Hassath and I don't eat fish as often as we'd like, because buying good
fish meant going halfway across the city to INA Market… until our visit
to the Gazipur fish mandi (wholesale market) today.
We've been living two kilometres away from the mandi for four years. At
first, we had no idea it was there. Later, we knew vaguely where it was,
but the road was so bad that we stayed away. Still later, when the road
was relaid and we'd passed by a couple of time, timing and inertia kept
us away. But we'd run out of excuses, and a recent conversation over
fish curry led to our excursion early this morning.
The market was bustling with activity when we reached at a quarter to
six. There were fish laid out on ice in front of every stall, catfish
flopping about in tanks, and an endless stream of Thermocol ice-boxes
being unloaded from trucks, catalogued, opened, and displayed—in stalls
or just by the side of the road. It was muddy because of the rains and
melting ice, but not too dirty. There were fewer customers than I had
expected (and Hassath was the only woman there).
At the first shop we passed, we saw huge katla (carp) laid out next to
black pomfret and prawns, the latter for an astonishing INR180 per kilo
(I bought a kilo immediately; they would have cost twice that amount at
INA). We wandered on past silver pomfret, spanish mackerel, huge prawns,
a mound of sting rays (which I would have bought if I knew how to cook
them), and many other fish that I didn't recognise. There was one
section of the market that we didn't have time to visit.
We thought we'd have to take the fish home and clean the fish ourselves,
but we found a number of people with buckets of water, tarpaulin sheets,
and botis (large blades mounted vertically on a wooden
block—traditional kitchen equipment in Bengal) waiting to clean people's
"catch" for a small fee. We bought a whole Rohu and a shining silver
Hilsa, and while they were being cleaned and sliced, we listened to
people (mostly resellers, judging from the amount of fish they were
buying) bargaining around us.
The prawns—cooked in a green curry—were delicious.