The Shifting Tides of India’s Seafood Traditions

Though plentiful and sustainable, shellfish such as clams, mussels, oysters, and snails barely make an appearance in popular accounts of Indian seafood.

Rohan Kamicheril

April 26, 2021

The Shifting Tides of India’s Seafood Traditions
Aziza Ahmad for the Juggernaut

Karen Andrade, a home cook who works at the Greater Boston Food Bank, remembers summer holidays on the beach in Goa when she was a child. One of her fondest memories includes hunting for tiny clams called muddoleo and shing. 

“Muddoleo were about half an inch long and the shing about half of that,” she reminisced. Each time a wave rolled out, she and her cousins would run into its wake with a bamboo basket, grabbing at the rapidly burrowing fingernail-sized bivalves. “When you had enough, you’d go to whichever aunty was cooking at the beach shack you’d rented, and you’d give it to her.” The aunties would boil the shing — because of their diminutive size and scant meat — into a light, flavorful broth to make the base of a pulao, studded with the picked meat of the larger muddoleo. 

If this dish sounds unfamiliar, it’s probably because hardly anyone makes it anymore, and even those who do live in a narrow band of Goan coastline. It’s less a dish than it is a notion — the celebration of nature’s serendipity in yielding fresh, plentiful, and free seafood.