How Did The Popular Fish Koliwada Land On Mumbai Streets?
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Fish Koliwada, a delicacy that is popularly found in food joints and five star hotels across Mumbai, is a mouth watering fish fry that is smeared and marinated in a thick batter of chilli paste and then cooked with a North-Indian twist. This delicious fish fry that is enjoyed with every bite, actually has a very interesting back story to it. The tale of Fish Koliwada dates back to a time when India was facing a huge refugee crisis because of partition. The recipe of this delight comes from the streets of Sion Koliwada in Maharashtra, where it was first made in a temporary roadside stall by a Sikh refugee who hailed from the then North Indian village of Hazara, prior to partition.

But how did the refugee who whipped up a sizzling platter of this fish fry wound up in the streets of Sion Koliwada from the streets of Hazara? In 1945, the partition forced Sikhs and Punjabis residing in Peshawar to move to India. Leaving their homes, neighbours and land, and only carrying a handful of belongings with them, they begun the search for a home and a source of livelihood in India. Many of these refugees travelled to India over night on foot and their first choice of state to settle in, was Punjab. However, an overcrowded Punjab couldn’t lodge all the refugees, and so many of them boarded a train to Bombay. The people in the gurudwaaras in Bombay welcomed the refugees with open arms. While many of the refugees took temporary refuge in the gurudwaaras, others found their home in the abandoned military barracks of the Sion Koliwada region of Bombay. They made a refugee camp here and in the company of the fishermen community that originally inhabited the region, a new life began for the refugees. Interestingly, the term Koliwada, refers to a colony of fishermen, who were the initial inhabitants of Sion Koliwada. 

Credit: Instagram/fabulousfoodieess

 Another fish delicacy that famously hails from Punjab is the Amritsari fish. The fish Koliwada bears some similarity to Amritsari Fish and is a great choice of ‘chakna,’ with your favourite mug of beer. How did fish Koliwada travel from the plates of the Punjabi Koli fraternity on to the streets of Koliwada? Legend has it that this recipe was first sold on a temporary stall called Hazara. This stall was owned by Hukamchand Singh Julka. The stall was named after a district in Peshawar, where Hukumchand and his family lived before the partition. The stall has since became a family restaurant and while the ambience of this eatery is simple, the smell and taste of the food- right from marinated prawns to fish fries like Koliwada, Surmai and Rawas is a crowd puller. This chapter from the brethren of the Kolis and the Punjabis gave a culinary twist to the food scene of the city. Even today the narrow bylanes of the Koliwada have many dhaba-style Punjabi restaurants selling Punjabi delicacies like Chole Kulcha, Samosa and Rajma Chawal.