Scientists in Search of Seafood in a Strange Land
While visiting Thailand on business, FishWise staff members Mariah Boyle and Meghan Frolli found themselves with a bit of free time. What do two FishWise scientists do with an afternoon of down time in a foreign country? Seek out fish of course! Live, dead or otherwise, our only mission for an afternoon in Bangkok was to see how seafood (“Ar-harn Talay”) influenced the local culture in Bangkok. It was not hard to accomplish this mission, as fish (“Pla”) seemed to be everywhere we turned. Our first encounter were the jumping fish feeding voraciously in the Chao Phraya River right outside of our hotel room. On further investigation we learned that the fish were the Striped Catfish (“Pla-Sawai”), a native omnivorous species, with a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch “Good Alternative” ranking, that is a local delicacy as well as preferred target for local freshwater anglers.
The next stop on the Bangkok seafood scavenger hunt was the street market (“Ta-laad”), where we discovered marinated squid tentacles or “Pla-muek” on skewers and whole cichlids straight out of the deep fryer dripping on racks. Although offering an appetizing aroma we were not quite brave enough to sample the street market’s fare.
Later on in our search we visited a local super market. What we found at the fresh seafood counter and in the freezer cases were a dizzying array of species and seafood formats. In general there were many more whole fish products available than are seen in North American markets including bags of Chirimen, a tiny wriggly fish, whole parrotfish and our personal favorite, whole tonguefish. One item that caught us by surprise was the bag of “premium grade” shark fins availability in the freezer section. A 500g bag was being sold for 995 Baht or roughly 32USD, which was a much higher price than any other item we encountered. With the recent bans on shark finning globally it will be interesting to see if this red listed product will be available in the next few years.
Overall the seafood scavenger hunt was quite successful, we learned that seafood is a thriving part of the Thai culture, that Bangkok locals are much more adventurous in their seafood selections than Americans and that Shrimp (“Goong”) curry from “Queen of Curry” is quite delicious.