Saturday lunch at the fish souk.
Mina port is probably one of the most charming areas of Abu Dhabi, and a personal favourite of mine. From the dhow harbour to the Mina centre, here is where we go if we want to feel as we are somehow off the beaten track, even if ever so slightly.
On a sunny Saturday, around 12pm, we visited the fish souk, as our friend M had heard that you can have lunch there.
It was reasonably busy, buzzing with vendors and customers, haggling for the best prices.
I was impressed by how clean and well organised the stalls looked: all vendors wore gloves, aprons, nets and name badges, which gave me the feeling of a very professional environment.
And yes, it smells fishy, but it is fresh fish smell, not a miasma, hence it is not unpleasant (and it is a vegetarian talking!!) and soon you get used to it.
So, here is how it goes down, if someone wants to have lunch at the fish souk:
1) Choose the fish.
The fish is caught fresh the previous night, so the choice is different every day but also very diverse. Official prices are written on boards all around the market, but you can haggle with single vendors to get the best price.
Our friends decided to buy some shrimps and shark, and got them from two different stalls.
In general, the stalls further away from the main entrance door seemed to have slightly better deals, but the difference between prices is anyway minimal.
2) Get the fish cleaned.
At the back of the market area there is a big group of men dressed in red: those are the fish cleaners, both for people who want to eat there or just get their purchases cleaned before bringing them home. Apparently, if you buy shellfish for lunch, you can get it cleaned directly at the kitchens, but for other fishes, you need to get it prepared here. Our friends had the shark cleaned and cut in fillets and they paid 10 AED.
3) Get the fish cooked.
After the fish is ready (and we were invited to look at the cleaning process), we brought it to the opposite side of the room, inside a daedalus of small rooms and corridors. In this area there are small individual shops selling dried fish, fruit, salads, drinks, and anything else you might need.
The kitchen is quite close to one of the entrances: you speak to the cook, tell him how do you want your fish prepared, if you want it spicy or not, and he tells you when to come back to pick up your lunch.
For shark fillets battered and fried and 1 Kg of shrimps, our friends paid 20 AED.
It was very busy when we went there so they asked us to come back in one hour to pick up the cooked fish.
In the same area where the kitchen is, there is a very simple restaurant with tables and chairs, where you can seat to have your lunch.
I have not tried the fish, but our friends said it was absolutely delicious and full of flavour.
The fish market is a very interesting and bustling place, with also other foods been sold: a coconut milk seller attracted our attention. We could choose between two different types of coconut, and he would cut it for us, make a hole on the top, and then give it to us with a straw. It was fresh and really tasty. And coconut milk is supposed to be very good for your health too!
At the back of the fish market, towards the dhow port, you can find people renting jet skis and offering boat tours, and a series of charming restaurants on dhows.
The whole experience is very interesting: if you like fish, this is something you don’t want to miss.