The spice trail of Vizag

28th Nov 2014
Photo of The spice trail of Vizag 1/31 by The 'Clicking' Nomads
Vizag - the port city
Photo of The spice trail of Vizag 2/31 by The 'Clicking' Nomads
Vanjaram, a locally available fish served at Tycoon
Photo of The spice trail of Vizag 3/31 by The 'Clicking' Nomads
The promenade off Ramakrishna Beach
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A mirage of fish
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More of Nethallu…
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Nethallu fish
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Just to give a perspective of how tiny they actually are
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The spread at Dakshin
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Peethala Iguru (crab masala)
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Mamsam Sukka Varuval (mutton pepper fry)
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South Indian paan
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Shiv Parvati at Kailash Giri
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Kailash Giri park
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Panoramic view of Vizag from Kailash Giri
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Just in time to ‘catch’ the sunset
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Andhraite version of the Chinese Chilly Chicken
Photo of The spice trail of Vizag 17/31 by The 'Clicking' Nomads
Ramakrishna Beach
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From RK beach
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Dolphin’s nose from the RK beach
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RK beach
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Time wasted at the beach is time well spent!
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Sinful chocolate shake from the ‘Chocolate Room’
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Ross Hill Church
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Ross Hill Church
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View from the hill top
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View of the port
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The very busy fish market in the old part of town
Photo of The spice trail of Vizag 28/31 by The 'Clicking' Nomads
The fish market
Photo of The spice trail of Vizag 29/31 by The 'Clicking' Nomads
Fresh from the sea
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Fishermen’s boats resting after a busy day
Photo of The spice trail of Vizag 31/31 by The 'Clicking' Nomads
At Rukhikonda beach

Make sure you have with you a bunch of tissues, a full bottle of water, an adaptive digestive system and immense courage to embark on this journey! Oh! May be even a small extinguisher in case you should need it to douse the smoke coming out of your ears sometime during this trail!

Vishakkhapatnam, Vizag or the erstwhile Waltair is a port town in AP (now Seemandhra) known for its beaches, naval base, fishery, extremely lazy and content-with-very-little people and a lot of very very spicy food! Our trail started with Tycoon, one of the older restaurants of the town. While we left in search of authentic Andhra food, we soon realized Tycoon had gradually converted itself to a multi-cuisine restaurant, and catering to the tastes of the increasing diverse population, it now served Chinese, North Indian, Continental et al. Slightly skeptical of trying Chinese at an old looking Vizag restaurant, we called the stewart to suggest some local cuisine.

Christopher the head stewart in the restaurant for the last 20 years, suggested we try the biryani. Hailing from Kolkata, somehow no other biryani has ever enticed me much, and the Hyderabadi Paradise biryani has been good enough to experience the southern version of it. Being stubborn on our choice of some coastal cuisine, we were served a grilled preparation of Vanjaram, a locally available fish. Marinated with a thick red layer of spices similar to that of tandoori chicken, it was one of the softest and least smelly sea fish I’ve had in a long long time. The waiter came up to our table and deftly ripped apart the fish neatly pulling out the single piece of bone from its centre. Have it on its own or with rasam & steamed rice, the over-powering taste of spice lingers on your tongue, way after you have dunked yourself in jugs of water! This marked our first tryst with spice & wasn’t really anything to prepare us for what was to follow.

Vizag is popular for its two RK beaches – Ramakrishna & Rushikonda. Ramakrishna is bang in the middle of the city, reminding you of Band Stand in Mumbai, just that this is far prettier, far cleaner & much better maintained – not to mention the sandy beach that you can hop on to right across the promenade, unlike in Mumbai. 

As we walked down the beach, we suddenly noticed a glimmering heap far away on the road, shining & reflecting the hot summer sun, looking quite like a three dimensional mirage. As we moved closer, to our surprise, the mirage turned into a pile of possibly the world’s shiniest fish. The number of heaps kept increasing, as the air got thicker with the stench of Nethallu, possibly the tiniest fish in the world.

Nethallu is a salt water fish that is dried all along the beach, washed off its mud & then crispy fried post marination with imli, masala & a disproportionately high dose of chilli paste. I smelt spice again & the mouth watered just at the mention of it – tamarind made me gulp & masala, salivate!

Continuing on our trail & yearning for some authentic Andhraite coastal cuisine this time, we reached Dakshin – the restaurant of the Dasapalla Hotel. Despite being more famous for its thalis, we decided to concentrate only on non-vegetarian delicacies. All that we could read on the menu card were the protein headers & the list of preparations under each, looked completely Hebrew to us. We relied on the steward’s judgement & asked for the most authentic crab & mutton curries along with roti. May be an appam would have worked wonderfully well, but was promptly told off by the waiter as appam was a Keralite delicacy & we wouldn’t dare ask for it at an Andhraite restaurant! Please pardon – for Bengalis the world is divided only into two sections, Bengalis & Non-Bengalis & there can be no other classification beyond that!!

From the look of it, it was difficult to spot the Peethala Iguru (crab masala) from the Mamsam Sukka Varuval (mutton pepper fry), both dishes looking frightfully red – however, the taste explained it all – the only common factor across the two dishes being the fiery spice from freshly crushed pepper & the generous amount of curry leaves. Sniffing our way through, we licked off the last pieces, totally content & proud with our ability to successfully endure another round of spice.

Looking like Jim Carrey from The Mask, with our tongues rolling out from the immense heat, we drove to Kailash Giri, praying that the fresh air at the mountain top would help extinguish the steam that was blazing out of ours ears. A doddering cable car takes you all the way up to a park that has huge statues of Shiv-Parvati erected at one end & a tiny toy train doing the rounds of the mountain at the other. We were just in time to catch a gorgeous sunset & watch the bright orange sky turn into a dark violet against the panoramic view of the Vizag city.

When in Rome do as the Romans, but when in Vizag, do try the Andhraite version of the Chinese chilly chicken. No points for guessing where it stands on the spice scale – firstly the name itself has a ‘chilly’ in it & then it’s the Andhraite take on it. A few diced chicken pieces deep fried & then sautéed in a paste of red chilly with chopped green chillies on top (not to forget the curry leaves of course!), something that goes just perfectly with red wine or sangria. Sipping sangria on the beaches of Vizag, at the beach restaurant of Park Hotel (Bamboo Bay), we watched a Parkikrama show as we celebrated our 5 years of being the perfect partners – in life & travel.

When you walk down RK beach, you don’t expect to see cafes lined along the beach, like a Goa – however there was one such ‘Chocolate Room’ that did make an attempt to serve a wide range of chocolate inspired shakes, desserts & other snacks while over-looking the beach as the waves smashed across the sand onto the Dolphin Nose. Slightly derailed from the spice trail, this place was a welcome relief with their delicious & sinful milkshakes, which are easier to have with a spoon than a straw!

Meanwhile, in the old town of Vizag, it was a relaxed Sunday with the port taking a break from the weak long activities as the kids sang hymns far away at Ross Hill Church, a Greek inspired church overlooking the city. Serenity, peace & tranquil engulfed this area with the quaint little blue & white church atop the hill, standing as a protector of the Vizag port. The only part of the city that was buzzing with activity was the fish market along the port. Fish of all sizes, shapes, colours to choose from. Hold your breath if you want to walk through & negotiate hard to get a deal for the fresh catch of the day!

Rushikonda is the other beach in Vizag, the more touristy one, what with a few resorts built around it. Slightly away from the city, this will remind you of Calangute in Goa. Having a rather uncharacteristic calm & unruffled morning on our spice trail, it was time to try some street food at the Rushikonda beach & I took the liberty of ordering a bhelpuri. What I didn’t remember was that I was getting a bhelpuri done in Vizag & not anywhere else. And before I realized, a generous spoonful of green chutney was thrown into the newspaper bowl & was being mixed like there was no tomorrow. Along with it went in some chopped green chillies & a sprinkle of red chilly powder, to make sure I remember Vizag for ever & ever…Amen!

Post a few large gulps of water, we proceeded towards the airport with an increased endurance to heat, a strong immunity towards anything that spelt spice & a definite willingness to be back in Vizag soon to savour on its ever tasty coastal delicacies that would be so bland & pointless without its characteristic spice & curry leaves that keep you longing for more. Bring it on guys!

The ‘Clicking’ Nomads 10 travelling tips

1. Vizag is a great stop for a weekend, you don’t need much time to enjoy the city, but you need many meals to enjoy its lip smacking cuisine.

2. Its the perfect place for coastal food fanatics – so travel with an empty stomach & a streak of adventure to experiment with seafood of all types.

3. All those who run away from the word spice, beware! This location is not really meant for you.

4. Ramakrishna beach has more options for hotels, than Rushikonda beach & is at the heart of the city – a better place to stay.

5. For those who like Calangute in Goa & a crowd, Rushikonda is for you.

6. While you may choose to do everything touristy, do visit the fish market along the port – just to get a feel of the lifeline of the city.

7. Auto is a great mode of travel – as we say in Hindi…’sasta, sundar, tikao‘ & very comfortable. And if you’re the sort who travels by car, then just ‘Ola’ it – very reliable & well connected!

8. Do reserve a meal for the Bamboo Bay at The Park, just off the beach. Its a great pub to enjoy some good music, delicious food & high spirits.

9. The chilly chicken is a must try – you may forget everything else in Vizag, but you cannot come back not trying this.

10. Lastly, when you visit Vizag, make sure you carry with yourself shades, sunscreen, a great appetite, a desire to experiment & lots of courage to make the most of the sun, the sand, the coasts, the smiles & but of course, a whole lot of SPICE!