Margao Fish Market (Goa, January 2023)

Almost exactly three years after our trip to Goa in 2020, we went back again for a week. Once again, we were staying at the home of friends in south Goa (they don’t live there but very kindly make their lovely house available to close friends and family). One of the highlights of that trip was buying fish and shellfish at the local fish market and having the cook we’d hired in the village we were staying in cook it up for us. I’d posted a look at that market—the Thursday market in the town of Assolna—not long after getting back to the US in 2020. This time I have a look at a fish market for you before getting back to the US (we’re in Delhi for a few more days), but it’s not the same fish market. We arrived this time on a Sunday and didn’t want to wait till Thursday to get the local fish and seafood dinners going. Accordingly, the first thing we did after landing at Dabolim airport was make a beeline for the big fish market in Margao, before heading to our home base in Velim. Herewith a look at that market. 

The Margao fish market is significantly larger than the one that sits in Assolna on Thursdays. It is a covered market that comprises rows of vendor stalls. The market is fairly airy and there’s lots of room between the rows of vendors to wander and examine the wares. As at Assolna, there aren’t really any specialists here. Most vendors carry the same range of fish and shellfish: the major difference seems to be in how large their displays are; and the smaller vendors just don’t carry as much as the larger ones do. You buy your fish whole, for the most part. You can then take it across the road to a large row of fish cutters. This work is segregated by gender. On the left are men who work standing up, cutting up larger fish. On the right are women who work sitting down, skinning and cutting smaller fish and removing molluscs from shells. All of this work is done for trivial sums of money.

The fish and seafood are also quite cheap by American standards but there’s a big range of prices. I purchased large prawns that were Rs. 1000 for a kilo (roughly $6/lb) and gorgeous squid that was less than half that price. The most expensive thing I saw was white pomfret for Rs. 1500/kilo—I bought black pomfret or halva for quite a bit less. I also bought a small (relatively speaking) kingfish/surmai and some lepo/ tongue sole. This latter was at the urging of our driver Abraham. He had been my guide at the Assolna market in 2020 as well. He is very into food and had very strong opinions on what looked good, what we should buy and how we should have the cook prepare everything. My kind of guy, in other words. You can see him in some of the pictures below, wearing a sky-blue shirt.

He got the vendors to bring out fish that was to his satisfaction, made sure only the best prawns and squid were put into our bags, and insisted on arguing with them about prices. Of course, I was not going to get the local price and I told him I was fine with paying whatever tourist premium the vendors were rightly charging. This was an intolerable proposition for him though and so I let him do his thing. Once we’d bought enough fish for the first five nights, he took them to the cutters and I walked around the market taking some pictures. It wasn’t very crowded—I imagine it was much busier earlier in the day (we were there closer to noon)—but there were a lot of people and I prioritized not being in anyone’s way over taking the best possible photographs. But you should get a good sense of the market from them anyway. Alas, once Abraham was not at my side I had no way of identifying the fish I couldn’t recognize—and I didn’t want to ask the vendors names of things I wasn’t going to be buying.

Not that we’d run out of fish when Thursday rolled around but I made a quick return trip to the Assolna market anyway. All I bought was a large bag of kulli or local mud crabs. I’ve included a few pictures of that far smaller, more rural market again for comparison.

I may have missed it, or perhaps they sold out earlier in the day, but I didn’t see lobster at this market either. I remember Abraham saying in 2020 that local people don’t really buy lobster, most of which goes straight to the big restaurants. We did eat lobster the next day at one of those restaurants but I have to say I enjoyed the meals our cook prepared at home with the fish and shellfish from the Margao and Assolna markets more than almost all our restaurant meals. I’ll soon have posts about those meals (and from Delhi). I’ll be interspersing them with the rest of my southern California reports through at least the end of February.


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