06 May 2013

The Speckled Emperor and My Adventures at the Fish Market

One of the greatest tasty things about living on an island in the middle of the Pacific is the abundance of fresh fish.  You don't have to go far here to find it.  Fish markets, produce markets, and even your regular grocery stores (off base) sell great quality FRESH seafood.  One of my favorite local places to go for fish is the Awase Fish Market/CoOp.  Literally, straight off the boat each morning, you'll find fish from all over the Pacific, and it's only 20 minutes from my house.

We had been here once before to check out the scene and purchase some veggies (they have a small produce stand/section in front of the store), but this day I ventured out myself, completely forgetting my Japanese/English dictionary.  Google translate doesn't always cut it.

I arrived as soon as it opened (10:30am) and was greeted with fish monger smiles and lots of "Irasshiaimase's!" (welcome).  While I was very excited to be here and get some fish and do what the locals do, I had to figure out what the fuck to do.  A few fish have signs in English, but others I had to figure out using a generic fish sign and my phone.  I was also the only non-Japanese in the place at the time, and everyone else seemed to be going on their merry way using tongs and baskets to pick their fish out of the giant tub of ice and bring them over to the counter to be weighed and paid.  I stood around for a bit wondering what I wanted and how I wanted it prepared.  I honestly wasn't sure what I was going to make for dinner, only that it was going to be seafood.

After a while of browsing, a woman approached me, and, speaking perfect English, asked if this was my first time here and if I would like her to tell me what to do.  Oh man, I must have looked really lost.  I told her I think I've figured out the procedure, I just wasn't sure how to ask to have my fish filleted.  She said they would understand the word filet, and explained what I had already witnessed, which was: pick your fish, go to the counter, pay, tell them how you want it, wait for them to bring it to you in a bag.  She was very surprised I came by myself and wished me luck, also informing me that if I brought over my 'catch' to the neighboring restaurant (inside the same building), they would cook it for me.  That's pretty awesome.

So, I thanked her and we parted ways.  I finally selected my Speckled Emperor, which I think is the same as the Spangled Emperor, a fish found off the coast of Australia. Perfect. I brought my dude over to the counter, paid for him (I forget how much he weighed, but he cost me about $16), and then they asked me something, which I couldn't understand, but assumed to be 'how would I like it prepared'.

"Filet kudasai" (please)

*blank stares*

*nervous looks all around*

Uh -oh.  I didn't prepare for this after the woman told me they would understand.  I carried on speaking English and using hand gestures to describe a flat thin object, until the gentleman perked up and very excitedly said, "Open?!?".  Awesome. Perfect. That's fine with me!  "Hai, Hai, Hai" and many giggles and "Arigatou gozaimasu's" from all of us, we move on to the next step.

My fish was tagged with a number, the same one I was given, and I followed it along the counter, which had a nice step so I could view what everyone was doing.  The first person used a power 'scaler' to scale my fish, and pasted it along to this guy who gutted it.  See it down there?  Blood and guts and fish gore everywhere!!!
I watched as the third guy careful filleted and cut up other peoples orders, and when it got to mine, he grabbed it, and threw it into a bag, smiled, and handed it to me.

Ahhh....duh.....open equals butterflied.

I just thought that it's a good thing Aaron and I like to eat things with faces on it, but I know a lot of people who wouldn't appreciate buying a whole fish.  I was more excited about it then getting the fillet.  I get to eat the whole thing, and then make some tasty fish stock out of it, which is exactly what we did. 
Below is our raw fish, just before baking it.  As you can see, it was very cleanly gutted and scaled, so all I did was rub it down with some olive oil (inside and out), sprinkle some salt and pepper, and then shove some sliced oranges, onions, and parsley inside of the body.  I then wrapped it completely in tin foil and baked it for about 25 minutes at 400°F.  We ate it with some rice and veggies, and it was so freaking tasty.  The skin got nice and crispy, and we were able to eat a lot more of it that we would have had I gotten it filleted.  We simply just picked/pulled the meat off with chopsticks, and then I cleaned the rest of it for leftovers, and saved the bones and veggies to make stock with the next day.
This was such a healthy fresh dish, and it tasted wonderful.  For fish this good, you don't need anything complicated.  I can't wait to try more, they had some much to choose from.  That's the hardest part.

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  1. I think what creeps me out about seeing the head on the fish is that I don't want to know about its fishy lips. -Cyndi

    1. So...you wouldn't appreciate the picture of me kissing it?