Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sydney Fish Market

When I got to the meeting place there was no one in sight. It was 7:03 AM. I guess no one likes waiting around in the cold when there's a fish auction in full swing. Three minutes late and no one I asked had any idea where the tour had gone. I was beyond disappointed. No behind the scenes tour of the second largest fish market in the world. I decided to console myself with a croissant.

Just as I was paying, one of the fish buyers I'd chatted up ran towards me, "I think the tour is upstairs. Follow me." Yes!

The market went electronic in 1999, replacing live auctioneers with an electronic system broadcast upon large screens. The auction clock begins with the highest price and continues to drop with each passing second until someone successfully purchases the crate(s) up for sale. About 200 buyers sat in the grandstand keying their bids into touchpads, and though it's technically a silent auction, the floor was far from silent. It appeared that everyone was in constant motion. Someone picking up his purchases and checking out. A forklift moving a pallet of mud crabs. Random shouting. With nearly 3000 crates of fish auctioned in three hours each morning, it's no surprise hardly anyone was sitting.

But what did learn about fish? Mullet is more than a hairstyle. Barramundi (my favorite in fish and chips) comes in a variety of sizes and goes by "barra." Swordfish are enormous and far larger than I'd imagined. Leatherjackets are almost always sold without their heads because they're bony and heavy. Bream inspired a discussion of rigor mortis and the freshness of fish. Mud crabs are pretty feisty. Yellowfin tuna get their name from a beautiful (and hidden) yellow dorsal fin. Snapper can be very, very red. Dory is a cute little fish, but not blue like the one in Finding Nemo. Flathead are unsurprisingly, flat-headed.

After sloshing around the sea-scented warehouse for over an hour, the tour came to an end. I was still clutching the croissant. It was buttery, flaky, no longer warm, but delightful with my coffee.

And then sashimi. At 9:00 AM. Tuna is so delicious.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sushi at 9 AM is delicious, and it reminded me of last week when I was rekindled the knowledge that sushi is the cure for all that ails. I had a terrible week, and after a particularly wrenching 24 hours decided that it was time for some dining therapy (some people shop, I eat out, I guess technically it is the same) and I went to my favorite sushi place after a brutal mind cleansing swim and with complete abandon ordered whatever I wanted. Toro cried out, and It is true, toro soothes the tired soul. -cw

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ain't nothing wrong with sashimi at 9 am...

9:50 PM  

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