How Indians cook anchovies

Known as Nethili in kerala and Phasa in Assam, Anchovy is a delicious saltwater fish which is easy to cook

20 Sep 2022

Often mistaken for sardines, anchovies are a small saltwater fish, often cooked in coastal areas of the country. Anchovies are salty and pungent, and make for great appetizers as well as curries. While quite famous in international cuisine, anchovies also feature in several different regional cuisines. The Godrej Food Trends Report (GFTR) 2022, predicts a greater interest in the regional cuisines of the country, amongst not only Indians but also chefs abroad. “We are now seeing some very knowledgeable chefs and cooks starting to reflect back on our rich and vast cuisine.” says Helly Naichura owner and chef of Australia based restaurant Enter Via Laundry.  “We are learning, documenting and sharing recipes, techniques and food philosophies of our landscape and most importantly cooking from those learnings. In a global setting I see our cuisine gradually starting to move from the position of being influenced to influencing and educating other popular food cultures” she says.

As we deep dive into the bounties of India’s regional cuisine, today we turn our focus to anchovies.

In Kerala, nethili (as it is known) fry is a hit amongst the different toddy shops across the state. Cleaned and washed anchovies are marinated in a spicy mixture of garlic-ginger, turmeric, pepper, crushed shallots and red chillies, post which they are shallow or deep fried in some Godrej Veg Oils. Anchovies are naturally salty, so salt is carefully added. The fried fish is garnished with spring onions and a drizzle of lime water. In the form of a curry, nethili is cooked in tamarind infused water with vegetables such as potato, and tomatoes and served with a warm bowl of rice. The turmeric infused phasa, as it is known in Assam, also enjoys a similar preparation in the region.

Moving east, in Orissa, the anchovy is pan fried in a mustard and garlic paste in what is referred to as Besara. The fried fish is cooked in a turmeric infused stew along with ambula (dried mango), baby potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and served alongside a warm bowl of rice known as ‘pakhala’.

Bengali cuisine too has a specific preparation of anchovies in the form of mourola macher tok. The washed anchovies or mourola fish are first deep fried Godrej Mustard Oil. Peeled and cut green mangoes are boiled in turmeric infused water till they are soft. Thereafter, the anchovies are added to the stew which is served alongside rice. 

Do you know any more regional preparations of anchovies? Tell us in the comments section below

Download the Godrej Food Trends Report 2022.

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Appetizer Seafood Godrej Food Trends Report Indian recipe GFTR 2021 regional recipe
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