Tuesday, June 18, 2024

‘Dam Good Fish’: Bridging The Gap Between Nature And Your Dinner Table


Let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a delicious fish steak or fish fry after a long day of staring at spreadsheets. Succulent, flavourful, and wholesome, fish dishes are a great way to satisfy both the tummy and the soul. They’re a gift from nature, packed with protein, and sometimes, a bit of a gamble. You stand there in the grocery aisle, fillets glistening under fluorescent lights, wondering: is this the good stuff? Shailesh Patel gets it. He’s felt that frustration, that longing for truly high-quality fish. But instead of lamenting from the frozen food aisle, he did something extraordinary. He created Dam Good Fish, a company that cuts out the middleman (and the mystery) by bringing dam-raised fish directly to your doorstep.

Forget the murky ponds and crowded cages of traditional aquaculture. Dam Good Fish sources its bounty from pristine dams, promising a healthier product for you and a more sustainable approach for the planet.  We sat down with Patel to get the scoop on this unique operation, from the surprising benefits of dam-raised fish to the secrets behind keeping them shockingly fresh on their journey from dam to your door.

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1. What are the advantages of raising fish in dam water like in Lalitpur compared to fish raised in ponds or farms?

The Dam Good Family firmly believes that a “Happy Fish is a Healthy Fish.” Dams, vast bodies of water, provide expansive space and a natural environment conducive to fish health. The pristine water quality, naturally regulated temperature, and diverse habitat within dams foster robust and resilient fish populations. Unlike ponds or farms, dams offer ample room for fish to roam, mitigating overcrowding and competition for resources, thereby promoting superior growth, tissue strength, and overall fish well-being.
The continuous water flow in dams ensures optimal oxygen levels, creating an ideal habitat compared to stagnant water in farms or ponds. Nutrient-rich inputs from upstream sources, such as organic matter carried by rivers, sustain the food chain within dams, supporting the growth of algae and other natural food sources essential for fish.

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Within dam environments, fish benefit from a wider array of natural resources, including algae, insects, and aquatic organisms, fostering a diverse diet that promotes enhanced nutrition and growth. Unlike ponds requiring extensive preparation with chemicals such as Calcium hydroxide, Urea, DAP, SSP, and slaked lime, dams entail minimal maintenance for fish culture.
Furthermore, unlike the use of chemicals and antibiotics common in pond farming to control harmful bacteria, fish raised in dams enjoy a healthier environment, reducing the risk of disease outbreaks. Contributing to overall ecosystem health, fish in dams play vital roles in nutrient cycling, predator-prey dynamics, and biodiversity conservation. Additionally, they support recreational and commercial fishing industries, providing economic benefits to surrounding communities.

2. Some consumers might be concerned about the dam environment. How do you ensure the water quality is suitable for raising healthy fish?

Dams are natural reservoirs spread across hundreds of kilometres fed by upstream sources and rivers. Typically located away from industrial zones and densely populated areas, dams remain free from contamination, ensuring the purity of their water and soil. Dam Good Fish selectively sources its fish from pristine dams such as Rajghat, which are rich in organic nutrients and devoid of pollutants, thereby producing organic fish of exceptional quality.

Rajghat Dam, Lalitpur

Rajghat Dam, Lalitpur (Photo: iStock)

3. What specific varieties of fish do you source from Rajghat Dam in Lalitpur? Are there any unique species not readily found elsewhere?

Dams like Rajghat are home to a diverse array of freshwater Indian major carp, catfish, and various other fish species. Among them are Rohu, Catla, Mrigal, Bata, Chilwa, Calbasu, Bighead, Singhi, Singhara, River Sole, Pabda (Butterfish), Malli, Chitol, Dhawai, Baam and numerous others. Some of these fish species are wild and cannot be cultivated in ponds or farms, making Rajghat Dam a unique and invaluable habitat for a wide range of indigenous aquatic life.

4. What kind of feedback have you received from your customers about the taste and quality of your dam water fish?

We’ve been fortunate to receive consistently positive feedback from our customers regarding the freshness, taste and quality of our dam water fish. For instance, one of our valued customers recently shared: “As always, Superb quality of singhara fish as if it’s a fresh catch. Thanks a ton. Keep it up.” This feedback serves as a great source of motivation for our team. Since our inception, we’ve been humbled by the trust placed in Dam Good Fish by fish enthusiasts, evident through word of mouth and repeat orders. We remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering freshness, odour-free products, and personalized cuts, ensuring that fish are cut, cleaned, and packed upon order placement.

5. Sustainability is a growing concern. How does sourcing fish from dams contribute to a more sustainable seafood industry?

Dams are integral components of natural landscapes, thus necessitating minimal habitat alteration for fish cultivation. In addition to serving as habitats for various aquatic species, dams support ecosystems encompassing aquatic plants, invertebrates, and other wildlife. By sourcing from dams, we contribute to the preservation of these natural habitats and the diverse ecosystems they sustain. Compared to intensive aquaculture practices in ponds or farms, sourcing from dams typically entails lower environmental impact. Furthermore, sourcing from dams can bolster local economies by creating livelihood opportunities for communities residing in the vicinity of the dam.

6. We’ve seen a rise in the popularity of farm-to-table concepts. Dam Good Fish takes it a step further – dam-to-door!  What inspired you to start Dam Good Fish and bring dam water fish directly to consumers?

Thanks for highlighting it. We truly believe and it is our motto to feed Indian consumers freshwater fish & correctly stated as “Dam-to-Door”, delivering naturally grown fish directly to consumers’ homes is the ideal approach to providing premium protein sourced from natural environments. Fish, as a lean meat option, has gained immense popularity among meat consumers. India currently ranks as the world’s third-largest fish-producing nation. However, in terms of aquaculture in small, medium, and large dams and reservoirs, our neighbouring countries like China outpace India with fish production levels at least ten times greater, highlighting the immense potential for growth in India’s aquaculture sector.

7. Dam Good Fish is a delivery-only service. How do you maintain freshness during transport?

We are on a mission to feed our consumers only fresh fish. Fish caught during the night at the Dam are instantly packed maintaining 0-4 degrees and travel to our packing centre by early morning. Fish will be cut and packed just before the delivery slots to maintain the tenderness of the meat. Our state-of-the-art packing centre, uses RO purified chilled running water while cutting and cleaning the fish. Packs are hygienically vacuum packed and delivered with ice pads maintaining temperature. The entire journey is maintained at 0-4 degrees to keep the freshness. 

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8. Looking ahead, do you have plans to expand Dam Good Fish beyond Lalitpur, or perhaps offer different dam-sourced products?

Indeed, our Dam-grown fish are wild-caught and naturally grown; the species we catch vary depending on weather, seasons, and other tropical conditions at different locations. While Rajghat remains a significant source, we also gather fish from various other dams such as Sharda Sagar near Pilibhit, Rana Pratap Sagar in Rajasthan, Rihand near Banaras, and many more. Ensuring the purity of water and the nutritional richness of the soil in whichever dams we source from is a top priority for us. We procure a wide range of seafood varieties, including marine species that are wild-caught and delivered fresh to our customers. This diverse sourcing approach allows us to offer a comprehensive selection of premium-quality fish and seafood to our valued customers.

9. Lastly, for our readers who might be interested in trying Dam Good Fish, can you tell us a bit about your ordering process and delivery area?

We have a highly interactive mobile application, “Dam Good Fish,” available on both iOS and Android platforms along with a user-friendly website for convenient ordering of fresh fish products. While we initially launched in Gurgaon, we have now expanded our delivery services to cover Delhi as well. Our goal is to extend our reach to the entire National Capital Region (NCR) before August this year. Responding to customer demands for quality protein and lean meat options, we have recently introduced a new range of freshly marinated fish products. Looking ahead, we aspire to serve customers in major Indian cities in the coming year.

10. Do you have any tips on how home cooks can best prepare and enjoy dam water fish? (Please offer practical cooking advice to readers).

Well, fish is one of the easiest dishes to prepare, second only to salad! 🙂 It’s best enjoyed when shallow-fried, grilled, or cooked in various curry styles. Some of the Bengali and Kerala-style fish dishes are particularly mouthwatering. Fish naturally contains healthy oils, so it requires minimal oil for shallow frying, making it ideal for beginners. A simple marinade with basic spices like salt, pepper, chilli, and turmeric, along with ginger and garlic paste, is all you need. Marinate the fish, let it chill to allow the flavours to meld, then shallow fry in a pan for a maximum of 8 minutes, depending on the type of fish. We regularly share home chefs’ reviews and cooking methods for Dam Good Fish on Instagram, so be sure to follow us for more inspiration!



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