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The Fish Market

January 28, 2011
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I spent last weekend visiting college friends in Santander, which is on the northern coast of Spain.  Despite the common claim that, ironically, the best seafood in Spain can be found in landlocked Madrid, I found the fish culture in Santander to be spectacular.  Seafood holds a special place in all Spanish cuisine, but Santander is a city defined by its maritime location; it’s sprawled out along the Cantabrian coast in wide streets that are permeated by the wonderful smell of salty sea.  If you go out for pinchos (similar to tapas), you’re sure to find seafood in many forms: fried fish balls, tuna salad topped with an anchovy, queso fresco with fresh tomato and an anchovy, oysters, etc.  And if you walk along the beach at the right time of day, you’ll undoubtedly see a handful of fishing boats bringing in the day’s catch.

One of the recipients of that catch, which is a mere two blocks’ walk from my friends’ front door, looks something like this:

Despite the terrible lighting, here you can see some of their wares.  If you order a whole fish, you can have it prepared for you the way you like (although I might stand back if I were you–some of the women wielding the fish-beheading knives looked a little scary, and they didn’t mess around):

Most of those shellfish were still alive, by the way.  Since they were hardly moving in all that ice, it took me a while to figure that out, but I was impressed once I did.  It doesn’t get much fresher than that!

One of the most impressive things we saw was a man scaling fish.  I repeat: these people don’t mess around.  Scales were literally flying everywhere, and the employees who hose down the floor were washing mountains of them down the drains.  I probably would have captured the moment if another fishmonger hadn’t walked in front of my camera at just the right moment, but you get the idea:

For the three of us, we ordered three fresh salmon steaks, at which point the vendor asked, “¿Os pongo verde?” As it turns out, the “green” he had offered us was parsley; if you want, several sprigs of parsley come for free with purchase of amazing fish.  Not a bad deal.

Back at home, alongside some oven-roasted cauliflower, we enjoyed the salmon pan-fried in butter and herbs with just a squeeze of lemon juice.

It.  Was.  Delicious.

And I can’t wait to check out the fish markets in Madrid to see how things compare.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrea permalink
    January 28, 2011 1:07 AM

    Oooh, I love salmon! I’m about to go to bed and that last picture made me salivate.

  2. Fiona permalink
    January 30, 2011 1:24 PM

    That last picture is amazing! Jealous/hungry x10000… this market in Santander looks like so much fun. I miss wet markets 🙂

    Hamburg has a famous fish market, by the river, that’s open only till 9.30 or 10 every Sunday. It’s pretty hard to get up in time for it, so a lot of people spend the night out and then hit it up when it opens at 5am (in the winter, they have to party till 7am). At the end of the morning the vendors try to sell the remaining of their wares by having a ’10 euro basket’, into which they throw more and more fish until someone bites and buys it (like a reverse auction).

    • January 30, 2011 9:24 PM

      I’ve never heard the term “wet market,” but I love it–considering the number of times I’ve almost slipped and fallen, I think it makes complete sense. And I’ll be sure to hit up the one in Hamburg if I’m ever visiting there; I love the idea of a 10 euro basket!

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