Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Seafood... Eat It!

The Brits may not be very fond of the fruits of the sea, as foodie blogger, author and globe-trotter Robin Majumdar asserted earlier this year, but seafood is absolutely fundamental to the cuisines of Spain.

The Great White - more likely to be your diner than your dinnerIt's hardly surprising - over three quarters of The Kingdom of Spain's population lives within 50 miles of the sea and, with the exceptions of Madrid, Seville and Zaragoza, all the major centres of population density are on the coast. Move Canberra to Alice Springs and Spain would demographically resemble Australia.

Of course when we talk about seafood and Spain, our thoughts turn to the northern coast line - to Galicia and The Basque Country and to Asturias and Cantabria in-between. But there's almost nowhere in Spain where fish and shellfish aren't an important part of the regional cuisine. Even in most of the landlocked autonomous communities we find river fish and crustaceans playing an important role. You get a good idea of the importance of seafood to the Spanish when you discover that the world's second largest fish market after Tsukiji in Tokyo is Mercamadrid, with a covered surface area of 42,000 m² and annual sales of 132m kilos of seafood. What's notable about that is that Madrid is over 300km from the sea!

When Spain celebrates something, it does so by building. The architectural traditions of the Basques, the Catalans and the Islamic conquerors of south and central Spain have brought some of the most spectacular structures to be found anywhere in Europe. Elsewhere in the world such excesses may be confined to palaces and grand houses of culture, celebrating monarchy and opera. In Spain, a stunning edifice of steel, glass and ceramics is just as likely to celebrate the cheese, the sausage and the shrimp.

València's El Mercado Central - always busy
In the city of València is just such a celebratory structure, standing proud against the skyline adjacent to La Lonja de la Seda, the ancient Silk Market. El Mercado Central de València is a stunning piece of Catalan modernist architecture, initiated in 1914 and opened fourteen years later. The market is an 8,000m2 expanse of steel and glass decorated with typically colourful Valencian ceramic tiles. Built by architects Alejandro Soler March and Francisco Guardia Vial who trained in Barcelona with the iconic Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the art nouveau building even includes the colors of the Senyera regional flag (the base of the modern Aragonese, Catalan, Valencian and Balearic communities) in its windows.

Inside València's El Mercado Central, with its massive vaulted roof
A few weeks ago I visited central València for lunch at Restaurante Torrijos (more to come shortly). Having arrived an hour or so early, what better way to whet my appetite for the feast to come than to gaze upon some of the city's freshly caught aquatic residents at El Mercado Central. The seafood section of the market is vast, so I only captured a small part of what was on offer. Click on individual slides for descriptions of the seafood on display.

Thanks to Kike@ and birdbath for the structural photos of the market. All seafood stall photos by me.


Richard said...

Brings back fond memories of walking round Valencia market a few years back - I never understand why we don't get places like this in the UK. Was in a restaurant recently which had razor clams on the menu which is pretty unusual in London. When I ordered them eagerly, the waiter laughed - he was Portugese and said he'd been raised on them.
The wife & I are working on a plan to get rid of the kids one weekend in Spring and maybe come out your way...

Trig said...

Isn't Valencia market great, Richard? The place I've yet to visit though is Mercamadrid. I'll do that soon.

I'd love to meet up with you next Spring, but that's a long way off for someone like me who is training and moving on. My contract here expires well before Spring and I could be anywhere - Spain, the US, Belgium, Turkey or even back in the UK. So we'll make plans nearer the time.

The Boston Foodie said...

Nothing like fresh seafood from market. I need my pristine salmon grilled lightly every week over fresh veg, just sea salt. Then the drippings over toast the next morning.

Gary S. Hurd said...

The fish you called "mackerel" looked rather like what we here in California call "bonita" (Sarda chiliensis) The species we call mackerel are Scomber japonicus.

The Skipjack, Euthynnus pelamis, are not at all popular with California anglers. I had a hard time convincing crew on one trip this year to even keep those I caught. True, we also had Blue Fin and Albacore (with an additional scatter of Dorado (Coryphaena hippurus) on-board.

I like to cure the Skipjack covered in black pepper and a good red pepper sauce, wrapped in plastic wrap for a day or two. I then smoke it for about 2 hours over mesquite. The texture is still not as good as Blue Fin, or Albacore. I like to mix some smoked Skipjack with cream cheese and spread it on toast and top it with some fine chopped green onion.
My friends refuse to believe it is Skippy. (When the trip costs $300 US and I am lucky to bring home 50lbs of meat, (mixed species), I use it all.

I recall a few years ago you posted a short video clip of an instructor trying to skin an eel.

Trig said...

Thanks Gary. I captioned the photos at least a week after my visit and looking at it again I reckon it's probably sardo sardo, or Atlantic bonito. I've corrected the comment.

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