Honolulu Fish Market

hifishmktThis is either too funny or too sad. I can’t figure out which. An article in the paper this morning caught my eye. (Yes, I’m one of six people left in the nation that still reads the news the old-fashioned way — with a print newspaper.)

The headline said “Tokyo fish market takes licking from silly tourists.” Some crazy (and slightly inebriated, according to the article) British tourist was filmed licking the head of a tuna at the famed fish market. Those kooky Brits! As a result, the market was closed for a while to tourists. Hey people, this isn’t a freak show — it’s an auction!

Last October, I visited the Honolulu Fish Market auction early one morning as part of a professional culinary tour. We arrived at the market just before 6 a.m. Any later and we would have missed it. The market is located at water’s edge, and boats pull up every morning and unload their haul. Tunas, swordfish, skipjacks, dolphinfish (mahi-mahi) and moonfish make up the bulk of the offerings.

It’s all very serious business in the bustling, freezing warehouse. Fresh caught fish are sold to the highest bidders. The buyers are chefs and restaurant owners, vying for the best of the catch. Fish are stacked on movable carts and men with rubber boots with pen and paper in hand move up and down the aisles hunched over the fish while an auctioneer sputters bids with rapid succession. As soon as the fish is sold, a tag is slapped on the fish and they move on to the next one. It takes less than a minute to sell a fish — sometimes less than 30 seconds.

Entrance into this chilly Poseidon tomb is a privilege, and I’m happy to report that our group of chefs, food writers and cookbook authors behaved with the utmost respect for the fishermen, the auction staff and the marine biologist who led our tour. Besides, really, would you want to kiss this?


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