Residents of Pulicat protest port project with sea food

Residents of Pulicat protest port project with sea food

Adani Kattupalli port. (File Photo)

When residents of Pulicat, a historic seashore town near here, were thinking of ways to register their protest against the proposed expansion of Adani Kattupalli port and another project by Ennore Kamarajar Port, they hit up on a novel idea.

They thought what better way to bring much-needed attention of the people than cooking traditional dishes made out of fish, prawn and crab which are integral parts of Pulicat’s ecosystem. The catch from Pulicat has good demand due to its wetlands and non-polluted environment and is quite popular in Chennai and elsewhere.

For three days from Friday, traditional fares that the families in Pulicat served to their guests for years together will also treat the taste buds of seafood lovers in the city.

‘Sea Salt’ a restaurant that focusses on sustainable fishing will host a three-day Pulicat Seafood Festival that will feature in-season fish, shrimp and crabs caught by artisanal fish from the lagoon and the seas off Kattupalli island.

Though the food at the restaurant will be made by the chefs, a special training session was conducted by the womenfolk of Pulicat, where every household has a different way of cooking. 36-year-old Rajalakshmi, who is an expert in the preparation of Meen Kuzhambu (Fish Gravy), said any port within the vicinity of Pulicat will spoil the ecosystem.

“The area is ecologically rich and the fish, prawns, and crabs that are available here are rich in taste. If the port comes here, we will lose all the rich taste because we fear the ecology will be disturbed. So, we decided to showcase all the sea fare to highlight our protest,” Rajalakshmi told DH.

Some of the traditional dishes like Pazhaverkadu era biryani (Pulicat Prawn Biryani), crab dishes, Era (Prawn) vadai, and Oodan Mitta (a mild tasting coconut milk-based recipe refined in local Muslim homes) will be featured in the festival. And the participants will also be in for a musical treat by the likes of T M Krishna and Vidhya Raghavan.

“The experience of learning from the womenfolk of Pulicat was mind-boggling. It was kind of a community cooking and every household has a different way of cooking the same dishes. And there are signature dishes from different communities that live in Pulicat together for years,” Harish Rao of the restaurant that will host the festival told DH.

 “Our restaurant focusses on sustainable fishing and we thought it was fitting to host the people from Pulicat. We have even documented the cooking process and will refer to it if there is any doubt. We will ensure the authenticity and at the same time try to improvise the dishes as well,” Rao said.

Activist Nityanand Jayaraman said Pulicat will face serious threats from the proposed expansion of the Adani Katupalli port and Ennore Kamarajar Port’s Coastal Employment Unit.

“The ecosystem in Pulicat is already fragile and the fishermen have been protecting it for long. If the projects come here it would not just spoil the ecosystem but ruin their lives,” he said.