Paul for dinner?

July 9, 2010

I can bet that Paul the Octopus won’t be dead meat at the end of the World Cup — God save him from being stir fried and washed down with German beer — but if I am to guess the taste of the cephalopod mollusk based on my encounters with squids, the celebrity animal would surely make gourmets belch with pleasure.

Oracular Paul (AP)

While you can order squids, baby sharks and even barracudas at select eateries or coastal shacks in our country, it’s tough laying your hand on an octopus. I’ve tried doing it across our cities, but even seafood restaurants in five-star hotels i’ve gone to don’t generally serve Paul’s kin.

A word here: you can’t, unless you wish to treat the entire city to octopus meat, place an order at the export-import trading firms and have the dressed mollusks shipped at your home. For, the minimum order they take, i’ve found out, is 25-30 metric tonnes!

So I hope, at the expense of scaring the eight-limbed animals — psychic or otherwise — swimming in the Indian territorial waters, that Paul’s fame jolts the Indian fancy restaurants in moving beyond the squid koliwada for starters and squid chilly garlic and noodle for the main course.

In short, let ’em bring on the octopuses!

And what better places to feast on the headstrong (not literally so!) mollusks than in the shacks of Goa? These eateries are the cradles of experimental seafood; their chefs are unsung but the dishes they cook, more often than not, burst on your palette into a delicate infusion of flavours.

Octopus pita, a Greek dish (TheBusyBrain/Flickr)

It was at such a nondescript eatery on Calangute Beach that I first tasted squid, a diminutive cousin of Paul.

But first a word about a helpful shark that led me to a plateful of squids.

Lounging on a deckchair with a trikini-clad memsaab on one side and a philosophic cow munching on nothing particular on the other, we chorused for a grilled baby shark.

It came enveloped in fried rawa (suji) — the clichéd batter for all marine dishes they serve in Goa — and i instantly felt deprived. The huge fillet of fish, accosted by French fries, green salads and mayonnaise sauce, looked like a jumbo fish fry. Nothing more. I had expected to confront an intact baby shark — eyes wide shut — much the way all of you have encountered whole trouts or bektis on your table.

A tad disappointed, I asked the squids to be brought out next. Deep-fried rings of the tentacular animal washed down by King’s Pilsner more than lightened our mood. A bit chewy, okay, but the dish and the subsequent ones I had in the Portuguese-speaking state were way way better (as in freshly procured and well cooked) than various preparations of squids I had in famed restaurants like Swagath and Ignis in the Capital.

Amada grilled octopus (Snowpea&bokchoi/Flickr)

Back to octopuses and Paul the Great. Now that our clairvoyant friend has chosen Spain over the Netherlands to win the World Cup and Germany to beat Uruguay for the third place play-off, he should be prepared to receive further death threats, this time from seafood lovers in Amsterdam.

The initial warning from an Argentine celebrity chef after Paul had correctly predicted the Latin American country’s rout in the quarter-finals was indeed chilling. The psychic mollusk needs to be beaten up till he dies, the chef thundered, so that his meat stays tender when cooked into, say, a butter garlic or a stir fried delicacy. Or maybe, if Paul is treated specially even in death, Nicolas Bedorrou — yes, that’s the name of the chef — might try his hand at the innovative octopus pita, a Greek dish, or the delicate farm grill octopus salad.

Though it’s appreciable that the chef wanted to stay clear of rubbery packaged octopus meat that the import-export firms heap on restaurants across the world, his warning betrayed a trace of cruelty.

I mean, how can you, even in jest, threaten the first celebrity octopus with such a violent death when all that the poor chap is doing is to harmlessly settle on a glass box or two and spice up the globe’s greatest football tourney?

Farm grill octopus salad (Snowpea&bokchoi)

Even as i write this post, my wife calls me up to say that a friend has changed her tagline in gmail chat to “Marry me, Paul” and another has put this up in Facebook as fodder for a healthy debate: “What’re the odds that Paul will storm into the Top 100 Most Influential lists in the top 10 magazines of the world?”

So, there you go. Barely two days to go and if the UK-born and German-bred octopus sinks your favourite team, you can head to the nearest eatery — that is, if you stay abroad — to take a vicarious revenge on him by sinking your teeth into Paul’s hapless kin.

Or if you happen to stay in Kolkata, The Silver Oak on Hazra Road is the place to go. They serve, believe it or not, baby octopuses in chilly bean or in Sichuan sauce!

May the best team win.


13 Responses to “Paul for dinner?”

  1. Sharmi said

    So you are back, with a bang of course! Thanks to Paul! Love the humour and your effort in tracing Paul’s kith and kin. I loved that baby shark fillet, you didn’t??? I’d say Paul is slowly becoming tolerable to me and yes I think he deserves to live to predict for a few more world cups. He’s fun 🙂
    Oh yes, who is the trikini-clad memsaab may i know?!?! 😉

  2. netdhaba said

    I liked the taste of the shark fillet, but was a bit disappointed with its form.
    And ya, Paul is now more than tolerable; he kinda looks handsome. May he grow into a dashing soothsayer.
    The memsaab? Well, there’s so many of them lazing in Goa, ain’t they?

  3. Abhi said

    Hmmm after Germany’s loss maybe one of Paul’s kin will pay with his meat on my table! A non-sea food eater, I’ll munch on an octopus soon for revenge:)

  4. jay said

    i had baby octopus as a stir fry accompaniment to a traditional chinese meal in, you guessed right, in Sanya, China. once, you get over the visual stimuli of red tiny octopus staring back at you, and you gingerly bite one off the chopstick, the taste is far, far superior compared to the squid I have had so far. Much more succulent, and the squishy- ness of squid is nicely complemented by a firm texture that gets your jaws moving. The stir-fry sauce was, of course, fiery and needed loads of sticky rice and soup to wash down.

    • netdhaba said

      @Jay: Wonderful experience that must have been!
      I couldn’t strangely find an octopus in KL, and out of the curiosity to have something new ended up spooning some frog eggs!
      Nearer home, roadside Bangkok, though, is the place to go hunting for octopus.
      My venture next week is to track down Paul’s kin in Mumbai, a tough task considering Trishna and Mahesh Lunch Home don’t go beyond squid.
      Any suggestion?
      PS: Thanks for ambling in and for the comment 🙂

  5. netdhaba said

    @Abhi: Octopus is sea food and it does stink 😦
    Just joking. Go for a grilled one but if you are the chef’s chum, ask him to make you the world’s first octopus tandoori! 🙂

  6. Alcazar said

    All this talk is making me hungry… do they serve octopus anywhere in NCR???
    P.S. Paul has correctly predicted 7 results in a row. We’ll get to know tonight if he slips up just once and saves us some cash!!!
    Will come in handy if I were to have Paul’s kin for lunch 🙂

  7. netdhaba said

    @Alcazar: Paul is a bloody psycho. He will get everything right down to his becoming a kebab. Me also damn hungry since i had the kalmi kebab and whisky. Bring in Paul irrespective of Spain wining or losing.
    Keep on reading, Sire 🙂

  8. Diksha said

    I want to know who was the trikini-clad memsaab on one side and a philosophic cow munching on nothing particular on the other?anyone we know..?

  9. Ayesha said

    Like the way you write. Your darling wife looked visibly euphoric when she came in and told us you’ve started a blog and that’s something she really looks forward to everyday. The humour and Witt was a refreshing change from the poorly written blogs i have been reading for a while now. Your thoughts have been well executed and you seem to be well in grips with the whole Paul situation. I have my sympathies with Poor Pual. Spain won because they played well, not because Paul predicted. I read somewhere, Octopuses have 9 brains so he might have some psychic powers indeed but lets be fair by Spain and give them a little credit.
    Also, i don’t tell alot of people this but i think you should write a book. You’ll be good at it i feel. Lets see how true my predictions are……lol

  10. netdhaba said

    @Diksha: Of course, we know the cow. He’s our Moti, pearl white in colour with jet black horns. Just that he turned philosophic after having to see daringly dressed memsaabs for years on.
    And the memsaab in question? Well, read on. May be, there would be a post on her soon!
    Thanks for visiting the blog and for the comment 🙂

  11. netdhaba said

    @Ayesha: Am floored by your lavish praise. Thank you so much.
    And as for Paul, you are right. Spain was the better team. Paul merely went for the boxes kept on his left (our right) except while predicting the Germany v England match. Octopuses are colour-blind and are attracted to horizontal stripes, the broader the better. The broader pattern in Spain’s flag attracted him more than the narrower ones in the Dutch and German flags.
    Thanks again for taking your time out to visit the blog and egging me on 🙂

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