Maputo Fish Market | Sense Africa

Safari Ideas

Maputo fish market16th September '13

Maputo Fish Market

Entering Maputo Fish Market I was overcome by the intensity of the fish sellers. There is a glorious quantity and variety of fish and shellfish on sale, my world had immediately reduced to the fish stalls. No longer was I aware of the busy and hectic lifestyle of 1.4 million people outside in the city and vehicles hooting and tooting manically at each other. My focus was on a large bowl of cockles occasionally squirting water from their siphons.

I have been to many a fish market but Maputo’s always stands out in my mind. I’ve been there a few times and I’m always impressed at how the fish and shellfish are laid out to entice prospective buyers; prawns lined up and facing the same way military style, squid with their tentacles all pointing to a corner of the market, cockles glistening in ceramic bowls and large fish nestling in ice looking as if they were holding their breath – they looked so fresh. The best thing is that you are guaranteed that the fish were in the sea within the last 24 hours.

Buying your Fish

I made sure I walked around the whole of Maputo’s Fish Market, which can take some time, before making a decision on what I was going to have. I was beginning to salivate already at the prospect of dining on the food extravaganza in front of my eyes.

The starter was a no-brainer; I always have cockles, a mixture of the larger meatier cockles and the smaller delicate ones. I bought the equivalent of one can of cockles which was thrown into a plastic bag and handed over the counter to me. There was too much choice for my main course. After a lot of deliberation as to what I was going to have I went for squid, which was rather surprising as I normally choose prawns. Six small squid were chosen and again they were thrown into a plastic bag after being weighed. I did check that ice had not been chucked in to increase the weight – a sneaky little trick that some of the sellers try and pull off to increase the weight of your purchase. Your fish gets weighed by an independent weigher and then you agree a price.

Eating at Maputo Fish Market

I then proudly walked around the back of the fish market into a seating area full of people eating on a Sunday lunch. There were a plethora of different colours of tables and chairs with eager waiters around them. I chose a set of red tables and chairs under an umbrella and was approached by the owner of said table and chairs. The great thing about Maputo Fish Market is that you can have your purchase cooked on-site with a rustic restaurant style feel about it.

I handed over my plastic bag of cockles and squid and asked for chips with them, no salad, and a 2M beer (pronounced dosh-em). Don’t go for the salad as it is often washed in the local water and Maputo’s water and sewage system can be rather hit and miss. There is something surreal about sitting at a picnic table, surrounded by fish sellers, having passed over a rather dubious plastic bag full of fish and waiting for your food to be returned in a spectacular edible format.

I would certainly say do not go if you’re in a hurry, time slows down to the pace of one of the cockles that I was going to eat. Pretty slow by the way!

But it is worth waiting for. The cockles came cooked in a broth of celery and garlic and garnished with lemon wedges, it was absolutely divine. And eating with your fingers made the whole experience even more enjoyable. I leisurely picked every single cockle out and slurped up most the juice.

The main course of squid came on a platter with garlic and chilli and each individual squid had been scored meticulously to ensure the flavour ran through the whole dish. Calamari at its greatest. The chips were home-made and had that rustic texture about them and with a sprinkling of salt they complimented my lunch.

Because I taken so much time in eating my cockles and squid I only just made to the airport on time. I slept very well on the flight.

A visit to Maputo Fish Market is a truly memorable experience; the food is absolutely out of this world, the ambience is extraordinary and kissing an ugly fish does not necessarily result in the appearance of your Prince (see the photo above).

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