It’s 4 in the morning and most of the city is fast asleep. Not in Kasimedu, however. The din here is enough to raise Kumbakarnan from his slumber. Interestingly enough, this is where our journey today begins, as we follow along from Market to Meal.
As the fishing boats make land, sellers come out in droves to gather up the catch, and set up in neat little rows, ready to sell their wares just as the sun peeks over the horizon. It’s a great place for citywide hawkers to strike a good bargain, and for seafood lovers to get fresh fish straight from the source. It’s also where we find Executive Chef of Residency Chennai, Vellaiswamy Ganesh, and his Sous Chefs Jayaraj and Tamil, as they catch a glimpse of the sunrise before heading into the crowded marketplace, to get their hands on the haul of the day.
Something smells fishy
With a singular focus, they cut across to grab some seerfish - the star ingredient of Chef’s famous Karuvepillai Vanjaram Varuval (made only on request or for special occasions, his is a recipe of measured brilliance). It isn’t easy to find the right fit for such an exquisite dish, but with a few simple checks, our chefs are always sure when they find the right one.
Just as you look for cut, clarity, and carat when it comes to diamonds, they look for metallic skin, bright bulging eyes, and pink gills to ensure the catch is truly fresh. They remark on the light, fishy odor that reminds them of an ocean breeze, before turning to bag their prize and take it to go.
Slice it, and dice it, and mark with some spice!
Once the package is safely in the kitchen, it’s time to bring it out into the light. Now, if there’s one thing we can all learn from our piscine friends, it’s that a rough exterior could just be hiding a warm, soft center. It really is an ode to humanity, if you think about it!
As our Sous Chefs make quick work of the fish, Chef Ganesh puts together his special concoction of spices. The thin cuts marinate in the mixture, soaking up the flavours, down to the core. When he’s satisfied with the result, the Chef pulls piece after piece out of the crock, placing it gently over a medium-heated pan, listening closely for that gratifying hiss.
We like our fish flambé-d
While a slow cooked slice of delicious fish is music to our ears, the true genius of Chef Ganesh lies in his dramatic en flambé! He spruces up the tempo as he dances with the flames, giving it one good final toss before setting it down in its final resting place.
In serving up a slice of paradise, he moulds the entire experience. He entices all our senses with the crackle of the top layer, the exquisite plating technique, an unparalleled aroma of spices, and a piece of fish that’s crisp to the touch. All that’s left is to savour the delicacy by popping it in our mouths!
If we could say one thing for certain, we’re just ‘Karuvepillai Vanjaram Varuval’ dreaming. How about you? Are you ready for the taste of a lifetime?