There’s Something Fishy Going On…

January 10, 2007 at 1:49 am (Uncategorized)

One of the highlights of our three days in Tokyo (actually, what wasn’t a highlight..?) was our 5 am, jet-lagged out of our skulls trip to the famous fish markets for the tuna auctions. It did not disappoint. I never thought the selling off of big fish could be thrilling, but it was exactly that. Just the sheer scale of the auction, and the awesome size of the tuna, made it exciting, but coupled with the early hour and the spare few other foreigners, it was simply spellbinding. Afterwards, we wandered around getting lost in the markets, watching fish mongers literally saw their purchases apart, peering into buckets to look at unidentifiable marine life for sale, eating slices of raw tuna – sashimi – for a 6 am breakfast as we tried to stay out of people’s way and dodge the funny little truck/bike hybrids that weave all through the markets like Daleks from Doctor Who.

I won’t even pretend the Sydney Fish Markets offer anything close to the Tokyo experience. The Tokyo markets are the benchmark – I can’t imagine there’s anything quite like it anywhere else. But the Sydney Fish Markets, and you see where I’m going with this if you’ve been with me for a while, are a great little thing to do in Sydney.

You can walk from downtown. Easily. It’s actually quite a nice walk, down Market Street, across the Pyrmont Bridge from Cockle Bay to Darling Harbour, then through Pyrmont, one of the oldest parts of Sydney and one of the only ones to still retain some of its original cottages, and then down into Blackwattle Bay and the markets. We last went on Christmas Eve, when the markets open for 36 hours straight in the hectic lead-up to Christmas. You can go at midnight once the pubs have shut. You can go at 4 am whilst the rest of the city sleeps. You can go after breakfast, or you can have breakfast there. We chose the latter on Christmas Eve, although there’s a lot to be said for going at lunchtime, when you can justify a bottle of wine ice cold from the market’s bottle shop (they give away plastic cups, how good is that?), and some items from the superb onsite delicatessen. Picnic tables over the water get snapped up fast, but we like to take ours down to the marina anyway, and dangle our feet over the side.

Sitting down to a brunch of salt & pepper squid and scallops mornay, we watched the crowds surging all around us and congratulated ourselves on the wisdom of parking nearby in Pyrmont. Pelicans marched between parked cars and onto the road, directing traffic with their bossy waddles and imperious shakes of the head. Sydneysiders of all descriptions shouted orders, clutched purchases, and strolled from vendor to vendor comparing prices and selections. Sydney Rock Oysters? Check. Blue Swimmer Crabs? Check. Tiger Prawns? Check.

It doesn’t matter how or why you celebrate the 25th of December in this town, what religion you are, or where your family is originally from, even the most cursory glance around the fish markets on Christmas Eve will tell you two things: everyone has the next two days off, and everyone’s going to suck back some fresh seafood. It’s a great little excursion.

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