Monday, 18 April 2011

Sydney Fish Market

I'm happy to admit that i am a fully fledged fish geek. Whether i be on holiday, working or just passing through i feel compelled to stop and look at the fish on sale. I do look at quality as i love testing my ability to  pick fresh from old and i love looking at artistic displays, but in reality the fisheries scientist in me is always looking for species i have not seen before as that is what's really exciting. Imagine my excitement when all of a sudden i was in reaching distance of two of the worlds most prestigious fish markets, Tokyo & Sydney. Due to the earthquakes in Japan i have had to put off my trip to Tokyo, but i have finally managed to make the Sydney fish market. 

The Brisbane and Melbourne fish markets were very poor in my opinion, although not as bad as Billingsgate but then again where is? But Sydney certainly has the wow factor. Like all other fish markets the car park is the hustle bustle of traders and public fighting each other for the quickest routes and the best views. The place itself is just a concrete building with 10 or so independent shops around the car park. Romantic it is not, historical looking it is not, a site offering the most wonderful sea food - it is.

The area that sets the Australian seafood market apart from the rest is their offer of cooked crustaceans. Whether it be Western Australian or New South Wales rock lobsters, Moreton bay bugs, mud crabs or the extensive range of prawns, one is just drawn to the colours and patterns of the displays created on the slabs. In Australia the demand for cooked seafood at Christmas is astronomical. However, there is a continued demand throughout the rest of the year which does allow shops and supermarkets to have a good offer day in day out.

The wonderful colours can be seen in the pictures above and below which make for spectacular displays.

Throw a prawn on the bar-b they say. Well I'm not sure how accurate that is as the majority sold are already cooked. There are some wonderful flavored prawns out here especially the Queensland banana prawn and some of the jumbo South Australian Tigers. And what makes them so great in a display is the subtle variance in colours from bright red, through the orange shades onto a dull pink. When set out on a slab it is quite hypnotic.

Very few crustaceans seemed to be sold alive or even raw. I am not sure why this is as the majority of Aussies know exactly how to prepare and cook them. Maybe it is a lazy option? Anyhow the rock lobster is a most beautiful creature and i managed to find a few lives ones at the market.

One thing that is very different in this area of the world is the way oysters are sold. Imagine how Pierre would frown if he saw opened oysters on a tray at his local Brittany fish market. I had never seen this concept before and i guess its a great way to move volume. I can confirm, however, that shucked and eaten  immediately far supersedes previously opened on both taste and texture. I do love the way they are displayed like this.

Until visiting Sydney i hadn't seen any eye catching seafood displays in Australia (the best have been created by me 9if i do say so myself) when involved in store openings and workshops at a well known supermarket). The displays in Queensland seem very regimental in their style and I'm guessing they are attempting to use quality as the selling point. NSW has a very different approach, a more loving and caring approach displays  are set out with pride.

The fish at the market was beautifully fresh. It was difficult to find examples of old fish on display. Of course this is how it should be. They are professionals, they understand how to look after fish to prolong its shelf life and would have a great understanding of potential sales versus ordering patterns. Only when one fully understands this within their own seafood business can they truly offer a display with few blemishes. These guys have nailed it!

On the visit i had a secondary agenda. I was in the process of producing some specialist seafood workshops for a number of supermarket stores and decided they needed to see photos of high quality product. I love the photograph above. When you look closely the two different quality products can be seen intermingled to disguise the older ones. A common trick :-)

Some examples of sashimi cuts of salmon, tuna and octopus.

Sydney fish market is a wonderful place and a mecca for any fish loving foodie. A must visit.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Fish Fight has Only Just Begun

So its taken a couple of celebrity chefs and an evening slot on C4 to achieve something Charles Clover’s End of the Line failed to do – ‘Gain support’ I am unsure as to whether Hugh’s fish fight campaign will change the ways of those select unscrupulous fisherman that continue to discard everything they catch until their bow is full of prime sized species; I am unsure as to whether the EU will take on board the significance and act on half a million signatures over the best available scientific advice that they already use; I am unsure that the biggest and most destructive of fish catching nations will be deterred from targeting endangered species on a call from a man that lives in a River Cottage. However, what I am sure of is that the tide is turning. Supermarkets have responded immediately to a call of change from their clientele and independents are offering more diverse species otherwise thought inedible. We can only all hope that if the demand drops from the end user followed by the retail sector then the fishermen will target alternative species. Of course whilst Europe still pays a premium the species will continue to be a target, but one small step at a time. Many said the management programs for North Sea and Eastern Canadian Cod stocks were too little too late. This has shown not to be the case and with time and careful management species will recover, its what they do best.

So what can we do?

Well keep this bandwagon running. Be the one that reads the correct material and I don’t mean newspaper articles, but books or websites from genuine sources. Take time to understand why you are changing your eating habits and don’t just do it because Hugh told you too. The fish and fisheries world is very complex but also fascinating. The more you understand the better you will feel when you choose your dinner. Don’t expect good advice from a supermarket as it will generally be littered with inaccuracies and don’t walk into an independent fishmonger expecting a) him to know absolutely everything and b) him to be absolutely honest. Unfortunately there are people out there, like in any business, who will say exactly what you want to hear. Become friends with your fishmonger it’s the best way.

So to help you understand the complexities of this subject I have listed some extra reading below. Many are anti fishing so will give extreme views and apply exaggerated scare mongering but that is the only method that drums the message across. If you find more useful sites please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments.

Happy reading and remember to make the ethical choice :-)

Hugh’s Fish Fight Homepage – have you signed up?

MCS – MARINE Conservation Society Homepage

Buying Guide – direct link to the FISHONLINE ethical buying chart

FISHONLINE - identify which fish are from well managed sources

Seasons Guide – You know what to eat but do you know when?

Good Catch - designed to help you make responsible decisions about which seafood to put on your menu

Red List –  The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Line caught – Website dedicated to the line catch Cornish industry

The End of The line Homepage

Fish2Fork – Follow up to The End of The Line pinpointing fish selling practices of top restaurants