Ever wonder how some restaurants can be so confident about including certain types of seafood in their menus when your own experience in the markets suggests that the availability of fresh fish (particularly less common fish) is highly erratic? Flash frozen seafood is the answer. The vast majority of top restaurants most probably rely on frozen seafood to bolster their menus and I think I have just found one of their better sources. Citra Mina is a frozen seafood wholesaler and retailer that is based in the seafood rich port of General Santos City (they also have offices in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Palawan). Despite its Indonesian name Citra Mina (meaning image of Pisces, or literally, a fish), this is apparently a Filipino based business that has its core in tuna products and has branched out to a very broad line of flash frozen seafood.
On a recent visit to their shop, I was totally impressed by the bank of gleaming glass freezer doors that housed a very neatly displayed array of goods. Letâ€™s start with Tuna products first: the had tuna panga, belly, buntot, cheeks and EYES (yikes!) in addition to beautiful looking top quality yellow fin tuna steaks of around 5 oz in weight. Related tuna products included sausages, burger patties, tocino, soimai, longganisa etc. which I have to admit I was not quite tempted to try just yet. Other interesting finds in these immaculately clean freezers were frozen shrimps, scallops on the half shell, octopus, salmon steaks and smoked salmon, Thai crab sticks, Japanese eel or unagi, trout, and sushi grade fish of all sorts (though I am averse to serving anything pre-frozen as sushiâ€¦). They also had several types of bangus products and for me, the best thing was finding swordfish (malasugi) and blue marlin steaks that I have several Western recipes for but are otherwise difficult fish to find fresh in the markets. The first photo above has swordfish, blue marlin and yellow fin tuna steaks in it. They are already pre-cut and frozen to a specific serving size. Personally, I would have liked them thicker than they were but at least they were available, so I wonâ€™t quibble.
According to their brochure, Citra Mina seafood is blast or flash frozen to -35 or -40 degrees Celsius to ensure that it is as fresh as possible. To defrost, take the individual servings and put them in the fridge to thaw slowly before using. They do not ever recommend refreezing the products. Prices were quite reasonable at Citra Mina: tuna panga was PHP125/kilo, yellow fin tuna steaks at PHP65 for 195 grams, blue marlin steaks for PHP62 for 8oz, boneless bangus 560 grams for PHP 104 (roughly 15-20% cheaper than Pricesmart), sea bass at PHP215 a kilo, etc. They are located literally outside the fence of the international airport (south end of the runway?) at Access Road, Paranaque, Multinational entrance, with telephone number 541-5852. They have another branch in Sucat but I have not been there. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised by this nice source for frozen seafood.