Monday, May 2, 2011

6th St.: Tijuana's Seafood Alley

You'd expect a major seafood district to be ocean side, but in Tijuana, it's  downtown along a stretch of 6th Street. There are something like 20 individual markets, some catering primarily to the public, others to restaurants. But even mid-morning on a weekday, the area is bustling, looking like a street ceviche party waiting to happen.

Okay, the day I was there was the Thursday before Easter, so massive shopping in anticipation of the holiday was in full force. But the ceviche party metaphor remains. Parked on the street and included in many of the shops are stalls brimming with all the makings of a fresh ceviche--chiles, tomatoes, celery, cilantro, onions, limes--the ultimate one-stop shopping.


Much of the fish sold by the wholesalers there go to Chinese buyers, but you'd never know that by the throngs of locals there to buy everything from clams and octopus to red snapper and grouper. I was there with Catalina Offshore Products' Dan Nattrass, who visits regularly to buy for the company which has a warehouse a block away, and Chef Trey Foshee of George's at the Cove. With every turn, I could almost see the wheels in his head spinning as he took in the possibilities and periodically asked Dan to get him some of this and some of that for the restaurant. It was an object lesson in culinary creativity at work.

Me? I was gawking at the brightly colored fish, the brilliant mix of seafood cut up and sitting in bins for Caldo de Siete Mares (Seven Seas Soup), and all the people patiently waiting their turn to be served by (mostly) men in blood-stained aprons butchering fish. It's a remarkable scene and worth a visit if you're planning a day trip to Tijuana.

Dan Nattrass inspecting fish in a wheelbarrow
Burdillo--used a lot for fish tacos
Brown Baqueta--a member of the grouper family
Brilliant red Huachinango at Las Playas, one of the more popular fish markets
Sienas stacked up in Las Playas -- frequently used at George's California Modern

A Cabrella, or leopard grouper. Dan says only 1 percent turn this bright orange color.
Sorting fish at Las Playas
A split fish head, perfect for grilling, according to Trey. The best part? The tender cheeks.
Wholesale workers showing off the catch of the day, a black sea bass



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