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Eating My Way Through the Ecuadorian Fishery


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#1 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 04:18 PM

I thought this might be an interesting topic.  I have access to a really stellar fish market on Sundays, where a huge variety of seafood from Ecuador's waters, both fresh, brackish, and salt, is available.  In the spirit of adventurousness, I've decided to eat my way through the fruits of the sea that are available to me, one species a week.  To kick things off, here's the first fish we tried - I've been at this about a month so I do have a bit of a backlog to address.  I'd also like to say at the outset that although Bonito and other strong Mackerel-type fish run in Ecuador's waters, you won't see them on my plate - I'm not fond of overly oily fish.  The white- and pink-fleshed fishes, both whole and in chunks, will however be very well represented.

 

===

 

Ecuadorian name: Róbalo

English name: Snook

Size: About 30 cm long, about 250g each

 

Robalo.jpg

 

I stuffed the cleaned fish with orange wedges, rosemary, and fresh basil, then enclosed it in Canna leaves and baked for 45 minutes.  No money shot when it came out of the oven, but here's how it ended up:

 

Snook2.jpg

 

Róbalo hang out in Ecuador's shrimp farms and in the natural shrimping grounds of the mangrove swamps, where they steal shrimp (hence their name, which means "steal it".)  They're one of the most prized food fish in the country because of the meat's delicate shrimp flavour.  I quite enjoyed this one, particularly in this presentation which kept the meat very moist and tender.  I suspect that if I were able to find larger fish, it would also make quite tasty steaks on the grill.


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#2 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 04:24 PM

Ecuadorian name: Rayado Grande

English name: Deep-sea Striped Bass, as far as I can tell.  It's a deep-water perciforme for sure.

Size: About 45-50 cm long, about 800g

 

RalladoGrande.jpg

 

Here's a slightly perplexing fish - the Rayado Grande, which translates simply as "large-striped one" is by looks a sea bass of some sort.  This one was large enough to feed three of us comfortably, and it was by no means the largest one available - if anybody recognizes it, I'd love to know what it actually is.  I prepared this fish by rubbing the skin with aliño paste, then stuffing it with limes and basil, wrapping it in multiple Canna leaves, and baking for about an hour.

 

The flesh was incredibly tender and almost basmati-fragrant; I'd definitely bake it in leaves again, but I'm also very intrigued by the idea of dredging it in a bit of seasoned flour and frying it.


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#3 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 04:31 PM

Ecuadorian name: Rayado Chico

English name: Striper

Size: About 30cm long, about 300g each

 

RayadoChico.jpg

 

Here's one that made me laugh - last week I'd had the Rayado Grande, and this week was time for the Rayado Chico - the difference so far as the fishmongers are concerned is the size of the stripes.  This was baked in Canna leaves, stuffed with ginger and lemons and rubbed with aliño paste.  Hands down my favourite at this point.  Tender, aromatic flesh that fell right off the bones, and I finished up wishing I'd bought at least one more so that I could have seconds.....


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#4 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 04:42 PM

Ecuadorian name: Cazón de Leche

English name: Soupfin Shark (among others)

Size: presumably quite large; I bought it as 500g of steaks.

 

CazondeLeche.jpg

 

Mom begged for something without bones this week, so we went for Cazón de Leche, a fish that the mongers described as soft and tasty without making any reference to it being a shark (which is usually a selling point).  At this point I should probably say something about the Ecuadorian shark fishery - it's legal in a limited way for certain species, most notably Blue, Great White, Mako, and Soupfin, but with the stipulation that the shark must be caught on a line, not by dragging, and the entire shark must be used.  In practice, this means that the fins are shipped to Asia and the body meat is sold locally - finning is not practiced as the fishermen regard it as unlucky, along with it being banned.

 

The steaks were cut into smaller chunks and pan-seared in herb butter; the accompaniment was a baked ratatouille.  I like the flavour of cazón, but not the texture in this sense; I'm going to try it in thinner strips as a tempura next to see if this ameliorates the softness somewhat.


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#5 heidih

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 06:41 PM

Very interesting and sounds like a fun venture.  So the canna leaves are just a convenient way to bake and retain moisture, and they do not impart any flavor ? Are you getting any pointers on uses for the various fish from the fish seller or other customers?



#6 patrickamory

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 06:44 PM

This is a great thread! Thanks Panaderia, really fascinating!



#7 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 27 July 2013 - 06:45 PM

The canna leaves are a convenient, non-tinfoil way to cover and retain moisture.  They impart a very subtle smoke flavour to whatever's cooked in them, but in the case of most fish it's so subtle as to not quite be there - basically, I have cooking cannas growing in my garden, and tinfoil is expensive. :D

 

If I really don't recognize a fish, I'll ask the fishmongers or other customers at the market what they use it for - it's where I got the tip to pan-sear the Cazón de Leche - but generally the first time I try any fish I want it to be as neutral as possible so that I can judge the flavours on the same baseline.  With fish that I recognize or am more comfortable with, you'll see recipes I know work.  For example, black rock sole has been in the catch the past couple of weeks, and if it's in again I'll likely have the fishmonger fillet it for me so that I can panko and fry it.


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#8 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 05:26 PM

First of all, apologies.  I'd love to show you my fish market, but I took the wrong camera (cruddier than heck pictures in the natural-light environment - my cel might be good for some things, but this ain't one of 'em) so you'll have to wait for next week to see what I'm choosing amongst on a weekly basis.  One of my favourite fishmongers is saving me some Lenguado, which will make the shopping much easier and the photo-taking more comprehensive.....

 

Ecuadorian name: Carita

English name: Permit, Prophet, or Pompano

Size: about 25 cm long, about 180-200g each

 

Profit-Raw.jpg

 

Carita have actually been on the list of fish I want to try for quite some time, and this week they looked particularly good, so they ended up on the leaves.  They had a much smaller gut cavity than I'd have expected for fish of their size - they're almost all meat, and not as bony as I thought they might be.

 

Profit-Cooked.jpg

 

One of the nice side effects of cooking in canna leaves is that on fish with delicate skin, it often comes away when you open the package.  The Carita were meaty with a texture and flavour that remind me strongly of steelhead trout - they'd make excellent fish salad sandwiches, I think.  My next ones will be grilled - trout responds well to this treatment, and it will be an interesting experiment to see if Carita do as well given their flavour and texture.


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#9 Bill Klapp

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 02:11 AM

In northern Italy, we are seeing increasing amounts of fresh fresh fish and seafood from Ecuador.  In particular, high-end importers bring in shrimp that are cooked on the boat in Ecuador in sea water, vacuum-sealed and shipped refrigerated, but never frozen, to Europe.  The quality is quite remarkable, and much of the time, they are virtually indistinguishable from fresh shrimp that you cook yourself, especially when used in dishes.  They are also not overcooked, so that they will stand further brief cooking in stir-fries and Chinese, Thai, Indian and other dishes.  We also see fresh raw scampi and langoustines from Ecuador and sometimes Peru.  When I consider the quantities involved, I have to wonder whether this is sustainable fishing and/or farming, or whether two poor countries are mortgaging their futures so that the first world can eat well when its favorite fruits de mer are out of season...


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#10 liuzhou

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 03:45 AM

Great thread. Really interesting. I love to see and read about things like this, although I'll probably never eat them.

I know your problem identifying fish sometimes. Sometimes those names just don't translate.



#11 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 05:39 AM

In northern Italy, we are seeing increasing amounts of fresh fresh fish and seafood from Ecuador.  In particular, high-end importers bring in shrimp that are cooked on the boat in Ecuador in sea water, vacuum-sealed and shipped refrigerated, but never frozen, to Europe.  The quality is quite remarkable, and much of the time, they are virtually indistinguishable from fresh shrimp that you cook yourself, especially when used in dishes.  They are also not overcooked, so that they will stand further brief cooking in stir-fries and Chinese, Thai, Indian and other dishes.  We also see fresh raw scampi and langoustines from Ecuador and sometimes Peru.  When I consider the quantities involved, I have to wonder whether this is sustainable fishing and/or farming, or whether two poor countries are mortgaging their futures so that the first world can eat well when its favorite fruits de mer are out of season...

 

 

98% of the shrimp, scampi, and langoustines that are harvested in Ecuador are from farms, both on shore and offshore; the wild catch is very small and subject to heavy regulation (as it is also for the Ecuadorian spiny blue lobster, one of my favourite crustaceans).  For most of the other fish, particularly the large fin-fish and billfish like Picudo (Swordfish), Dorado (Mahi Mahi) and the various Tuna present in our waters (most of which are shipped to Japan), the laws permit primarily the artesanal harvest of them which means small boats and lines rather than trawlers.  Trawlers of any type are heavily regulated.  There are strict size regulations for all fish caught - and the boats are checked religiously (I have spent time in some of the fishery ports watching this - the inspectors are really thorough particularly when it comes to the big-ticket fish mentioned above.)  There are seasonal catch bans on almost everything that comes out of our waters to allow for breeding and growth periods, and permanent catch bans on others, including sea turtles, hammerhead sharks, sea cucumbers, and any fish or seafood on the IUCN redlist. [If you read Spanish, the current indefinite and seasonal catch ban list can be found HERE.] 

 

 

Great thread. Really interesting. I love to see and read about things like this, although I'll probably never eat them.

I know your problem identifying fish sometimes. Sometimes those names just don't translate.

 

Yeah, and since I posted about the Carita, I find that it's actually more likely to be a Pomfret than a Pompano.  The perciforme fishes are such a challenge, especially when the common names can refer to any number of things.


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#12 Bill Klapp

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 05:45 AM

Great to hear that the process is being managed responsibly.  And that the farms are apparently producing such a high quality...


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#13 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 05:49 AM

Quality is the earmark of Ecuadorian aquaculture - they're primarily smallholding farms, which means that the harvest is not only more carefully checked for disease and other quality issues, it's also more sustainable in the long run and provides a great deal more employment than factory farming of seafood would.  The first fish I ate in this thread, the Robalo, is an economic byproduct of shrimp farming.


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#14 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 11:54 AM

Apologies for being remiss in posting - life's been busy lately.  But not too busy to take the good camera to the market!  These were taken just before the softshell veda (catch ban) on blue crabs came on (August 15) - the ban was lifted today, incidentally.  The Mercado Simón Bolívar is not the largest market overall in the city, but it is the largest fishmongers.  A bit of everything comes through here, some of which is strictly seasonal and others of which are available year-round.

 

Bonitos, both whole and cut.  These are gorgeous fish, but too strong for my tastes.

Bonito.jpg

Bonito2.jpg

 

Freshwater wise, there are almost always carp and tilapia; catfish often have their own entire stalls.  Caldo de Bagre (catfish stew) is a very popular local dish.

Carp.jpg

Catfish1.jpg

 

Corvina and Pargo (rockfish and snapper) are some of the permanent fixtures.

Corvina.jpg

Pargo1.jpg

 

When not on ban, crabs are sold in roped skeins of 12 and 24.  This stall also has Concha, a type of mangrove clam popular on the grill and for ceviches.  The same sellers sometimes have large octopus and smaller squid as well.

Crab.jpg

CrabAndConcha.jpg

Octopus.jpg

Squid.jpg

 

When the Humboldt current is up, large hardshell Langostina are available.  These will be in until at least late October; their season coincides with the migration of the Humpback whales.  Smaller than these are the various shrimp and prawns, which at this time of year are coming in from the mangrove forest farms.

Langostina.jpg

Prawns.jpg

Shrimp1.jpg

 

And then there's the mixed catch....

MixedFish1.jpg

MixedFish2.jpg

MixedFish3.jpg

MixedFish4.jpg

MixedFish5.jpg

MixedFish6.jpg

 

For an idea of the stalls, here are a few shots.  Most specialize either in deep-sea or freshwater catch; a few are more generalized.

Stall1.jpg

Stall2.jpg

 

And to cap off the tour, something quite special.  This is a whole Ahi tuna of the type that are normally wholesaled directly to Japan.  They rarely appear in the market, and when they do they're expensive.  This one was selling for around $20 a pound - to put it in perspective, the day I took photos I could have purchased large blue lobsters for $6 a pound (and I would have, if they hadn't been dead...)

Yellowfin1.jpg


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#15 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 11:59 AM

The day of the photos, my favourite fishmonger had a lovely Lenguado, which is a black rock sole.  I'd been waiting a while for a fish like this one, mostly because lemon sole is something I remember very fondly from my childhood.  I used tiny Bearss lemons from the tree out front of my house.

 

Ecuadorian name: Lenguado

English name: Sole

Size: about 35 cm long, about 900 g

 

Sole.jpg

Sole-lemoned.jpg

Sole-cooked.jpg


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#16 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 12:55 PM

Here's a fun one - while Mom and I were debating another Sole, a vendor picked up this fish and suggested we try it out.  When I asked what it was, she insisted that it's what I was looking for - a Sol!

 

Ecuadorian name: Sol

English name: Brassy Grunt

Size: about 30 cm long, about 700 g

 

BrassyGrunt.jpg

Grunt-cooked.jpg

 

Overall a very tasty fish, even cooked simply.  I'm thinking that when it gets non-windy enough to grill, this one will be good cooked on the charcoal UFO.


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#17 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 01:00 PM

Ecuadorian name: Atún

English name: Tuna, probably Bigeye but possibly Albacore

Size: steaks cut at 1/3 lb each, which I then cut into halves.

 

Occasionally we splurge on the large fin-fish; the tuna steaks looked particularly good and made two week's worth of meals because they were so huge that we couldn't face eating them whole....

 

Tuna-raw.jpg

Tuna.jpg

 

The first round of tuna was scarfed faster than I could photograph it.  The second were pan-seared with teriyaki glaze.  Extremely tasty.


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#18 lesliec

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 03:03 PM

This is a lovely thread, Elizabeth - thanks.  Your market looks amazing; much bigger than anything I've seen here.

 

Last week there was quite a bit of activity around Wellington in protest against the sharkfin industry, which is said typically to cut the fins off the sharks it catches and throw the rest overboard (still alive, apparently).  It's good to see in your post #4 above that the Ecuadorian industry may be a bit more responsible.


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#19 rotuts

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 05:12 PM

you are very lucky to see and taste such fine looking Fresh Fish.



#20 liuzhou

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 08:02 PM

Great looking market. It looks the sort of place I could happily explore for an hour or three.

 

Loving the thread. Thanks


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#21 Keith_W

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 09:56 PM

I am really impressed by the quality of fish you can buy over there. Despite being surrounded by ocean, much of our fish is frozen and sold filleted to hide the fact that they may not be that fresh. 


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#22 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 04:46 PM

Keith - I found that with Canada as well.  The country has a huge fishery, both fresh and saltwater, but the majority of what's actually available to the citizens is frozen and filleted (and awful).  Good fishmongers, even on the coasts, are few and far between.  Ecuador is very refreshing in that the people here simply won't accept frozen anything if they know fresh is available and possible.  This means that even here at 10,000 feet of altitude, a good 8 hours hard drive from the nearest port, there's still fish and seafood that's less than 24 hours out of the sea.

 

Liuzhou - I'll try to get a picture of the actual fishmongery area of the market next Sunday (I'll have to cross the market floor and go up to the food court area to get it).  The Mercado Bolívar is one of the largest enclosed markets in the city, covering about 2 standard blocks; it's a pretty neat place just on general principle and on those mornings if I weren't also rushing to the Mayorista farmer's market (10 hectares or so), I could easily spend an entire day in there...  Compared to the rest of the market, the fishmongers is fairly small; compared to other fishmongers in the city, though, it's huge.

 

Here's some more of what I've been eating on Sundays - I really need to download my camera more often!

 

 

Ecuadorian name: Corvina Plateada

English name: Queen Corvina, Whitefin Weakfish

Size: About 900g, about 40 cm long

 

Let's start out with a picture of the selection that Sunday.... This is a fairly representative look at the catch of the week, which was heavy on the Picudo (small Barracudas) and Pargo (Snappers of various stripes).  I think we ended up with the Corvina because we were being perverse, but it also looked really good.

FishMarket.jpg

 

Here's the raw fish.  I'm struck by how much it resembles a trout, actually.  Corvina belong to the Drum/Croaker family.

CorvinaPlat-Raw.jpg

 

This one was so big that it didn't fit even on my baking trays, so it was beheaded and stuffed in my biggest casserole, which just fit it.  It's stuffed with Bearss lemons from my own tree, fresh herbs, and covered with Valencia oranges from over the mountain.

CorvinaPlat-Prep.jpg

 

It was absolutely delicious.  The meat has almost no character of its own (very very mild flavour) which means it soaked up the citrus flavours and the herbs in the stuffing and came out like a meat-textured baked orange and rosemary thingie.

CorvinaPlat-Finished.jpg


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#23 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:03 PM

Ecuadorian name: Palma, Palmera

English name: I've Got No Idea.  I'm thinking some sort of Bream or maybe a Bass?

Size: About 700g, about 25 cm

 

This one is a mystery.  It was an engaging bright blue colour with gold stripes when it was raw (sorry, no photo - I had a meeting run late and it was in the oven before I got home - I'll try to get one next week at the market.)

BlueFish.jpg

 

The flavour and texture were fantastic, and it's definitely a fish I'll be repeating when it's in the catch.  Despite being quite large and basslike, it was not terribly boney (just big, obvious bones that lifted out really easily on filleting).

BlueFish-cooked.jpg


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#24 gfweb

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:35 PM

Just gorgeous. I'm so jealous. The fish available here are pretty crappy even though we are an hour from the Atlantic. There seems to be no demand for great fish.

#25 heidih

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 05:44 PM

i have the same experience as gfweb - 15 minutes from the bay but the seafood is from far far away. Granted the bay is polluted but there is fishing further offshore. There are some places to get good fresh local fish but it requires a bit of effort and often driving outside the usual shopping zone.

I really appreciate this tour of your available fish. I also like your food pairings - treating fish like the protein on the plate and not having some standard "fish goes only with.."
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#26 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 08:07 PM

LOL, Heidih, if you look you'll notice that at my house, fish seems to go with noodles....


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#27 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 04:42 PM

Ecuadorian name: Leona, Leonora

English name: The closest I can come is a Pomfret of some description; it resembles Chinese Pomfret but that doesn't run in our waters....

Size: About 750 g, about 30 cm diameter

 

Raw.  This is one of the weirder looking fish in the market, but it's also what looked best.

FishDinner-Raw.jpg

 

Cooked.  It was smothered in apple pie filling and stuffed with Seville oranges

FishDinner-Cooked.jpg

 

Skinning/boning progression - I was surprised at how easily it divvied up.

FishDinner-Skinned.jpg

FishDinner-Boning.jpg

 

Final plating.

FishDinner-Final.jpg

 

Absolutely and hands down one of the best fish I've eaten since I started this thread.  Soft and meaty without being obnoxiously fishy, slightly sweet, and with gigantic big bones that were easy to remove.


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#28 heidih

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 04:47 PM

Cute round guy. On the apple pie filling - was that just to provide some flavor through the skin and discarded or was it eaten with the fish?



#29 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 04:59 PM

And for those of you who were curious about the catch of the day as well as what the market looks like:

 

The market.  The first few shots, which show the food court, are taken from the fishmongers.  The final one is taken from the food court.  Oh, and they have tortillas de Guaranda here, which are some of my fave street food!

Market3.jpg

Market4.jpg

Market2.jpg

Tortillas.jpg

 

Catch of the day at the stall where I bought the pomfret:

Fish1.jpg

Fish2.jpg

Fish3.jpg

Fish4.jpg

Fish6.jpg

Fish7.jpg

Fish8.jpg

Fish9.jpg

Shrimp.jpg


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#30 Panaderia Canadiense

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Posted 27 September 2013 - 05:01 PM

Cute round guy. On the apple pie filling - was that just to provide some flavor through the skin and discarded or was it eaten with the fish?

 

It did both - what was on the skin was discarded, and what was stuffed inside was eaten with the fish.  Apparently the jar was taking up valuable fridge space, so dad figured it would be better to use it with the fish than let it sit another day....  Worked out beautifully, though.


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