Friday, July 15, 2011

food of the sea

I had never eaten or seen so many kinds of aquatic delicacies and in so many different cultural ways before spending time in other countries.

I'm from Minnesota...the closest we get to 'exotic seafood' comes in a tin that could still be eaten in 20 years. Tuna is about it.....maybe some pre cooked, pre peeled shrimp with cocktail sauce for you know...weddings.

Yes, you can go out and find anything and everything, but the average Minnesotan wouldn't touch most of it with a ten foot pole....which, makes sense....if you live in the middle of prairie land with no ocean in sight and someone offers you a raw, where exactly did that oyster come from?  It sure wasn't Lake Michigan!

So.  This past year I got myself a little seafood education!

Our very first stop happened to be know....just the capital city of all seafood eating in the entire world!  So, of course we stopped by the fish market near Ginza, not quite in time to witness the selling of the tuna at 4am, but around 8am when you can still watch squids scurry around (among many other mystery creatures) in little tubs and men also scurry around on little carts speeding around as if their lives depended on it.

Fish market at 8am - crates and crates of  mysterious seafood

Tuna heads in the Tokyo fish market
Tokyo squid waiting to be bought
When we were traveling S.E.Asia, I realized that most of the world eats their fish/seafood whole...with skin, bones and little heads still attached!  I still remember the first time thinking, "For real!?!  Aren't they going to cut it up?  Did they take the guts out?  Am I supposed to eat the eye balls?"  Now, I prefer getting the entire fish on my plate, because it's fun to poke around and get all the meat from the bones, (less waste) plus, it's nice to get to know what kind of fish I'm eating and see what it looks like!

Krabi Thailand outdoor food market  - grilled squid on a stick
They display it whole and cut into small pieces for you to eat it - because it's chewy!

When you buy a grilled fish in Thailand, it often comes with  spicy sauces and salads
We ate this fish sitting in the sand on a beach, waiting for the sunset.

I have to admit that our trip to Spain opened my horizons to seafood as a delicacy!  Eating it was a reason to live!  Everything tasted so delicious, prepared so perfectly with just the right amounts of herbs/lemon/olive oil/butter/smoked paprika and of course sides of olives or pickled veggies... then you dip your fresh bread into the juices leftover from these delicious! I'm dying to go back!  
I can only imagine what it's like to eat in Portugal!

Just a taste of the the incredible seafood tapas/dishes we shared with friends in Spain.  

I heart tapas!  I loved the culture of sharing that takes place with eating these incredible seafood dishes in Spain.  You sit with friends and family for hours talking and sipping wine as they bring out the different plates one by one and everyone takes little bits of each as they go, totally unconcerned about the rest of the world or what time it is, which creates a beautiful moment of togetherness as everyone "mmm's" away chewing deliciousness.

The last stop of our journey was 5 beautiful summer months in Chile, which is a country with a great love and passion for good quality seafood, being a very long coastal country giving it access to such things!  There are types of seafood here that don't have names and can't be found in other parts of the world and they take great pride in that!  From sea urchins, to peubre (little bright red chewy mussels that live in rocks) to oysters, to all of the different types of mussels available.....if it's growing in the ocean....they'll eat it!

Pictured: Chilean king crab, mussels, oysters, locos, shrimp, but in Chile there is plenty more where that came from!
The king crab (bottom/center) we purchased from the fisherman in the orange shirt for $4 on the Island of Chiloe
...that same crab generally sells in Santiago for around $60-70

Chileans like to keep their seafood dishes basic and simple.  Butter, salt, lemon, done.  But really, to add on extras to something that is so delicious by itself is a bit ridiculous!

Chile is where I first discovered on my first trip there 5 years ago that people actually eat mussels, not just pull them off of their boats when they fish!  There are so many delicacies to try in Chile, particularly on the island of Chiloe in the south where seafood is good, in huge portions and cheap!  You can eat like a king on fish, mussels and so much more!  However, any coastal port/city/town/hut on the side of the highway can offer you the fresh catch of the day for a few dollars....when my Chilean husband first visited California, he drove up and down the coastal towns looking for that "fish shack" offering the catch of the day and was so disappointed to learn that it didn't exist!

The fixings for a  seafood steam boat (vat of spicy broth) in the Highlands of Malaysia
Also the first time I ever tried cuddle fish

Before journeys to far off lands that were close to far off oceans, I had no idea what seafood could be like.  Now, I'm spoiled, I love trying odd and unusual looking treasures from the oceans, each with it's own unique flavor and texture, as well as learning how each country and culture has a unique way of eating and appreciating these delicious creatures.  I can't wait for more!  Why did I move back to the mid west???


  1. Wow. Very eye-opening. I'm not a big seafood fan, so it's nice kind of read about it instead :)

  2. Oh yum!! I love seafood! I do remember the first time I ordered fish and the whole fish arrived. That was a shock but it was really good!!

    Also, I did not know you are a Minnesotan! I live in Minneapolis!!