Food & Drinks

Cook your Seafood Like a Star Chef

 Ayaz Nathoo
Ayaz Nathoo. PHOTO | COURTESY 

At Diamonds Dream of Africa in Malindi, a hotel owned by an Italian investor Franco Rosso, you eat from a boat plate.

“That is how we serve seafood, on a small boat,” says Ayaz Nathoo, the head chef for Sandies Tropical Village, Malindi Dream Garden and Diamonds Dream of Africa, all owned by Mr Rosso, who is 89 years old.

Dinner which costs Sh6,000 per person starts with oysters, then sushi and sashimi. They also make a seafood paella which is cooked as diners watch. The boat comes with lobsters, fish, calamari and prawns.

Although Mr Nathoo's speciality is in pastries making, he has been experimenting with different ingredients and styles of cooking, but he is not a fan of very strong fish flavours or raw fish.

“There is no particular way to love seafood, as you either love it or you don’t,” he says.

But for those who love it, it helps if the cook balances the smell and the flavours.

“The biggest tip on preparing any type of seafood is to make sure that it is fresh. If you see cloudy eyes on the fish, it means that it is not so fresh. It should have a fresh sea smell and the gills should be dark red,” he says.

For shell fish such as oysters and clams, always smell them, check that the shells are not broken and then when you tap them, they should close.

Seafood on a boat served at the Onda Beach

Seafood on a boat served at the Onda Beach Grill at Diamonds Dream of Africa. PHOTO | COURTESY

“If they don’t close, it means that they are dead. When cooking shrimps, prawns, crabs and lobsters, always make sure you handle and clean them right. If you find a black vein in the shrimp when you are eating it, it means they were not cleaned well,” he says.

There are different ways of cooking seafood, but he prefers to make them simple and let the meat do all the work.

“I am a big fan of fresh ingredients such as herbs and fruits. There are a few ingredients that I use in at least 99 per cent of the time in my cooking; garlic, onions, ginger, fresh cilantro, cumin, salt, butter, fresh ground black pepper, lemons, cream and paprika,”says chef Ayaz who has spent 17 years in kitchens across the world. He studied in Canada and has worked at Club Sun and Sand in Mombasa, The Highwood, Rimrock, The Keg Steakhouse, Earls, Marriott, Swiss Chalet in Canada.

He says normally seafood is paired with white wine or champagne, but also a light soft red wine works well.

“Champagne or Riesling with oysters, Sauvignon blanc with light fish, a Pinot Gris with shell fish or sushi, a Rosé with fish that have a very strong flavour, also Sake {Japanese rice wine} works well with seafood,” he says.

He adds that many new consumers are starting to try different mixes of wine, food and contrasting flavours.

“In the past, red meat was always paired with red wines and white wines with fish. We are starting to break out of that box now that people are getting more educated on foods and wines. And when it comes to the food, customers now look for dominant flavours, the intensity or simplicity of the dish, the fats and acids in the food,” he says.