All About Questionable Fish & Killing My Own Halal Chickens in Bangalore

Please don’t get me wrong, I am American and blessed to have been born in Los Angeles.  I was lucky to be born and raised in beautiful southern California.  But after living off and on for the past 18 years in Barcelona, Spain I do feel WAY more European and much less American.  The lifestyle, the mentality, the self image issues…I am much more Euro than Cali now.  It is a wonderful place to live for some and we’ve made innumerable and fabulous contributions to the world of technology and much more, including my favourite inventions like thick crust pizza, the moving assembly line, jeans, the airplane and Facebook.

But generally speaking, we Americans can be a bit ignorant.  Sometimes American ‘innocence’ sadly includes important issues like a lack of understanding other cultures (like women wearing a burka, for example) or the local news headlines that pass off as real news instead of important world news.  Then other times, the issues are silly things like only buying lettuce leaves that are pre-washed and sold in bags or driving the car to go everywhere in southern California, even around the block to quickly buy some milk instead of walking for 90 seconds.  So starting to experience life outside of the states is often quite funny for people like me who start off VERY American.

When I first moved to Europe I was 22 and dumb as a doornail when it came to certain things.  I moved to a tiny village in Spain right on the Mediterranean Sea called Sitges and used to complain all the time about having to walk 10 minutes to get from my flat to the beach, much to the amazement of everyone around me.  In summer it was hot and people just looked at me like I was an idiot for suggesting that a car was more practical than walking when you consider the difficulty and time if would take to park, etc where I was living.

I remember buying chicken at the butcher shop for the first time in Spain.  There the chicken is sold cleaned (no feathers) but  it is a whole chicken in every other way and you can buy either ¼ of a chicken or the whole bird cut up however you choose.  But I didn’t know I was supposed to specify that the butcher cut off the head and feet of the cleaned chicken nor that he would cut it up into pieces for me at first.  I was sooo grossed out when I arrived home the first time after shopping and pulled out my chicken from the bag.  Holy crap, it was staring at me and looked like something from a New Orleans voodoo scene from a film.  I had to chop off the feet and decapitate the damn thing myself and it freaked me out so much that it took me ages to do it that first time.

Check out the flies … this was post-swatting so not too many but I don’t want to gross out my daughter in case she actually reads my blog for once 😉

But the funniest “innocent American” thing I remember from that first summer living in Europe was going on a first dinner date with the man who I later married.  We ordered tapas, including freshly grilled prawns, and when the prawns arrived I said, “oh look, how sweet, they decorated the heads with little black eyes.”  He just looked at me, then understood what I meant and laughed his ass off.  They weren’t little decorations at all but actual eyes…but I had never seen a prawn’s head before ever in my life so I had no idea!  It was really embarrassing!  In the states, they remove the heads, even if they leave the little leggy shell bits on.  I don’t know why, they just do.

And now I live in India.

All I can say is THANK GAWWWD for having first lived in Spain because here the extreme difference is beyond anything I ever experienced in Barcelona.  Well, at times anyway.  Sure, I still go out for Champagne and wonderful wine and can eat tender scallops, yummy sushi, filet mignon and the most exquisite Indian food on the planet. But when I decide to take to the streets of Bangalore and do my shopping road-side, I am sometimes completely ill-equipped to deal with the differences from what I grew up with in California and what is on offer here in Bangalore.

In the U.S., I never saw a fish head, nor obviously a prawn with its sweet little black eyeballs still intact.  I never saw a whole lamb hanging by a hook or a chicken with its feathers, head and feet on.  Everything there is cleaned and plucked and chopped and packaged in plastic wrap and styrofoam (from what I remember anyway…although it has been 10 years since I’ve even set foot on American soil).  There is so much emphasis placed on quality and control and “grades” of meats, etc… something completely foreign to most of India.  In the U.S. I think the quality standards are fantastic and It is great, actually.  It keeps the people safe but it seems over-the-top to me a bit now.  Simply put, it is different from most countries.  For example, in Spain there are huge pork legs hanging for months and months from butcher shop ceilings to age properly.  These are the most prized ham legs and the most expensive and soooo delicious.  But from what I know, they are still banned in the U.S.  It’s just different.

And then there’s India.  Here I can find chicken pre-cut and in branded plastic packaging at many shops but it isn’t always as fresh as what I’d like and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself chucking out freshly purchased chicken in the bin.  So I decided to embark on a bit of a culinary adventure for me.  In my neighbourhood we have the option to buy totally fresh live chickens, which I recently started doing and am now hooked ‘cuz they are dee-lish.

Scrappy…. yep! But the fish is delicious and they deliver which I love!!

Although I’m really curious about exactly how they kill the birds, I haven’t asked for the tour to watch it yet.  At first, I stupidly assumed they were killed by a quick twist and snap to the neck but that’s not how it is really done. You see, I live in an area with a huge Muslim population so all the live chickens I buy here are slaughtered according to the halal traditions.  This means they are actually given the axe by someone who has prayed recently to Allah before they slaughter my dinner. My chicken is killed with a sharp knife to prevent unnecessary pain and then bled (they are said to be given a quick death to prevent pain).  And just before they are slaughtered they are given something to drink … which I may have understood incorrectly but I think that the liquid is blessed water if I’m not mistaken (please do correct me if I am wrong!).  Anyway, the chicken is yummy and I’ve started baking it with coconut milk and cinnamon we bought in Morocco and it is now my new favourite chicken dish.

And since my daughter refuses to eat any meat other than fish or chicken, I’m now an expert on the local fish markets around us.  The fish markets or counters in the bigger grocery shops here in Bangalore are basically the same as in Spain but with less of a selection (it’s been too long since I’ve been to the U.S. so I really can’t remember how things are there).  Like Spain, they sell only whole fishes and once I pick one out the one I want they weigh it, gut it, scrape off scales, chop off heads and tails and filet it as I wish.

Their homemade fly swatter. What the heck is this thing made out of? I can’t quite tell….

Well, next to my favourite live chicken shop on one of the main streets in Cox Town is also a fresh fish stall.  They sell the same fish, prawns and seafood as the squeaky clean fish departments in the shops, but I have to admit that the stall looks dodgy as hell.  It has flies swarming all around the fish, just like the mutton shop two stalls down and my little chicken shop next door.  And to be completely frank, just like the fruit and veggie and grains shops next to them too.  But the fish stall always has a queue and my driver Shiva told me time and again that the quality of the fish is better because they go through stock quicker and I would like it.  So I gave in and tried it.

Seriously, there were more flies around than I’d seen hovering around a cow but they have one employee who seemed pretty on the ball and has some specialty homemade fly swatter and every few seconds he swats at the little fishes or clams and clears them away.  In Frazer Town, there were two good places to buy fish, one had a guy who knew how to filet it like I wanted, the other guy I had to hand-hold the whole time.  But this little shop was the best and they knew exactly how I wanted my fish…cut into two filet steaks and with the bones removed.  Because of the flies and the rustic feel of the stall, I was a bit worried when I brought home and cooked our first fish from there but damn if it wasn’t better than the other shops!  And on top of that, they told me that they also deliver!  It’s now my new favourite fish joint!

My American mind tells me that I’m taking some sort of health risk but honestly I’m sure I’m more likely to die in India by crossing the street as Angela the Human Frogger or by being trampled by a bullock than from a fish or chicken or tomato that I buy on the side of the road.  Before moving here last year I never visited the doctor for vaccinations, I don’t freak out like some people about eating fresh salads here because of the idea that the veggies aren’t cleaned properly, etc.  And now I don’t even seem to give a hoot about the flies that chill out around my big yummy Catala fish before I buy it.

Next stop?  Maybe the uncharted land of street food with names I can’t pronounce.  I’ll need to get the guys on my team at work to take me out for that at lunchtime though because I don’t really see that fitting into a normal Saturday night for me here in Bangalore and I wouldn’t know what to order if I stepped out at night on my own to try something new!

XOXO Angela

© Angela Carson, all rights reserved.  Do not reproduce without written approval from author.

Follow me

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 32 countries on 4 continents, residing in 7 of them (currently Kuala Lumpur is my home). By day I'm a digital nomad and by night I'm a passionate storyteller. I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!
Follow me

36 Comments on “All About Questionable Fish & Killing My Own Halal Chickens in Bangalore

  1. GREAT post! I’m moving to Bangalore this August, and it’s great to read about your food impressions. I’m an eater and also freak my friends out in America when I dive right in to the local cuisine. If you ever make it out for street food, that guide would also be much appreciated. Especially with pictures and phonetic pronunciations. 🙂

    • Hey, thanks Ginger! And deal…when I break out to the street food world I will report back for ya 🙂 -ange

  2. i guess the concept is an animal should not be slaughtered when hungry. that is the reason they are fed just before sacrifice.
    and halal meat remains fresh for long because most of the blood drains out when the carotids are cut.

  3. Heyy Angela!!!
    This post really reminds me of the horror i faced in my childhood in India which actually turned me into a vegan.(oh i wish i could eat chicken i miss out of all the good food) . reading this article really had all those falshbacks of those roadside stalls with hanging Lambs and goats,yeah seriously parents should never take their children to these places its horror and gross..(lol like you said the New Orleans voodoo scene hehe..) Its pretty much different from the US and i really would understand the feelings about a foreigner seeing this…and for you the stay in Spain worked out to be at ease a little at these sights….But its really hard for an american or even who ever not acquainted to these… But nowadays as Indian supermarkets are following western marketing style we get packaged meat and even fish at some places with dates of packaging….But i will totally agree to the fact that those flies are completely harmless LOL..bcoz i never found anyone getting sick due to that..(no offence India wouldn’t have had such a huge population if it was harmful lol)…..
    And the best time to visit the Fish stalls are early in the morning as the best catch comes up at that time..bcoz they will say the fish is fresh even at 1pm bcoz they keep sprinkling water on them…..
    You should totallyyyyy try out the street food!!! Its soo yummy. if you can find Golgappas or pani puris they are amazingly delicious…. just walk in yourself and have an experience alone its fun although weird…..haha i try that in different places even if i cant speak their language lol….
    God i have to stop writing long comments on your articles….arrgh i hate myself cant help but love you articles so much!!! reminds me of home 🙂
    -xoxo Animes!!

    • I love your comments, please don’t stop! Glad I can give you such vivid flashbacks and you don’t take offense to anything 🙂 I sometimes sugar coat certain feelings or observations so I don’t upset Indians but generally speaking everyone seems to get my humour nad take on life here. Anyway, keep commenting. And I will try out some pani puri soon 🙂 -angela

      • Awww Thank you for appreciating my comments…this means longer comments from now on hehe 😉 i am pretty sad though that i was not the first to comment today :/ hehe damn me..grrrr…
        I never take offence and thats why i love your articles believe me I love your writing style its so detailing and so picturesque…i’m like half your age but your writing is so to my age guess you lie about your age hehehe 😉

        yes please!! try out pani puri the spicy ones which out tears in your eyes haha…and btw my mom is totally addicted to your writing too she just doesnt use computers i print out your articles and give her.. she wud totally kill me if she sees the time of my comments i never sleep wuhaha:D

  4. not sure if it is less painful for the bird. the chicken jumps around with a hanging head for some time.

    • Yeah, I am curious but still not so much that I’ve asked to witness it 🙂 I’m going with “what I don’t know won’t hurt me” on this one!

  5. Well, for us, the flies and other living being around the fish/meat is just free meat :-p with the paid meat 😀

    Frankly I think the halal, etc are a complete bull and such considerations should be given to human beings (before being exploded) than animals (sure animals should be taken care of, but first lets take care of the human beings).

    Ok, got a bit out of topic in there 😀 (sorry, happens a lot when someone praise about – you know).

    Anyhow, am glad that you are finally becoming an Indian. I am sure after another 5 years living in India, you might start feeling your home-town practices a bit weird (actually happened to an american friend of mine, she got so used to the Indians and when she went back after 3 years, her language and manners were considered as RUDE to the locals out there).

    Well, not just americans, people in every country is a bit ignorant about other culture. Since India has way too many culture, it seem like we know a bit more about different cultures than others, but it ain’t true.

    For example, Indians think all whites are rich which is not. So, Ignorance is everywhere, not just with americans 🙂

    Glad you found something with ‘local flavor’ to post 🙂

    Adios.

    • I totally agree that there is a lack of education about diverse cultures everywhere. But it’s a big world out there and I guess we pick and choose how we want to spend our time reading and exploring 🙂

      And I really hope I don’t change the way your friend did. I’m still the same nice, smiley person I was when I arrived. Although now if a man touches my behind or tries to grope me I either punch his arm or slap his face — which is something I would never have done a year ago but all the Indian women said to do it and it feels pretty damn good 🙂

      • Well, added to punching or slapping, if you wanna learn something really Indian; it’s removing the shoes and slapping the dude 🙂

        Oh yeah, you do feel good when you slap or punch a dude trying to grope 🙂

        • hahaha, my shoes tend to always be high heels (with only 1 exception) and they strap on so it will be much quicker and less damaging to get slug the guy 🙂 I did it once on the dance floor at a 5 star hotel club called Sutra (at Lalit Ashok) and that felt pretty good cuz tons of people saw 😉 hehe

  6. well,I’m a vegetarian and there are more than 2000 species of plant cultivated for food, so lot to experiment and lot to discover. Never felt the need to shift to non vegetarian food.
    From north to south, from east to west, every Indian state offers it’s own special food which is different from the rest.

    you can only experience the true taste of Indian food only during Diwali (festival of lights). Nothing can match up to the sweets and the food which will is prepared during Diwali and this will be exclusively vegetarian.

    if you are invited for dinner by any of your Indian friends during Diwali, consider yourself lucky and go with an empty stomach, you will need a lot of empty space their to eat everything which is offered….and it will be one of the best you can get to eat……

    • Hey, thanks, Arun! I wish I could be be veg because I’m sure it’s much healthier but my DNA is just not wired that way sadly. My daughter goes veg periodically so at home I suppose I am veg from time to time but it’s a challenge for me to figure out what to cook 🙁 I seem to use a lot of paneer, which does get boring.

      And yes, this year I plan to invade a friend or two’s home for Diwali and will go on a very empty stomach. I haven’t tried much of the sweets here either but I have to admit that the orange deep fried dough in sort of a donut shape but with a twisty form is my favourite so far (no idea what it is called but it is delicious!). –A

      • If i am not wrong the orange twisted donut shaped sweet is called “Jalebi”.
        Its freaking tasty….yummy its my favourite one too….and try out the freshly hot Gulab Jamuns…i bet u will love it.:)

        • Galub jamun was the first dessert I ever tried in India and it actually made me forget that the place i was at didn’t serve wine! 🙂 After the orange things they are my #2 favourite 🙂

  7. I grew up in India, but after having lived in So. Cal for many years, even I don’t venture out to those flies-infested shops/street vendors. I’ve yet to get sick from eating out in India (knock on wood), but you are now inspiring me to step out of my comfort zone. lol

    Now, if they could just open an In-N-Out in India, life would be so good. =)

    • OMG why did you say that? 🙁 It’s been ages since I’ve thought of In-N-Out… damn you! haha What my daughter and I really miss is amazing and simple mexican food (like tacos al pastor) and americanized mexican like red burritos with extra cheese and sour cream…full of refried beans and gooey cheese! DANG, that apple for breakfast isn’t sounding so good anymore 🙁 YOUR FAULT! 🙂 -ange

      • Ha ha..the last meal I had on the day I was leaving for India was carne asada tacos and nacho cheese fries with all the good stuff! Although with all the Mexican food and hot sauce in the system, the long flight to India was quite eventful. I’ll get you some next time I’m in the City of Angels. lol

        In-N-Out has finally decided to expand to other states..they just opened locations in TX. And, they even had a fundraising of some sort in China…so, who knows, India might be on their list someday. Then again, with the whole beef issue, I doubt it.

        Apple sounds umm, meh! An apple a day keeps the doctor away..bad breath keeps everyone away! =)

  8. My favourite fish stall is Feroz’s in Koramangala. He specializes in fishes from Bengal :), gets some of the inventories from Kolkata by air.

    In India the two states who really thrive on fishes are West Bengal and Kerala. However the tastes differ as Bengalee’s prefer sweet water fishes whereas Keralites prefer sea fishes.

    Try bekti (in bengali called bhetki) fillet sometime. Pomphret’s can be grilled as a whole, and tastes lovely.

    • Super, thanks…will jot down Bhetki and ask next time I’m there. The pomphret looked healthy but soooo tiny. I like buying one big huge fish and then pigging out on it with only a little garlic mash or roasted carrots 🙂

  9. I was impressed after reading your blog, it definitely takes some amount of courage to try the food after you have seen flies hovering over it… I must warn you though about watching how the birds are killed, its normally not a pleasant sight and I have heard people turning vegan after watching it. As for trying out the street food, that is an adventure of a different sort especially for foreigners (but you are not a foreigner any more, are you? 😉 ). Just, be careful of what you eat and where you eat…

    You also mentioned in your previous blog that you were running out of topics so how about writing something about the different cultures that are there in India. As you are in Bangalore, I am pretty sure that you must have come across people from different parts of India, so why not write about them.

    • Hey Mohit (or do I call you Gupta? HELP!), thanks for the nice things you’ve said. My daughter turned veg 2 summers ago after a friend of mine STUPIDLY showed her a video of mistreated chickens. But thankfully she missed chicken shawarmas and ham sandwiches, etc so she came back around eventually 😉

      And you know what…from time to time I do write about things that are not about MY experiences but it takes a lot more time and research on my part. For example, the ‘goat market and slaughterhouse’ article….I wrote it because I passed it everyday on the way to work and was curious but it took interviews, translations, internet research, etc. Given that I’m not a journalist but a director of marketing and communication and now quite social, my free time is pretty limited. And I guess I’ve become much lazier about my articles too because I write a lot less now than I used to. Anyway, thanks for the suggestion about the diversity article but at the moment it is just so much easier to write about things that I experience myself and don’t really have to research 🙂

      • Hey Angela, you can call me Mohit. Now that you have mentioned it, I miss those chicken shawarmas pretty bad. I can’t get the shawarmas here in the US (not where I live)…

        Sorry, I did not mean to intrude in any way on your writing, I simply suggested the topic only because you said that you were looking for topics. Also, Bangalore is the IT hub so has people from all across the country so I thought that you might have had experiences with related to people from different cultures.

        In the end, dont be lazy 😉 think about all your fans who love to read what you write and remember that it would take much more time and effort when you start writing you book… So, keep up the good work and keep the articles coming…

        • No no, don’t get me wrong, love the suggestions … I’m just SO LAZY lately about doing research so none of that sounded good 🙁 haha I used to go spend an afternoon learning to cook masala dosa and working in an indian restaurant kitchen, or go sit with the paan guy for 2 hours learning to make paan, or go to the goat market/slaughter house to interview people, etc but lately… I’m lazy 🙁

  10. Hey angela! 😀
    Firstly,you are too cool n fun for a 41 year old! Which I love,I mean I can totally relate to you even though I am half your age.
    Secondly,i love the way you write.
    Well,coming to the topic,I used to get disgusted looking at those meat shops or anything unhygienic when I was young,even though I am an Indian (born in bangalore,brought up all over india with a slightly(very little) english approach to living n mannerisms-coz dad’s in the army.)Infact,when I was like six years old,I saw a chicken being slaughtered n then I turned vegetarian for like a year coz it was a nightmare. But then I got back eating when my dad put a tiny little piece of yummy tandoori chicken into my oral cavity while I was watching tv.I used to be so addicted to watching cartoons n be literally lost n sucked into my tv set,like once my dad put a piece of paper in my mouth n I chewed it for a while before my senses kicked in n I realised it was paper :D.But now I don’t get disgusted anymore.I can deal with blood,flies n all!(I am currently studying veterinary medicine,so kinda used to carcasses n dead bodies n dissection.Thats probably why). Well I’ve gotta admit that I totally admire you for your courage to try out everything indian,its very refreshing to see an american..oops,I mean a european or rather a westerner to be not effected by germs or flies or gettin salonella infection! I mean westerners freak out n get paranoid with all such things. N trust me eating out on the streets of india shall only boost your immunity!
    And the street food is to DIE for(pun intended),with the likes of pani puri,bhel puri,dahi puri,tikki puri,pav bhaji..okay I am gonna stop coz- all this food is making me drool 😀 n I need to get back to studying(exams coming up.40days of hell.but then your blog just cracks me up n lifts my spirits when I am bored of studyin)
    Can’t wait for your next post!
    Ciao!

    ps: I happen to be a close friend of pencil girl’s.Thats how I know about your blog 🙂
    pps: n we love you! 🙂
    ppps: okay,bye! 😀

    • I have the biggest smile on my face … you could only be a friend on M’s cuz she is also very generous and sweet with her comments too 🙂 Thanks so much!!! Glad I can distract you a bit from time to time in between studies.

      When I was around 4 or 5 and my parents were still married we lived in Los Angeles in a nice big house with a huge back yard and I had pet rabbits. Can’t remember how many been 6 or 8 is what I remember. My mom had a big veg and fruit garden and I remember chasing the rabbits out of the gardens and watching my dog play with them (chase them), etc… had named them all. Then one day we had a BBQ and I was traumatized for a good long while after I saw my Dad kill one of my pets and then ….well, you get the picture. I didn’t eat rabbit again until I was in my late 20s or early 30s. After reading a few of the comments here I no longer have any curiosity for HOW my chicken is killed sadly, ignorance is bliss.

      By the way, this is the first time I have seen ‘oral cavity’ instead of mouth used on my blog … kudos for injecting your med training in 😉

      Ange

  11. Hello! 🙂
    I see you did post about the fly infested fish stalls after all. I have a very long and rather funny history with meat. We have a kind of on-again-off-again relationship that cracks most of my friends up. But yes, I still haven’t managed to stomach a live demo of any animal being slaughtered. Don’t think that’s gonna happen anytime soon either. 😐
    Sometimes I do worry about the safety of the food we get here, but then I’m really too much of a foodie to let something like that get between me and all the delicious food that I cross everyday. 😀 One absolutely amazing thing about India is that there’s really no end to all the different dishes that people around the country cook. Indian cuisine is amazingly diverse. Sampling all of it can be quite an adventure.
    As for street food, there’s really no end to it. I know just about everyone would have recommended panipuris or golgappas to you. But apart from chat stalls, you should also try the simple roasted peanuts, the bajji-bondas, the ice golas, the jalebis, the raw mango slices, the sugarcane juice, the roasted/steamed corn, the list is pretty much endless. There’s just a lot of yummy food out there for you to try. Though I guess you should take your time when trying them out, since they can upset your system a little if you’re not used to them. 😐
    Have fun and keep adventuring! 😀

    • Yeah, I wrote it…I’m still a bit stuck. How are you? Unblocked yet? I’m starting to force myself to stop taking everything for granted (I’m so used to life here now) and re-open my eyes…and take my camera around everywhere. Kind of hoping that helps cuz I’m the fish fly idea was my best one and now I’m back to none 🙁

      I do really need to hit the streets and go on a food mission. Maybe some of the guys at work will go with me or I can talk a friend into it soon. And I’ve never tried the sugar cane juice so that needs to top my list too. I’ve jotted down your suggestions, M 🙂 -A

      • I’m beginning to get a few new ideas, but nothing’s quite taken shape yet. I read somewhere that the critical period of a blog is the one year mark, which is when the buzz of blogging starts to die down, and you start wondering what else you can do with your blog. I’m starting to see some truth in that theory.. 🙁
        Hoping to find the buzz again real soon.. 🙂

        • Oh Lordy, I’m at that place too …. makes me feel better knowing we are afflicted with a bloggers disease and that it’s not our fault 🙂

  12. Agree that whole “chicken is killed with sharp knife to prevent pain” is complete bull, it is much more painful and torturous. Whoever told you this, is trying to justify this act as being less painful which it is not. Just accept it as a fact. Having said that, I do love eating chicken and meat 😉 And I do love reading your insightful blogs, Keep up the good work 😉

    • Hey, thanks for the sweet comment. And about the killing thing, I think I read that on wikipedia 🙁 I’m reading all these comments though and realizing it is bullcrap haha

      • Ahh…wikipedia…I understand then. Not your fault, my point was to show you the light, not criticize you..:) Well there is a place called Hampi, it has got beautiful ruins, I think you might be interested…or if time permits you should visit my hometown Varanasi…its a very interesting place…..later then…

        • Nahhhhh, totally my fault. I should have researched or left out information that I wasn’t sure about 🙂 -A

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *