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.