coconut, known as the Karimeen Curry. As Kerala's state fish, karimeen is sure to delight the tourists as well.
    • Cooked As - Karimeen Fish Fry, Karimeen Pollichathu and Karimeen Curry
    5. Indian Halibut - This fish is also known as potha in Tamil language. This fish can be found in the eastern coastal areas of India. Its distinct feature is that both its eyes are either on the right side or left side of its head. It has a brownish, greyish colour and has fins attached on both the upper and lower parts of its body. The flesh of the halibut is a firm, whitish one, perfect when making soups or stews. The Halibut Stew is a favourite amongst the southern part of India. For this stew, a tomato base is used, enhanced by a clam juice, which goes best with plain breads. You can also try the Halibut Curry, wherein a yogurt-based curry is used to enhance the flavour of the halibut. This dish is best served with white rice or even plain naans.
    • Cooked As - Halibut Stew or Halibut Curry
    6. Indian Oil Sardine - Native to the coasts of the Indian ocean, the Indian oil sardine is a favourite fish of the Keralans and Tamils. In Kerala, it is also known as mathi and in Tamil Nadu, it is also known as chaalai. It has a particularly elongated body, with short fins and tails. When cooked for a long time, their bones soften enough to be savoured along with the flesh. They are pretty affordable too and tasty especially when cooked in a curry. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids plus other vitamins, the Indian oil sardines can be a very important part of one's diet. The curry base used for the Indian Oil Sardine Curry is usually a tomato and tamarind mixture.
    • Cooked As - Indian Oil Sardine Curry
    7. Indian Anchovy - Anchovies are smaller fishes, usually used as baits for the larger species of fishes. However, in parts of India and Sri Lanka, these small fishes make for delectable snacks when fried. The Indian anchovy can be found in most coastal areas of India. In Kerala, the Indian anchovy is also known as the nethili, but they are quite bigger as compared to the other kinds of Indian anchovy. The best way of cooking these small fishes is by frying, known in Kerala as the Nethili Meen Fry. A marinade mixture of turmeric, chilli powder and ginger, you can add in other spices, is used to soak the fishes in. You can then fry the fishes the day after and relish in their spicy, salty flavour. You can also make a curry, Nethili Meen Karuvadu Thokku, after marinating the fishes in the same mixture.
    • Cooked As - Nethili Meen Fry or Nethili Meen Karuvadu Thokku
    Nethili Meen Fry.jpg
    Nethili Meen Fry (Image from Cheezz Kitchen)

    8. Indian Mackerel - Widely available western coast of India, the Indian mackerel is one of the most commercially available fishes in the country. It can also be found on the eastern coast of India, although the catches are relatively lesser in frequency than in the west. The Indian mackerel has a light greyish scale, huge eyes and sparse fins on both sides. Since it has a nice, deep hollow in its body, you can put stuffings inside its body when cooking. The Stuffed Indian Mackerel is a popular dish in the southern side of the country. Once the bones of the fish are taken out, insert stuffings of shallots, gingers, raw mangoes, lemon and cooked rice into the fish before frying or baking it. This dish is a complete meal already, no need for curries, gravies or breads at all.
    • Cooked As - Stuffed Indian Mackerel
    9. Indian White Mullet - Last on the list is this sweet-tasting fish specie, known as the Indian white mullet. It can be found in both the eastern and western coasts of India. It has an elongated body, short fins and plenty of scales. The Indian white mullet is best cooked in curries, as it has a nice firm flesh that holds well in slow cooking. When cooked in the Kerala stye of Mullet Fish Curry, the creaminess of the coconut mixes with the tanginess of the tamarind and the natural sweetness of the fish mixes in as well. This array of flavors is very soothing to the palate and goes well with the blandness of white rice.
    • Cooked As - Mullet Fish Curry

    There are many varieties of fishes around India, whether you're in the south or in the north. Of course, the south has more resources being in the coastal area. But even the northern part has a good variety of fishes, owing to the number of lakes, rivers and ponds in the region. While most fishes are available in both regions, the cooking style differs and that really gives each region their distinct personality when it comes to fish dishes.

    I hope this helps!
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  3. iamawriter

    iamawriter Member

    If shellfish is what you are looking for too, then there is no dearth of prawns, clams, crabs and lobsters available in plenty both freshly caught at Kerala and Goa. Delhi imports it from these places and elsewhere. Hotels lined up on seashores can give you the best stuff.
  4. Admin

    Admin Administrator Staff Member

    Manali and surrounding areas have the best trout. there are literally hundreds of restaurants and shacks by the river side that sell trout and many people say that is the best fish to eat in India. I am not a great fan due to trout having too many bones.
  5. Kate Collins

    Kate Collins Member

    I've never tried eating trout but, would like to try some. What I know about trout is it is being considered as a great sport in India, trout fishing.
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  6. Food O Holic

    Food O Holic New Member

    I'm not personally a fish lover, but I did have fish when I was on my trip to Manali, and believe me for someone who doesn't really eat fish I was eating my second serving. The fish served in Manali is as fresh as it can get, soft, and full of flavors. Restaurants not only serve the best fish there, but its the way they cook it which makes a whole lot of difference to the taste.

    For the best experience its good to visit restaurants by the river.
  7. Tripti

    Tripti New Member

    Pomfret is a flatfish that is widely popular in coastal regions like Goa, Maharashtra, and Kerala. It's known for its delicate and mild flavor, making it a favorite for various preparations. Its an excellent fish to have when ever in the Maharastra and Kerela areas.
  8. Karan

    Karan Member

    When it comes to the best fish to enjoy in India, you're in for a culinary adventure due to the country's vast coastline and diverse culinary traditions. Here are some top choices to savor:

    1. Pomfret: This white-fleshed fish is highly sought after for its delicate flavor and texture. It's often prepared in a variety of ways, from simple grilled dishes to more complex spiced curries.

    2. Kingfish: Known as "Surmai" in many regions, it's a popular choice for its meaty texture and rich flavor. It's commonly featured in coastal dishes and tandoori preparations.

    3. Hilsa: Found in West Bengal and Bangladesh, Hilsa is celebrated for its unique taste and is often prepared in a mustard-based curry called "Ilish Maach."

    4. Basa: While not native to India, Basa has gained popularity due to its mild flavor and affordability. It's commonly used in various Indian seafood dishes.

    5. Rohu and Katla: In northern India, these freshwater fish are commonly used in traditional dishes like "Machher Jhol" (fish curry).

    6. Anchovies: These small, oily fish are used in coastal cuisines for their intense flavor. They're often fried, pickled, or used as a seasoning in various dishes.

    7. Tilapia: Known for its versatility and mild taste, Tilapia is widely available and used in many Indian recipes.
    Ultimately, the best fish in India depends on your personal taste preferences and the region you're visiting. Exploring local seafood specialties is an integral part of experiencing India's rich culinary heritage.