Bombay Duck, Harpadon nehereus

The Bombay Duck (Harpadon nehereus), known also as the bummalo, is, in spite of its name, not a duck but a lizardfish. It is native to the waters between Mumbai and Kutch within the Arabian Sea, and a smaller number can also be found in the Bay of Bengal. Large numbers are also caught in the South China Sea. This fish is often dried and salted before it is eaten, as its meat doesn’t have a distinctive taste of its own. After the drying process, the odor of the fish is very powerful, and it is normally transported in air-tight containers. Fresh fish are normally fried and served as a starter. In Mumbai, Konkan and the western coastal areas within India, this dish is popularly known as “Bombil Fry”.

The origin of the name “Bombay Duck” is not certain. According to local Bangladeshi stories, the term Bombay Duck was initially coined by Robert Clive, after he tasted a piece during his conquest of Bengal. It is said that he associated the strong smell with that of the newspapers and mail which would come into the cantonments from Bombay. The term was later popularized among the British public by its appearance in Indian restaurants within the UK.

Image Caption: Bombil or Bombay duck fish (Harpadon nehereus) on display in a street fish market in Mumbai. Credit: Docku/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)