Being a person from an agricultural rural area of Kerala, I was not used to explore the delicacies called fast food and junk food (except those in the country wayside shops called 'thattukada'). In fact it was only after joining Infy I tasted something called pizza.
Then I didn’t like it too. How can one feel okay when he is so distressed since missing the boiled rice in the food court. It was the only one item available in the company food court which tasted somewhere close to my home food.
Same is the case with foods from other parts of the country.
Exceptions: Roti, naan, North Indian non veg dishes, Bengali items served in Rumi's Food court, Tandor Chicken, Andhra style chicken biriyani... yeah, over. Since it is rice, somehow I am OK with fried rice. Pizza - I am no enemy of it. That's all. Chilly/Egg bajji are OK. Pani puri I can’t take :-(. If the breakfast menu has something like idly, dosa, upma, poori or any Kerala special (of course not in our food courts) appam, idiyappam, putt, kappa (this is too much to expect) I’ll be happy. To summarize, I am very homesick in terms of food also.
Similarly, I kept a distance from street foods also. It is prepared at roadside. Dust, smoke, poor oil, low quality ingredients, unclean surroundings and utensils. There are n reasons. But still i fell for one. Yes! That too a non veg dish. It is the fish fry sold after sunset on cart, behind the bus stop, opposite to NTTF, E-city, Bangalore.
I have been to this area for 3.5 years. I never bothered to notice what are prepared there. Here you can see a place for sugar cane juice, a fast food center(friend rice etc.), another cart for non-veg dishes(fried chicken, chicken liver, mackerel fish fry etc.), One cart selling chily/egg bajji, bonda, etc. My cart, the exclusive fish fry cart is the last one, usually seen at the first position as viewed from the bus stop.
In fact they are doing big business, as they collect thousands in a few hours every evening. As I mentioned earlier, I haven't noticed the big business going on here all these years. I was not interested in street food for the sake of the stable state of my stomach. A nice meal can make me happy for the whole day and a bad eat can spoil my next day too. One day, my cousin, he is a manager in a premium automobile dealership, asked me whether i had ever had the fish fry sold there. He knows my interest in fish/seafood.
I told no.
He smiled, "Man, you must try it. It is very good."
"Uh.. How come you having these? Street foods?"
His smile spread again. He is used to street foods and tried all varieties of food available at least in South India. I trusted his words. He doesn’t say anything just like that. But, still i was a bit hesitant to try it out. 'Chettan' told, "I haven’t tasted Catla fish this good and tasty in my life ever." I couldn’t believe his words because more than 5 years he had been to Mangalore where fish/seafood is a lifestyle and culture. He added, "Rajmon, I don’t suggest a dish to any one if it is not approved by my stomach. I didn’t face tough time after eating this, instead liked it."
"Okay." I was convinced.
One day, after leaving office, I walked to E-city as usual. This fish cart was there. A lean lady was frying catla on a big thick pan. The oven was a cylindrical one with almost one foot height. One part of it was open; through this opening the lady put the firewood. A CFL lamp is hung from the roof of the cart spreading cool light over the frying pan. Spicy steam was coming from the pan and the heat radiated from the urn as she set more fire. About 8-10 whole fishes were placed on the pan. The fins/scales were properly removed, retaining the tail and each of the fish was opened very neatly right below its chin to the abdomen(?) whilst removing its internal unusable parts. On the flesh, vertical cracks were made so that oil and masala can reach inside the flesh and the item tastes uniformly. While frying, the fish was not dipped fully in the oil. Instead, occasionally she was pouring 1-2 tablespoons of oil using the flat ended spoon which she used to pick/flip the fish pieces. Interesting part is the fish is already cleaned and some masala is applied and kept in a big bucket at the right side of the cart. Now, while frying she again smears a masala (from the smell and taste it seems to be a mixture of red chilly powder, salt and pepper powder) using the spatula two three times. On the hot plate the masala unites with the 'Ruchi Gold' oil and sticks to the fleshy fish.
It takes 5-8 minutes to prepare a fish ready for serving. She puts it on a piece of dry leaf spread on a sheet of folded newspaper. As you hold it, if you feel your piece is too hot to hold, get some more paper to stack your serving. There is no other way because you should enjoy it when it is very hot.
The fish is from some dam near Krishnagiri. Every day the fish is brought from there. Sometimes it won’t be the lady; a guy will be handling the shop. My personal opinion is it tastes better when the 'Akka' (the lady) fries it. She charges you based on the size of the fish; generally the price range is Rs. 15-40. Remember, ordinary restaurants in E-city charge at least Rs. 50 for a fish fry. Anyway, I second my cousin's opinion after trying it there. I love the dish, I am almost regular there and it has no history of blasting inside!
PS: A problem is the shop is not regular. You have to eat standing, stray dogs will be around you expecting a share (in the form of bones though) and the premises are not ideal for eating. Just turn towards Hosur road, start from tail end and finish with head, watch for sharp or needle like bones in each pinch of flesh and enjoy!