27 May2006


Trolling the seafood section of a non-tropical market is always filled with discovery and surprise. Frankly, I have always felt that “cold countries” eat fish fillets and that’s about it. It’s an unfair view and I know it. I guess too many fish and chips tales and TV and movie stereotypes have had their effect. Hitting the seafood section of La Boqueria was an extremely interesting experience. The variety was pretty good and I was somewhat hard-pressed to identify some of the things on offer. What was almost as striking as the seafood itself was the way they were beautifully displayed…

Even in 50 degree weather, the dunes of crushed asea2ice lay beneath the seafood that were displayed like precious stones. With the lighting they really looked quite stunning. You got the feeling that the care with which the fishmongers handled their produce was partially predicated on a fine respect for the goods that they sold. In Manila, even at the spectacular Seaside market where the fish is as fresh as it gets, most vendors just plop the stuff on semi-grimey tiles and hope someone will buy it before it starts to commence decay…

At any rate, the first interesting find in the second photo above is a medium sized specimen of John Dory (Zeus faber) or sometimes known as St. Peter’s fish. asea3Often served in chi-chi restaurants with hushed introductions, this pricey and delicious fish has a sweet, white flesh that is the quintessence of the description “flaky.” I only saw one on offer and didn’t even bother to ask the price as I wasn’t in the mood for cleaning out a whole fish that week… By the way, this is not to be confused with Tilapia as it sometimes seems to be.

The market had crate after crate of crayfish or langoustine which are often included in local paella dishes. These have a sweeter flesh than prawns and are easy to cook and absolutely delicious to eat. asea4At another stall, I spied this spectacular whole turbot (Scophthalmus maximus), which is a very high end flatfish with a nice flesh with excellent flavor when compared to some of its other flatfish cousins. I often see turbot in fancy restaurants and it is already filleted and often rather large so I suspect this one in the photograph is a baby…they must get a lot larger than this.

Finally, there was a nice selection of shellfish, lobsters, etc. in the market. asea5I was dying to see some blue lobsters from the coast of France but even those were too rare to make an appearance at La Boqueria. There were several varieties of shrimp at the market as well but most of them were flash frozen and thawing in the early morning hours when I got to the market. Overall, the selection and quality were impressive…though quantity-wise there wasn’t as much on offer as I had hoped.



  1. Apicio says:

    Yes turbot, even more delicious than the famous Dover sole. They successfully raise them now in fish pens all over Europe, specially Spain. They grow to an astounding size, the largest one I saw was the good size of a bakery cookie sheet. They were highly priced by the élite of the Victorian era and cooked them whole in special tinned copper pans called turbotiére, not unlike your élitist fish fryer.

    May 27, 2006 | 10:01 am


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  3. gonzo says:

    in Spain, turbot is called rodaballo, and is highly esteemed, as it is in Turkey, called kalkan; fantastically expensive on the menus of the marvellous fish restaurants along the Bosphorus in Istanbul (for seafood people, you haven’t lived til you’ve eaten the seafood in Istanbul!). and that’s right, turbot grows to a phenomenal size.

    hey how come no snaps of the bacalao section?

    May 27, 2006 | 10:50 am

  4. trishlovesbread says:

    Hmmm….it they’re so different, why are John Dory and Tilapia mistaken for each other?

    May 27, 2006 | 4:13 pm

  5. trishlovesbread says:

    Oops, typo–I meant “if” not “it”.

    May 27, 2006 | 4:14 pm

  6. Apicio says:

    I can only readily second Gonzo’s assertion there. One of the great cuisines of the Mediterranean and yet still sadly recondite. A fall out no doubt of the age-old Western antipathy towards the Ottoman and its Janizzaries as witness the more recent resistance against integration (on the part of the rest of Europe).

    May 27, 2006 | 7:39 pm

  7. Mandy says:

    the john dory shows that no matter how ugly the fish, it can taste so good, right? i was just watching an interview of a guy who wrote about how the chilean seabass got all hyped up. and how ugly it looks (of course we see it all “filleted”-up already), and how unglamorous the real name of this so called seabass. it’s not even from chile, not even a seabass! in reality, it’s called the patagonian toothfish, and what a toothy fish. no wonder they sell it with the head off! :)

    May 28, 2006 | 6:56 pm

  8. Marketman says:

    Apicio, gotta get me one of those turbotiere, if only to annoy some of my more SENSITIVE readers…heeheehee. Actually, I have never cooked turbot myself though I have eaten it a few times… Gonzo, you are reading our minds…as folks are wont to do after a great trip, they talk and plan the next one…and Turkey and Greece were certainly up on the priority list…but so was an African Safari, Chile/Patagonia, Bhutan, Southern France & Northern Italy, etc. Trish, I think the two fish just seem to have the unfortunate sharing of English names…they cannot be mistaken for each other once cooked and certainly not when fresh…

    May 29, 2006 | 4:55 pm

  9. Katrina says:

    I’m confused about St. Peter’s fish vs. tilapia too. My parents went to Israel, where they were served the former — like you said, with much pride in the its introduction. But then when they ate it, they said it was just tilapia!

    May 31, 2006 | 5:31 pm

  10. MGR says:

    We had turbot in Istanbul and yes it was fantastic..but as great as it may be, my fave still goes to the “freidurias” of Malaga (Spain) and Puerto de Sta. Maria (also in Spain)..when it comes to fish in particular. I haven’t had fish fried that tasted so light and fresh that it’s a sin to add lemon and insult the cook. They won’t even dare serve bad seafood and ruin their reputation. Of course Galicia (northwest Spain) challenges the seafood section but Barcelona too has so much complex cooking techniques it’s mind-boggling.
    Tip: Do the safari in Tanzania (the great migration in the Serengeti will blow you away).

    Jun 1, 2006 | 12:47 pm


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