Tried and tasted: Head to west Delhi’s Moti Nagar for the best fish pakoras | SV

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Picture a tandoor with warm, glowing embers. A pile of marinated fish in a large vessel waits for its turn in the grill. A man skewers several plump pieces of boneless fish onto a rod. The rod slides into the tandoor – and comes out in minutes with the soft and juicy fishy, all nicely grilled, and just waiting to be eaten.

That’s Paramjeet Machi Wala for you – the legendary fish pakora and tandoori fish seller of Delhi. You know how popular he is when you reach his shop in West Delhi’s Moti Nagar, as he is known far and wide for his fish pakoras and tandoori fish. You will find a maze of cars, honking for space or for the tandoor-wallah’s attention. You will find scores of people digging into their fish with relish, and an equal number taking packets of fried or tandoori fish back home.
I have been going to Paramjeet’s for long years, ever since a close friend introduced me to it. The other two well-known fish pakora sellers in Delhi are Rajinder’s in Safdarjung Enclave, and Ganesh’s fish outlet in Karol Bagh. Ganesh, who is no more, earned considerable fame by scooping the fried fish out of the hot oil with his palms. But Paramjeet’s fish has always been special. For one, the fish is fresh. Two, the marinade is just right. And three, it is fried or grilled exactly the way it should be – pulled out of the fire at the right moment so the fish is never dry.

The shop, which is near the TDI Mall and opposite Metro Pillar number 321, has been around for 45 years. And I have seen it grow. There was a time when fish pakoras sold for Rs 30 a kilo; now it is for Rs 1,720. They use mostly sole, surmai, singara and pomfret.

The fillets are marinated with yoghurt, black salt, salt and pepper, and kept aside for five hours. One of the owners tells me that they use a special masala, too, a secret formula that he would rather not disclose (though, going by the flavours, I would say it includes ajwain). Then, the fish is either dipped in a smooth batter of besan, to be fried in hot oil, or lowered into the burning tandoor.
That is where true skill lies. You have to know exactly when the fish is done. If it’s not on fire for long enough, the fillet will obviously be underdone. If it’s overcooked even for a minute, it becomes dry and flaky. If cooked just right, the fish is moist and juicy as it should be yet nicely firm. I also enjoy the green chutney that he serves his fish with: it’s sharp and complements the mild flavours of the fish.

Over the years, Paramjeet Machi Wala – re-christened PMW by the younger generation – has expanded his menu, which now includes various kinds of chicken dishes – tandooris, tikkas, rolls, kababs and so on. But he is known for his fish, and is such a hit that he has even deployed a person with a loud whistle to man the traffic near the shop, and find parking slots for the honking cars. The shop stays open from 5pm to 10.30pm on all days barring Tuesdays through the year.

It’s noisy and a bit chaotic, but thRecipe: Tandoori or oven-cooked fish

Ingredients: 500g boneless cubes of sole or bekti fish, juice of 1 lemon, 2tbsp ginger-garlic paste, 1tsp carom seeds, red chilli powder as required, 100g hung curd, oil for the marinade, salt to taste, a pinch of black salt.

Method: First marinade. Mix the fish with half the ginger-garlic and carom seeds, chilli powder, lemon juice and salt. Keep it aside for 1-2 hours. Now pat dry the fish and mix it with the second marinade, prepared with the hung curd, black salt, the remaining ginger-garlic paste, the remaining carom seeds and the oil. Keep it aside for 2-3 hours. Now cook in an oven at 200 degrees C or in a tandoor for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot with green chutney.e fish is heavenly. PMW rocks!

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