The Shifting Tides of India’s Seafood Traditions
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.

Aziza Ahmad for the Juggernaut

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.

But it’s not just muddoleo and shing that haven’t made it into the common lore of Indian seafood cookery. All across India’s coasts, there are seafood dishes and traditions that remain stubbornly out of view. Though crabs and prawns have a fairly visible place, mollusks of all sorts — whether two-shelled bivalves like oysters and clams, gastropods like snails, cephalopods like squid and octopus — barely make an appearance in popular accounts of the seafood that Indians eat. 

An obvious reason for this has to do with availability and access. India eats very little seafood; much of the population live

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