Another blast from the past, a little bit from my travels while working on some of the most amazing cruise ships. This time it is about the visit of the Tokyo Fish Market, something that will always stay in my memory. I think it is one of the most amazing markets in the world and it was an eye opener for me at the same time....but let me tell you the whole story
While being the Executive Chef on "The World" we spent a couple of days in the port of Tokyo as part of our one month circumnavigation of Japan. During this time I had a little time to explore this amazing city, amazing in every aspect as basically nobody speaks English and all the roads are marked in Japanese only. The city is absolutely huge, so one better does not get lost in it.
One of the adventures I had was going to the Tokyo Fish Market, the biggest in the world and famous for its tuna auction which happens every morning. We got up nice and early, outside was still dark, so around 4.00 in the morning we were in the taxi to get to the market. It was still cold outside as it was early spring, but all the excitement we had was enough to keep us warm.
One of the most amazing parts of the Fish market is the Tuna Auction. All the tuna is lying on wooden pallets and are ready for inspection. All of them are frozen and will sell for a lot of money. For Japanese freshness of the fish is paramount, so why would they buy frozen fish? It is actually quite simple, Tuna is caught all over the world, the boats are sometimes out for many month. To keep the fish fresh it will be shock frozen, that means it will be put through a freezer line that freezes a big tuna in minutes. Like this the ice crystals are very small and won't deter the quality.
When the tuna gets defrosted carefully, the meat will still be in perfect condition. So to buy a top quality frozen fish is actually not a bad thing, I rather have that then a "fresh" fish that might be already in the shop for days. But everything else on the market is super fresh and sometimes still alive.
Another amazing part is to see how everybody works, the ethics the camaraderie, the team work. The best example is when they fillet a tuna, the fish is so big that one needs more than one person to do the job. Sometimes up to three people help with the filleting. They use a special knife that is about two Meters long, flexible and extremely sharp. With the skilled men they are able to fillet a tuna leaving none of the precious meat on the bone. I was just watching them how the quickly filleted a fish, working in complete harmony and making it look so easy
Another great par is to see all the different types of fish and seafood. Here I stood behind some New Zealand Green Shell Mussels, I had never in my life seen Green Shell Mussels of that size, I just had to have a photo with me, just to see the huge size of them. But of course there was a lot more to see. All the sea Urchin, the Hamachi, I found Guey Duck which is a clam that is mainly from the west coast of Canada, a Clam with a mussel hanging out that is up to 50 cm long. It gets mainly used for Sashimi, and of course there was so much more.We must have spent something between 3 to 4 hours in the market and I could spend easily a lot more time there, I think I have only seen a fraction of the entire market, but the memories I have are always with me and have changed my way of thinking, especially about freshness and quality of fish, about the way the Japanese take care of the products in the market, it was a real eye opener.
I have seen many fish markets in the world, but I think this one is by far the most impressive one, the sheer size, the cleanliness of it, yes it smells of fish, but it it is all fresh, it smells of the sea. By the time we left they were already busy cleaning up the market, everybody is making sure their little stand is absolutely clean for the next day
On the way out we could see all the fish packed and ready to be delivered to thousands of restaurants, not just in Tokyo, but all over the region and some is even exported. It was a fantastic experience and I hope that some day I will be able to go back to Tokyo and it is 100% sure that I will go back to one of the most fascinating fish markets on the world