Finding Fresh Fish

Finding Fresh Fish
Finding Fresh Fish

The construction of new buildings adjacent to the fishing pier in Hua Hin will prevent most
of us greeting fishing boats returning to port with their catch for the next few months.

Longer term we expect that these new facilities will give Hua Hin residents and visitors even easier access to freshly caught seafood. But fear-not, buying fresh seafood along the coast from Pranburi to Cha-Am is still very easy; here are just some of the options. Hua Hin In Hua Hin the best place to find the freshest seafood is at the many local and night markets. Huana Market (across from Vana Nava Waterpark) This market has a little bit of everything, but specializes in seafood. The selection changes daily, but there are always a wide variety of shrimp available, plus whatever cockles are in season. Chat Chai Market This market starts early in the morning and runs until mid-day. Here you will find a section dedicated to fresh seafood.

The earlier you go the better for the best selection. Khao Takiab Seafood Market At the southern end of Hua Hin is the town of Khao Takiab. Here you will find a seafood market that starts in the morning and runs all day long. Located across the street from a tributary from the Gulf of Thailand, the fishing boats pull right up to the docks and offer their catch to the vendors that dot the roadway. Aside from the usual shrimp and fish, the market is known for their scallops, which you can buy in-shell or out of shell. On a recent visit there was an abundance of horseshoe crab, so you never know what might be on offer. The market is also a great place to take pictures of the local fisherman as they repair their nets. You might also run into a monkey or two that like to scour the market for any scraps, Cha-Am The inlet past the northern end of the Cha-Am beach is home to a local seafood industry. The harbour is home port to fishing boats of all shapes and sizes which supply the Cha-Am fish market every morning. The market is not only set up to supply seafood either to Bangkok and wider Thailand, but also locally.

Those ‘in the know’ will arrive early, not long after sun-up when the boats return after their overnight expedition. Buyers include restaurant owners and chefs, all looking for supplies to satisfy the demands of diners later in the day. Vendors may choose to keep their seafood in tanks at their premises or to immediately put the catch on ice; they know freshness is vital. However seafood buyers include those who are only purchasing small quantities for their family and friends, anyone can buy, but by mid-morning stall owners start to leave, it’s been a long day for them already. You need to be early to find the best ‘catch of the day’.

Another option in Cha-Am is to visit stalls which operate most of the day a little further south of the fishing harbour. Around Sois 4-5 south, at the other end of the beach road to the port, you’ll find seafood vendors who were purchasers at the fishing boat harbour earlier in the day or who may have their own fishing boat as a small business. The numbered stalls are on both sides of the beach road and welcome passers-by. They display seafood either in tanks or on ice and you can select your personal choice as you wish. Speaking Thai is not a requirement, sign language will do. Prices by weight are on display. How do you know when seafood is fresh? Knowing how to choose fresh fish or seafood is a vital skill for a seafood cook. Unless you caught the fish yourself, you may have no way of knowing exactly how fresh it is. But buying fresh fish is easy if you know what to look for.

The best way to choose a live fish or crab or lobster is to look for, well, life. Is it scampering around in its tank? Swimming happily? Or is it sulking in a corner or hanging motionless and panting? If so, don’t buy it. Look for bright, clear eyes. The eyes are the window to a truly fresh fish, for they fade quickly into gray dullness. Dull-eyed fish may be safe to eat, but they are past their prime. Next look at the fish. Does it shine? Does it look metallic and clean? Or has it dulled or has discolored patches on it? If so, it is marginal. Smell it. A fresh fish should smell like clean water, or a touch briny or even like cucumbers. Under no circumstances should you buy a nasty smelling fish. Cooking won’t improve it. Look at the gills.

They should be a rich red. If the fish is old, they will turn the color of faded brick. Look for vibrant flesh. All fish fade as they age. If the fillet still has skin, that skin should look as pristine as the skin on an equally good whole fish – shiny and metallic. Is there liquid on the meat? If so, that liquid should be clear, not milky. Milky liquid on a fillet is the first stage of rot. Press the meat with your finger. It should be resilient enough so your indentation disappears. If your fingerprint remains, move on. The most important things to remember when bringing home fresh fish, keep it SUPER COLD, be prepared!