The Bargain Fish at the Kolkata Fish Market – A Bengali Tale

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Kolkata fish market

The vital ingredient for the Big Bong Theory; a Bengali can’t be a bangoli without his inborn gratitude for fish, thus the famous saying maachh-e-bhaat-e-Bangali (A Bengali is determined only by his love for a fish curry-rice meal). If traveling to Kolkata, one should not miss trying the traditional Bengali fish curry. Although many restaurants prepare authentic local cuisine, cooking by yourself gives you a room to learn cuisine from a different land. And all that cooking will dare you to do some fish shopping. You must be wondering, why dare? Because, the trauma of fish shopping in a Bengali stuffed stinking gawky Kolkata fish market, with narrow lanes, seems like quite a task.

Nevertheless, a person with a deep passion for cooking fish will not give up on that, by any means. Since there is no prior information available across the internet about the fish prices and ways to bargain in a local Kolkata fish market, one is left with only one option; to have a chat with a local but, that seems even bizarre due to the language barriers. So, here I am to your rescue. Here are ways to recognize fresh fish, current market prices, and famous Kolkata fish markets.

West Bengal is the primary source of fish production, and they strictly call their fish ‘jol tori’ or ‘water vegetable.’ The fish markets are the lifeblood of Kolkata and the day they will close; pigs might fly. The fish markets not only sell but clean, cut the fish into pieces with no extra charge.

Some of the famous Kolkata Fish MarketsKolay Market, Gariahat Fish market (freshest fish market in town), I.C Bose Road Howrah.

How to recognize fresh fish:

  1. If there’s a bright pink hue on the fish that means it’s freshly caught. A dull color hints at old fish. Nowadays some synthetic colors are being applied on the fish to make it appear fresh, so beware!
  2. The fish should be hard to hold and not mushy; fingers shouldn’t leave an impression therein.
  3. Rotten fish have a strong-disgusting smell; fresh fish is understood by the smell only.
  4. The fillets should look translucent.
  5. The eye should look bright and lively, not dull and gloomy.
  6. There should be no brown spots surfaced on the fish.

Some standard fish prices:

  • Hilsa: Bangladesh: 1000-1200, Local- 700-800
  • Prawn: Lobster: 500-700, Shrimp- 300-400
  • Rohu+ Bengal Carp: Local Jumbo-350
  • Bhetki (Barramundi) + Aar: 400-500
  • Silver fish (miscellaneous): 250-350

How to bargain:

  1. Never buy from a single vendor, research for yourself across the market over the prices as different vendors cry different prices.
  2. Peg the deal at 100 rupees less than what they demand, that will be the ideal price. Even if they don’t agree on 100, you still can make it 50 less.
  3. Grow friendship with a vendor; they never disappoint their prized customers.
  4. Don’t judge any vendor by his sugar-coated talks that might be a trap! Get wind of correct market prices before buying.
  5. Pay no extra money for cleaning and cutting the fish unless you want fillets.
  6. Ideally, visit the market during the early morning on Sundays. You get fresh fish and nothing else.

Also, check out sudder street, Kolkata for inexpensive food stalls.

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