Seafood is delicious (fact) and it’s often fresher in this region than almost anywhere else, arriving from boats sometimes just hours before it makes it to your shopping bag or plate.
The in-between stages are both fascinating and, according to experts, kinda icky. (We’re all our own experts in ick factor, aren’t we?). Anyway, we recently walked through a fresh fish market in the Phuket neighborhood of Naiyang and saw live eels, fish heads, and all manner of prawns, squid, and other swimmers up for sale — and it was actually a thing of beauty. Mostly.
Like most, we could sense this Thai seafood market before we reached it. The smells, the sights and the sounds were in the air. But mostly the smells.
Once inside, we darted around brine-y puddles of seawater, checking out the catches of the day to see if we wanted to make a deal.
A busy trade was being done on a weekend afternoon as fishermen rushed to get their catch to their favorite vendor, sellers hurried to offload their fishy wares, and buyers filled bags with that evening’s dinner ingredients.
If you live in Thailand and shop at fresh markets, these images might be commonplace for you — but if you don’t get to find your way to these seafood sources often, they provide a far less sanitized view of seafood than what you see in a restaurant or supermarket.
You can see seafood in every state from alive (eels, especially) to dried (various shrimp and squid types). All of it ready to be had for just a few dollars.
For example, these fishheads can even be had for just THB15 ($0.50). A bloody bargain!
The ingredients that go into your favorite Thai dishes, from pad thai to somtam to green and red curries, whether enjoyed in a friend’s home or in a restaurant, will have spent at least a bit of time in markets just like this.
Though we shot these photos at a small market in Phuket, some of the larger fresh seafood markets in the country, like Mahachai outside Bangkok, can cover acres, employ thousands, and move untold kilos of seafood each day that end up in the city’s markets, homes, and restaurants.
We’re always keen to bring new friends and visitors to Thailand for a walk through the seafood market, and would highly recommend not to skip the experience — seeing this scene might just put you more in touch with where that seafood on your plate comes from.