One of the good things about living in and visiting Spain is if you enjoy eating fish. It’s usually cheap, readily available and you will usually find a fresh fish counter at even the smaller supermarkets.
Fish is good for you, versatile and relatively easy to cook. However, it also goes off very quickly and you do have to make sure it’s fresh. If you really want it fresh from the boat, the best place to go is the ‘lonja’ or fish warehouse.
The lonja is a building where fishermen with small catches sell their fish to fishmongers, restaurateurs or the general public. The fishermen meet after many hours at sea to sell their fish at auction. You can just about guarantee that the fish and seafood sold in the lonja are of high quality and, most importantly, freshly caught.
You will taste the difference! Almost every medium populated coastal village has their own lonja. In the Alicante area you can find them in Torrevieja, Santa Pola, Alicante,Villajoyosa, Altea, Calpe, Moraira, Jávea and Dénia. The lonja in Santa Pola is the largest and busiest.
If you can’t quite make it to the lonja how can you be sure that the fish you buy from the supermarket is fresh too?
First look at the display. All fresh fish should be stored at 32F. Whatever the variety, whole fish have certain characteristics that mean they’re fresh. You should look for bright, clear, full eyes that are often protruding. As the fish lose their freshness the eyes become cloudy, pink and sunken.
Bright red or pink gills are another good sign, so avoid fish with dull coloured gills that are grey, brown or green. Fresh fish should be free from slime and have firm and elastic flesh which springs back when pressed gently with the finger. With time the flesh becomes soft and will slip away from the bone. Choose fish with shiny skin with scales that adhere tightly. Characteristic colours and markings start to fade as soon as a fish leaves the water.
If you follow these basic principles, you should be able to cook and enjoy your fish in Spain knowing – you’ve got the best of the catch!