The Versova Fish Festival- with the Bloggerazzi and the Twitterati

Earlier in December I went to the Fish Festival held at the Bandra Kurla complex. It was organized by the Ministry of Fisheries. I attended that festival on its last day with Rushina of a Perfect Bite and my sis Ms. Cultured Purl. I was surprised how poorly attended the event was. There were many food stalls, many beautifully dressed Koli people but very few visitors. Maybe people don't like fish enough I thought.
I was in two minds to attend the Versova fish festival. After all I had already attended one last month, and I had a pretty hectic week. This excuse that excuse, but I checked in with my fellow blogger Finely Chopped and he said he was going. That was all I needed to sway my decision to attend the Versova Fish Festival.
So finally after an incredibly long adventurous day I met up with Kalyan and Madhumita who was Kalyan's twitter friend at the Costa Coffee at Versova. We drive up Yari Road asking a few Rickshawalas about the wearabouts of this festival and most of them had not heard of it. I was skeptical, it was close to 10pm. Maybe it was over, maybe we were too late. "Sassy Forks pictures from last year's fish festival were taken quite late at night" Kalyan reassured me. By the way, that is how we had all heard of the fish festival.

We arrived at the entrance of the Koli village and drove through this incredibly narrow lane. The houses were charming, a self contained village by the sea. I am definitely going come back to this place in the daytime with my camera. Finally, we arrived at the entrance of the Versova Fish Festival. A large canopy of colorful satin fabric, a huge fish at the entrance welcomed us. We walked in and bumped into the lovely Poonam Joshi of Homemade Happiness. She was on her way out and quickly pointed at some of her favourites. It took me a minute to take it all in. On the far stage there was live music with Koli dancing. The music was upbeat and alive. All around were stalls, fishing nets decorating the signages, goddesses adorning each stall. Sexy Sheila- like Koli girls were the muse of many life size posters. Each stall had a number with the address of the fishing group. The place was packed. All the tables were filled with people- families-  eating , drinking, laughing- lots of fish bones and crab legs, crustacean carcass and beer cans in the bins. We were sort of lost for a minute. Kalyan said- lets try stuff we would not get at the Gajalees and Jaihinds.

We sort of walked a few steps and stopped. It was huge and there were lots of people We randomly chose a starting point. At our first stall there was a man grilling pomfret and large tiger prawns. Huge. Doused in a fiery red sauce. We ordered the prawns. All three of us stood in a corner holding this hot plate of prawns and stared at it. Madhumita took one bite and her eyes grew in wonder. All three of us struggled with our camera as we tried to peel the shell off the prawns. Our fingers and lips were red from the marinade, but our tastebuds were dancing in delight.  We walked down to the next stall and tried the fried bombil. It was so fresh. Absolutely melt in your mouth fresh. Madhumita commented that this is as fresh as it gets, no smell, tastes delicate & beautiful.

Clam Curry
Fish Pakodas
Lip smacking red marinade
Kalyan taking a photograph as he balances the fried bombil plate
Bombil Curry
Yum lobster
Grilled Rawas
The back area
Grandpa and granddaughter.

We walked back and forth in the crowds. Madhumita and I finally settled at a table, while Kalyan was being recognised by people in the crowd. When I first met him, I had huge stars in my eyes.
Here a nice Koli aunty got us this lovely green crab curry and lobster curry. The crab shell disappointingly was all green masala which was delicious but no crab meat. Till we got to the legs and other parts that had to be cracked open. Our table soon piled high with carcass. Finely Chopped wanted his photo taken sucking out of the lobster head. It was so funny. We also had some Fosters and white rice roti (a common Koli preparation) as the perfect accompaniment. Then we ordered some garam garam fish pakodas.
Lovely Koli aunty
Fosters and seafood
The way his momma taught him
Madhumita and the crab
Food seduction
Stall no. 10 and 11
Fish Pakoda
The Sonali Bendre Fish pakoda making it on Twitter
The one thing I started enjoying was that Kalyan and Madhumita kept taking pictures with their blackberries and were tweeting as we moved from stall to stall. Power of the twitterati- just the thing #versovafishfestival needed.

Like happy children at a toy fair, we wandered around. The place was alive, any moment a Dimple Kapadia aka Bobby would have appeared danced. Found this frankie wala who made frankies at the rate of 10 frankies a minute. the stuffing was a mashed potato like prawn stuffing with lots of masala. It was good but fiery hot. Tasted more of potatoes than prawns.

Kolkata walas.
Guiness world record of Frankie making
We were getting full but we ran into the lovely Ms. Devyani of the Lakshmi group. We ordered fish roe, stuffed squid and tuna pakodas from her stall. We sat with our second beer. Here there were also on display whisky and port wine. Devyani said to us kindly - Cant eat fish without whisky.

The tuna pakoda stole my heart. Now I know why they say its a close substitute to red meat. It was meaty, spicy, tender, delicious and wholesome. The stuffed squid was wonderful. It was perfectly cooked and was not chewy. As we ate our food, and photographed it, Ms. Devyani told us that this festival was 6 years old. She worked for Air India and the rest of the women at her stall owned their fishing boats and sold fish to wholesalers. While in Mumbai- Malwani, Mangolorean, Karnatak and Goan cuisine is popular in restaurants like Gajalee, Jaihind, Soulfry etc. there is not a single Koli restaurant. That the Koli people are the original people of Mumbai- the seven islands. They dont come from any village this is their land. That Koli food differs from Malwani food in its sauce- there is no coconut just onion, garlic and ginger. That she hopes this festival will be the first step towards creating awareness of the Koli food. That maybe soon there will be a Koli restaurant in Mumbai. Kalyan pointed out to her that this event was not publicized by any of the major English newspapers and if it was it was very obscure.
As I finished the last tuna pakoda, I sighed and realized how important it was for us to be there, to participate in these unknown wonders of our city. Thanks Sassy Fork. Thanks Kalyan and Madhumita for live tweeting. I resolved to write a second blog post on the fish festival. I know this is long and there are so many photos but I really hope I sway you to go there tonight (the last night) or at least next year. If you love fish- I urge you to go to the Versova fish festival. Support our Koli communtiy.

Hard Liquor
Behind-the-scene cook
Major celebration mood
Lakshmi group of the Patil Gali Women's Group
Fish Roe
Fish Roe, Squid Curry, Tuna fish pakoda
Twitterati in action
Yummy Squid Curry
Chatting with Ms. Devyani. Photograph courtesy Kalyan Karmakar of Finely Chopped.
 The following photos I took with my I-phone. I love the Instagram App and have been playing with various filters. So summing up the evening. Also do read this beautiful write up by Finely Chopped.
Lobster not Prawn
Lovely Koli lady
The ladies of stall no. 26

Madhumita and Paan

Paan the perfect finish
Amongst the last people out
On our way out

1 am walk out of the Koli Village.
I kind of laughed when I saw this signage above the only icecream stall at the fish festival. But I was also watching 3 Idiots this afternoon on TV as I was writing this post. So this photo is a perfect finish to the lovely Versova Fish Festival.
Well after all this seafood - Aaal Iz Well!