What’s the freshest fish you’ve ever had? Perhaps it was when you were fishing and you ate what you caught? Or maybe your fishmonger told you the fish you were buying had been bought that morning.
The sad fact is that most fish you can buy in Australia has either been flash frozen as soon as it was pulled out of the sea, or frozen awhile later. It’s hard to get produce that was caught that morning, even though we lived on the coast.
I remember when my mum was doing a computer project with the Department of Fisheries and would bring home fresh lobster for a fraction of the retail price. Bliss.
Jimbaran in Bali
Jimbaran is famous for its fish restaurants, which are set up on the beach when the sun set, drawing in tourists who dine on fresh seafood.
We wanted that tasty, fresh seafood that had been caught that day. But, as usual, we didn’t want to do the typical tourist thing. We decided to shop for our own fish and get a local restaurant to cook it up for us.
Making our way to Jimbaran Fish Market
Our friend Julia, an Indonesian from Jakarta, navigated us through the traffic-filled streets between Ubud and Jimbaran.
When we arrived, at about 12pm, the sun was beating down ferociously. That didn’t stop us from taking a stroll along the beach on our way to the market.
After travelling the world over the past decade, I’ve come to realise that Australian beaches can’t be beat. Once again, Jimbaran beach cemented this, and I found myself longing for Western Australia’s squeaky clean sand as we walked along the trash-strewn shores of Jimbaran.
Exploring Jimbaran Fish Market
The smell of fish wafted through the air, as we entered the ramshackle sheds lit with overhead fluorescent lighting. But the smell wasn’t too strong – a good sign that the fish was fresh.
Large fish were laid out in front of us, eyes gleaming and tongues rolling out of their mouths in death.
Squid sat, lifeless, in a Styrofoam box of black ink.
Our fishy purchases
We ended up buying 5kg of various fish – squid, barramundi, giant prawns and mahi mahi. There’s something about getting fresh produce just caught that morning that made me excited, regardless of how many flies were sharing the shack with us.
I find it amusing when people don’t want to eat street food when they travel. They somehow believe that food cooked in front of them is less hygienic than the food cooked in kitchens behind closed doors.The truth is that street food is often a lot fresher – mainly because of the high turnover of customers – than food found in restaurants.
My friend once told me how she spent one week travelling through Mexico, only eating street food. On the last night in the country, her and her friends decided to go to a fancy restaurant for a meal. All three of them fell ill the next day as a result of eating the restaurant food.
Getting the locals to cook our food
After purchasing our fish, we walked around and found a local restaurant to cook up our seafood feast. We watched them marinate it before pushing it into a caged holder, and then place it over a flaming barbeque. The smoke charred the fish, leaving it a little blackened on the outside but moist in the middle.
Plate after plate was served in front of us, accompanied by stir-fried vegetables and rice. We ate as much as we could devour, but there were still leftovers, which we took home. It seems our eyes had been larger than our stomachs.
The perfect fishy foodie day out
If you want to eat the freshest fish of your life, I recommend you do what we did – buy the fish yourself and get the locals to cook it for you.
Wandering around the market and choosing the fish yourself allows you to see how the locals live and shop. And getting a nearby restaurant to cook it for you gives an insight into how Indonesians dine and how they cook the fish.
There aren’t fancy kitchens. This isn’t a candlelit dinner on the beach. But it is a first-hand cultural experience in Bali.
Oh and it’s a great way to do it if you’re on a budget!
When to go: The market is open every day from 6am – 3pm.
How to get there: The market is located one street back from Jimbaran Beach, which is between Kuta and South Kuta.
Cost: We paid about R450,000 (AUS$45) for the fish (5kg), R100,000 (AUS$10) for them to cook it, and another 100,000 for the rice and vegetables. So it worked out to be about AUS$13 per person, as there were five of us.