Growing up near Boston in the 1960s meant you ate fish every Friday. Now the Roman Catholic tradition is only observed with any regularity during the 40 days of Lent, even in traditional Guadalajara. With cod and haddock going for upwards of ten to 20 dollars per pound in New England, one can appreciate the reasonable prices found in the metro area’s markets for Mexico’s Pacific coast seafood.
A trip to Zapopan’s Mercado del Mar, just about a kilometer from the arches in front of the Basilica, is an eye opener if you pick up most of your fish at Wal-Mart each week.
More than a dozen fish markets intermingle with restaurants serving up regional specialties. While each fishmonger has a specialty, many carry most of the Pacific coast products available, but one caters to seafood fanatics’ fantasy menus.
Pescaderia Pacifico is a full-service fish market with six branches, including one in Ajijic on the west end of town. Their fresh fish was a few pesos cheaper per kilo than the neighboring markets, with national quality tuna steaks at 130 pesos per kilo and lenguado (sole) fillets at 125 pesos/kilo. Also offered were cazon (baby shark), mantaraya (stingray), huachinango (snapper), robalo (bass), bagre (catfish), lisa (mullet), sierra (sawfish), mojara (tilapia) both fresh and saltwater varieties, fresh cleaned octupus and calamar (squid).Pacifico’s frozen options were mind-boggling: Mexican tuna steaks 110 pesos/kilo; Imported: 150 pesos; Cleaned crabmeat: 140 pesos/kilo; Caribbean Stone Crab claws: 180 pesos/kilo, Caracol (conch) comes in three varieties: Caribbean, Pacific and Burro (denser). New Zealand mussels were 100 pesos for a 2-lb bag; Chilean or Chinese mussels cost 80 pesos/kilo; baby octupus: 100 pesos/bag, Cleaned and cooked 41/50 shrimp: 135 pesos/kilo, large Chilean salmon: 155/kilo.
Three different types of Pacific clams were available: Chocolate (large fist-sized, used for soups), Chila (small used whole in paella) and a medium-sized clam. Prices at most markets ran 30 pesos per kilo. Oysters were 25 pesos per kilo. Both oysters and clams could be had shucked in their liquor in bags on ice in groups of six or more.
Another option in Guadalajara is El Faro, located at the corner of Arcos and Inglaterra. They have a related fish market called Marina Market on Avenida Guadalupe in Chapalita. Fresh frozen shrimp prepared to cook in a variety of ways are a great option for those who have little time, but want to impress: battered in coconut and ready to fry or stuffed with cheddar and ham and wrapped in bacon. Also in the freezer case were shucked clams, langostino (crawfish), cleaned jaiba (crab), conch meat, peeled and ready to cook shrimp of many sizes, and fresh frozen Pacific lobster. Fresh filets included cazon at 110 pesos per/kilo and dorado at 130 pesos/kilo.
At Lakeside yet another option is available and well known: La Playa fish market with two locations: near SuperLake and just west of the traffic light on the highway in Ajijic. Specials this week include: callo de hacha (scallops): 168 pesos per two-pound bag. They also have fresh mesquite smoked salmon.