Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Seafood cataplana. Pawan Singh / The National
Seafood cataplana. Pawan Singh / The National

Food obsession: seafood cataplana

Don't dress up for the seafood cataplana at Picante. Dress comfortably, roll your sleeves up and dig right in.

Some dishes implore you to roll up your sleeves, tie up your hair, clear away the silverware and dig right in. One such dish is the seafood cataplana at the recently opened Portuguese restaurant Picante, located in the†Four Points by Sheraton on Khalid Bin Walid Sreet in Bur Dubai.

I had arrived at Picante with a delicate dress, hair straightened into submission and clean fingernails that no longer looked like they had been through a sausage machine. But when the chef fired up my seafood cataplana, my good intentions to look and behave civilised at my mamaís birthday dinner vanished faster than the crusty Portuguese bread placed on our table.

Dropping all conversation, I ran over to the open kitchen, fascinated by the clam-shaped cataplana vessel the chef had placed on the stove. As the chef clamped the two shells of the vessel shut, he explained that the Portuguese-fashioned copper cookware is what gives the dish its name. The cataplana cooks its contents under the intense steam pressure that builds up within the enclosed vessel, quite similar to a pressure cooker or a tagine.

The cataplana was reopened at our table with a belly full of sumptuous seafood, silky vegetables and bubbling broth that cackled with piping-hot fury. I was assaulted with a flurry of flavour: mouthfuls of fleshy lobster meat, juicy tiger prawns, tender slices of broth-infused potatoes, intertwined strips of green, red and yellow peppers that seduced my tongue with the sultry moves of butter. Somewhere in that blurred sequence of frantic eating, I remember scooping up the unctuous juices with gaping mussels and clams, feeling their broth-soaked flesh slide down my throat with the balmy saltiness of a beach town breeze. I remember dragging the vessel in front of me, tearing off pieces of crusty bread and submerging them messily into the hot broth and olive oil. I remember my mother holding my flowing hair back to ensure that it didnít slide into the dish during my uncontrollable eating frenzy. I remember plunging deeper and deeper into a dish whose belly spanned nautical miles of flavour.

As I returned to reality and sheepishly stared at the mess in front of me, I vowed that the next time I return for Picanteís cataplana, I will drop the dress, grab my jeans, yank my hair up and, ideally, find a bib.

Arva Ahmed founded Frying Pan Adventures (www.fryingpanadventures.com), which takes people on tours through hidden culinary gems in Dubai

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.

twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National