Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sydney Fish Market

We finally got round to a trip to the Sydney Fish Market today. I had no real expectations about what it was going to be like, I was just hoping to pick up some squid and prawns.

Sydney Fish Market is amazing. I feel like a whole new world of cooking has opened up to me. I used to think that the selection at Steve Hatt or Shellseekers was pretty good. I was living a lie.

Based in Blackwattle Bay, just under the Anzac Bridge, the market is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. You'd have to go to Japan to get a wider choice of seafood. It's a wholesale market and auction in the wee hours of the morning and the retail market opens at 7.00am. You could do all of your shopping here, although I didn't see a butcher, as there's a grocer, baker and deli alongside the smorgasbord of fish. There's also a cookery school so you can learn how to cook your spoils. I wanted to cancel my weekend's plans as soon as I walked in to De Costi seafood and just spend all of my time cooking. Bri just wanted to get some calamari and sit on the wharf.

The plan was to buy some squid to make a stew for supper tonight and perhaps pick up some prawns for tomorrow. First decision of the day was which squid to go for. There was Queensland Squid, Hawkesbury Squid, cleaned squid, tiny squid, medium squid, squid rings and, probably, Oscar winning squid. It was a whole new world of squid. We went for Hawkesbury Squid from just round the corner. I think I went slightly into shock at this point and basically just wanted to photograph and then eat everything. Even Bri was open mouthed in amazement.
Down one side there was a "filet" bar where you can pick up ready filleted pieces. Across the back were mussel and pippi tanks as well as mud crabs, disabled with masking tape below signs warning that they are dangerous creatures. To one side, the largest swordfish I'd ever seen, bisected and ready to have huge steaks cut off. In the middle, the most perfect seafood stage, with piles of prawns, alternating raw and cooked, all graded by size. I managed to resist but concocted an evil plan to get some tiny green school prawns (to be an appetiser tonight) and some large prawns to get the garlic treatment tomorrow. I was planning how I might be able to get a whole snapper, perhaps roasted with chilli, into my eating plans and some scallops, which I want to roast with some soy and drizzle with balsamic when Bri dragged me away so we could explore some other parts of the market.

In Musumeci Seafoods I saw things that I had never seen before, like the bailer shells pictured above and the red cod below. Musumeci is a little more cramped than De Costi, but I think their range of whole fish might have been bigger. They had the most beautiful looking striped bonito and I was wracking my brain for recipes. I managed to keep myself on track though and ended up purchasing the tiny school prawns and some bigger ones too.

We were off to see family for lunch, but as we'd missed breakfast (and as this was our first trip here) we felt that we deserved a little snack. So Bri got his calamari and I scouted out some oysters. I haven't had oysters for a while, so I deserved a dozen, and I picked out some large Pacific and smaller Sydney rock oysters from Peter's Seafood, inside the main hall. This is a very slick operation with a delicious looking sashimi option with the fish sliced to order. Prices may be a bit higher here, it's definitely smarter than the freestanding shops outside, but I felt that the selection was a tiny bit more limited.

The oysters were delicious and needed nothing more than a squeeze of lemon and the smell of the sea, although I could have purchased mornay or kirkpatrick style to take home with me. I was expecting (there I go again) to enjoy the Pacific oysters more, as I usually prefer the looser, brinier ones. But the Sydney oyster was a revelation; creamy, close textured, muscular even, and a lot smaller than the Pacific. This was as good as snacking gets! Bri loved his calamari, although I thought they'd been sitting around a bit too long.

So tonight we're having the squid stew with pasta, a recipe from Neil Perry's new book. We just ate the school prawns, which I dusted with some paprika and semolina and then deep fried for 30 seconds or so. This was some seriously good eating; the sweetness of the paprika and tiny prawns contrasting with the semolina coating and the shells. You eat these critters whole, although I gave their tendrils (antennae?) a trim to stop them getting all tangled up. Below you can see the school prawns before they had their oil bath, and after. Now, can you guess where we're going next weekend?

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