As a child, Abdul Azeem was often pulled up for skipping classes in his school and spending most of his day fishing, which sometimes even led to thrashing. He was known to be a fish fanatic. Today, he owns Udham Fish Point, the only restaurant in Delhi which sells 75 varieties of fish.
“I have always been really fond of fish. Back in school, I always carried a net and bunked classes to go fishing. My friends used to joke that Azeem Bhai ke bag mein hamesha ek machli milega, aur milta bhi tha kabhi kabhi (you will always find a fish in brother Azeem’s bag and sometimes you would actually find one too),” Abdul chuckles.
At Udham Fish Point, there is always a queue waiting to stuff in a wide range of lip-smacking fish dishes that are mostly light fried live on the counter. It can be spotted from afar because of this crowd and the tempting smell of fish pervading the air almost till the Jaffrabad metro station, which is a little over 100 metres from the restaurant.
“We have created a paradise of fish here. At least 200 customers eat here every day. And they are not just from Delhi, but also from the neighbouring states of UP and Haryana. We have created a whole new world for fish lovers in a place that has hardly ever properly explored this gem of the sea,” he says.
Rohu, Catla, Bhetki, Sole, Salmon, Tuna, Pomfret, Prawns, Surmai – you name it and they have it. Then, there are more!
Udham, Yummy and Jalpari are their most sought after.
“We get everything from Ghazipur market. Out of all the varieties, there are almost 15 kinds of fish that we didn’t know the name of. So, we named them ourselves. These three [Udham, Yummy and Jalpari] are among them. There are others like Giri, Jumbo Jet, Badami, etc. These are our secret items, so they also sell fastest,” Abdul reveals.
It is always a full-house at Udham Fish Point, where customers are willing to wait for half-an-hour for their roasted Jalpari.
“You must eat their Udham tawa fry and the malai tikka. You won’t be disappointed,” says Suhail, who came with his friend from Loni (Ghaziabad).
“We are a regular here and visit every Sunday. Now it is still less crowded. Let the mercury drop further, you will see at least a 100 people waiting outside,” he adds.
Fish is not just restricted to the menu here. From the paintings on the wall, the décor, to even the logo of the restaurant, there is fish all over. As Abdul says, it’s a whole world of fish.
“I used to steal the strainer at home to catch small fish that were later used to catch the bigger ones. Khandaan mein badnaam raha hun iski wajah se (I was infamous in my family for all this). Then I started cooking the fish I caught. We used to deep fry the fish and my fondness just kept growing. ‘Azeem bhai will cook fish’ became a pattern. Wherever we went to party or picnic or even weddings, I always cooked fish. In fact, it was my fish that sold like hot cakes in such parties. People forgot Biryani and Qorma,” he says.
Eventually, it was his nephew who cajoled him into converting his passion to a commercial activity. So, he started with a small space inside the by-lanes of Jaffrabad and later moved his business to the main road in 2017 as it grew. Besides business, he started using the eatery to dispel myths around fish.
“Here there are a lot of wrong ideas about fish. People don’t eat it because they think it releases a lot of heat. It’s so far from the truth. Kolkata, Mumbai, Madras mein kaunsa baraf padh rahi hai (Where is it snowing in Kolkata/Mumbai/Chennai)? It is in fact the safest non-vegetarian food. Even doctors are always prescribing people to eat fish rather than meat when they fall sick,” he says.
Abdul did not fail to bring the nutrition quotient of fish to his restaurant’s tag line, which goes as – 75 varieties of sea food – Calcium aur Protein se bharpoor (full of) tawa fry and roast items.
“Fish is a wholesome source of nutrition. From omega3, calcium, good fatty acids to protein, it has all the main nutrients. It also cooks fast. So, we created the tagline to also create awareness. Besides, you see you also have to produce your knowledge in front of your customers’ eyes to convince them to eat here,” he says.
The outlet has a branch in Zakir Nagar (Okhla), which draws a similar count of customers.
“I want fish lovers to go home content and happy. Ek hota hai dil khush hona, par main chahta hunk ke meri dukaan mein jo aye unki rooh khush ho jaye (I want to not just please their heart, but their soul). We also named it ‘Udham’ to convey that it is better than the best,” says the owner.
All the chefs who bring the choicest of fish delicacies to the table live with Abdul and his family. “Yeh sab mere bachche hai (they are all my children). Some of them are my nephews, the others travelled from different parts of UP to work with me,” he says.
At Abdul’s insistence, all items are either roasted or fried in olive oil keeping the “gut health” in mind. “We don’t want our visitors to fall sick after eating our food so our top priority is the quality of fish and how we prepare it in oil. This is also why we don’t fry fish in a batter or use besan (gram flour) on it,” Abdul says.
While Abdul’s small eating joint serves from 3pm-11pm, it rules the hearts of its customers round the clock.
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