I can’t help but chuckle to myself, since this treat of a meal cost me only $8. Somehow, the next bite tasted even better.
I slowly cut into the grilled snapper with my fork and knife, trying to navigate between the skin, meat, and bones. With my first bite, I am wowed. The creamy hot bite melts in my mouth, the meat being cooked in juices seasoned with the perfect mix of salt, masala, lemon and red pepper; the skin crisped to perfection. Earlier that day, I had selected this red snapper among the daily haul proudly displayed on the beachfront of the hotel restaurant by local fishermen. They had lined up the fish varying in all sorts of types and sizes, with a cool ocean breeze and fresh seafood-y scent egging me on. As I mulled my decision (taking more time than I probably needed to), crows hovered overhead in the hot sun, cawing and hoping for a shot to swoop in for a bite. “That one” I said, while pointing to the snapper, the sunrays gleaming against the moist skin almost in a way that screamed “Pick ME!”. The manager nodded, noting that it would be ready for supper. After that first bite, I was sure I made the right choice.
We sit on a make-shift table and plastic chairs on the beach in almost total darkness, hours past sunset. We are, however, surrounded by a number of candles in the vicinity, giving just the right dimness of light. My bare feet are grazing in and out of the sand, still warm from the hot South Indian sun. My two companions also opted for a fresh fish combo, our table full of three fishes are each flanked by a set of “chips” on one side, and a 40-ouncer of cold Kingfisher beer on the other. As I switch between bites and swigs, I soak in the sounds of the waves crashing in front of us, interrupted occasionally only by the low conversations and giggles of nearby guests. In the distance, the beach is dotted with lights from other restaurants just like this, the lights forming the skeleton of the curvature of the beach in the distance, like a row of jewels. As I take another bite of freshly cooked fish, I can’t help but chuckle to myself, since this treat of a meal cost me only $8. Somehow, the next bite tasted even better.