Trolling the seafood section of a non-tropical market is always filled with discovery and surprise. Frankly, I have always felt that â€œcold countriesâ€ eat fish fillets and thatâ€™s about it. Itâ€™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 displayedâ€¦
Even in 50 degree weather, the dunes of crushed ice 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 decayâ€¦
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. Peterâ€™s fish. Often 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 â€œflaky.â€ I only saw one on offer and didnâ€™t even bother to ask the price as I wasnâ€™t in the mood for cleaning out a whole fish that weekâ€¦ 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. At 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 babyâ€¦they must get a lot larger than this.
Finally, there was a nice selection of shellfish, lobsters, etc. in the market. I 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 impressiveâ€¦though quantity-wise there wasnâ€™t as much on offer as I had hoped.