I can now de-scale a fish, gut a fish, and skin a fish. Oh, and cook & eat it of course! 🙂

i was really pleased to be invited by Citypress & Billingsgate Seafood Training School for an event celebrating Seafood Week which runs from 9 to 16 October, and is aimed at encouraging the consumption of seafood. (Yum!) Slightly less pleased when I learnt that we had to be there at 6 am- Billingsgate is near Canary Wharf and I live near Fulham…- but still very excited!

The event involved:

  • a tour of the market floor
  • Breakfast- seafood, of course! 🙂
  • Seafood preparation: fish mongering & stock preparation
  • Cooking session: bouillabaisse
  • Lunch
IMG_5870

Billingsgate market floor. It’s spread over 1 level, and runs from Tuesday to Saturday, 4 am to 930 am.

IMG_5877

IMG_5880

You could feel the passion for seafood everywhere around you, from simple details such as the locker keys being attached to seashells, to CJ’s lively sharing of her knowledge about seafood.

Billingsgate is 1 of London’s 3 markets and is a place I’ve always been interested in visiting, weirdly enough. We actually have lots of fish markets in Singapore- we call them wet markets- which I’ve NEVER been keen on. But somehow Billingsgate seemed interesting- it’s always come up when I googled “Off the beaten track London” and I do love trying quirky things. Nonetheless, when i read that the tour was going to be for 1.5 hours, my reaction was “…….. …….. …….” That said, the time FLEW by, and I honestly felt that it was too short! So a big Thank You to Citypress & Billingsgate Fish Market for inviting me! 🙂

IMG_5883

Not all lobsters are created equal

IMG_5889

Meet Grandaddy: he’s almost twice my age! His limbs have been bound because lobsters are carnivorous (and aggressive). Once they forgot to tie up the claws and came back to find, well, carnage… I think maybe 1 lobster survived?!

We started the day with lobsters- did you know there are 2 kinds? I’d always been more concerned with eating them than learning about them, so it was a very education morning! Canadian lobsters are cheaper, younger and, well, apparently not as good compared to the “superior” Scottish ones 🙂 It’s been estimated – but no one knows for sure- that they can live up to 100 years ( growing all the way) and take about 7 years to grow to 500g. The Grandaddy we see above- next to another lobster for comparison- is about 50 years old. He likes having his head scratched-stroked, so I was obliging him- before I made him into my meal. Yum….  (Kidding- we made fish soup, not lobster soup! I do love lobsters though. Did you know they used to be prison food because they were considered tasteless?!)

Random fact: female lobsters don’t wait around for guys to make the first move- they initiate! That’s the spirit!

IMG_5892

Singapore chilli crab, anyone? 

Next-up: crabs! Singapore’s national dish!

Did you know lobsters and crabs can drop their limbs & regenerate them? In fact, when crabs get stressed that’s what they do. Which is why- even if you exclude humanitarian reasons- you shouldn’t cook them live. Their legs will fall off, their shells will go soft, they won’t be tasty, and you’d be a bad person 😛 The most humane way to cook them is to zap them first- but since most of us, including me, don’t have electric rods in our kitchen, an alternative is to run tap water over them for 40 minutes. This makes them sleepy and comatose and you can then take the chance to cook them before they get any wiser 🙂 Now I know what to cook for my home warming party! 🙂

IMG_5893 IMG_5896

Shellfish absorb nutrients & other things from the water they live in, so it’s VERY important that they live in clean water. There will be a mark on each box to certify that the shellfish is good for eating! 


IMG_5923

I always thought seaweed was the only edible sea vegetation but apparently there is samphire, or sea asparagus. We had it with scallop risotto- scrumptious! It can even be used to make glass and soap!

IMG_5914

Ever wonder why there’s such a huge difference in the price of langoustines? Well some are live and some are frozen & dipped! No prizes for guessing which is “better”. Unlike prawns, live langoustines are already red. 

IMG_5898

It almost looks like it’s laughing. Or screaming in pain I guess….

IMG_5903Have you ever seen such brightly coloured fish? Finding Nemo, anyone??

Billingsgate used to see 400 tons of fish pass through every day but what with the growth in retail, it now processes 250 tons a week and, on a good day, 1500 different types of seafood. I even saw some species that we eat back home, such as pomfret and eel. Which is probably why lots of consumers- not just tradespeople- make the early morning trek here to stock up. When I move south of the river, it’s definitely something I’m going to do!

Best thing about this market?

They do live fish!!!

IMG_5933


IMG_5930

I’m not sure you want to open those drawers… full of eels!! So fresh we saw 1 try to jump out!

IMG_5935

Couldn’t resist feeling it up. haha. it’s very soft!

IMG_5917Jamie Oliver was around filming too- I passed him being interviewed when I arrived but was so sleepy I didn’t even recognise him 😛

Wanna give it a go? You can book here. Minus Jamie of course! 🙂

Written by Zen

Let's chat! :)