words Al Woods
Summer is fast approaching, and with it comes the delicious prospect of fresh food and sunny (or slightly overcast) trips to the seafront. Whether you’ll be holidaying locally or somewhere a little more exotic this year, there are lots of delicious seafood dishes to be found by the coast.
From fish and octopus to crustaceans and molluscs, the fruits of the sea offer a bounty of delicacies. With so many different types of cuisine to choose from though, even the most well-travelled foodies might not know where to look for their next culinary inspiration. If you’re after some new dinner time favourites, join us on our journey through five towns around the world that do seafood right.
1. Chioggia, Italy
Chioggia is located in Veneto, Italy, a stretch of the Adriatic coastline featuring cultural hotspots like the canal city of Venice, and the romantic locale of fair Verona (the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet). However, the lesser-known fishing village of Chioggia just downstream is the place supplying these nearby iconic destinations with many of their seafood staples.
Chioggia is nicknamed the ‘daughter of the sea’, and is home to a dedicated community of trawler fishermen and fishmongers. The many stalls of the renowned market offer visitors an enticing spread of sea bream, bass, sole, shrimp, cuttlefish, scampi and so on.
Each summer, Chioggia holds its annual fish festival which takes place over a period of ten days.. During the celebration, visitors embrace the local culture and enjoy traditional seafood recipes from all over Veneto. For a taste of Italy, try this seafood linguine from Pasta Evangelists, which uses mussels and fresh, whole prawns.
2. Aegina, Greece
The Greek island of Aegina is home to a town of the same name, dubbed after the mother of the mythological hero Aeacus. Nowadays, the Saronic island is known for its pistachio harvest grown on fertile volcanic soil, as well as its classic Grecian take on grilled octopus.
Octopus has been a Greek staple since ancient times, found on fish tavern menus on most of the big islands. Once caught, fishermen will beat the carcass over rock to wring the water from its body, before hanging it on a line to dry in the sun. If this sounds like an extreme preparation for a seafood dinner, we won’t dare tell you about how lobster is cooked.
Thankfully, octopus can be grilled-up wherever you are and with fewer theatrics. Even when it’s not fresh from the Aegean sea, shop-bought octopus is tender and flavoursome, requiring little to dress it up for a delicious home-cooked meal. For that smoky, crunchy outside, and a juicy and succulent inside, char-grill according to this recipe.
3. Santiago, Chile
We’re flying south of the equator for our next bite. Accessed by Chile’s stunning western shores, the Chilean sea is a bountiful and diverse marine ecosystem. The Humboldt Current sweeps along the coast of Chile, delivering Pacific stocks of sardine, hake and Chilean sea bass for fishermen to haul inland to the capital city of Santiago.
In the middle of the city sits the sprawling Central Mercado, or market. At the break of dawn, restaurateurs descend to pluck the best of the day’s catch for their kitchens, situated in the market’s large dining area. As waiting staff compete for tourist custom, chefs busy themselves preparing classic Chilean fried fish, crab casserole, and warming seafood stew. Crustaceans, or langostinos, are a particularly hot commodity here, and can definitely inspire some lighter summer canape options to impress your friends and family.
4. Hakodate, Japan
Japan is well known for its seafood, from salmon sashimi to sawara sushi. The northern peninsula port city of Hakodate is even recognised as the ‘squid capital of Japan’, with its local waters teeming with inky inhabitants. Across the city, you’ll find dedicated letter boxes, manhole covers, and impressive sculptures dedicated to the squid.
At Hakodate-Asaichi, the local morning market, there are over 200 stalls selling mixed wares and seafood products. The main event is the squid fishing tank, where families flock for the chance to hook themselves a lunchtime meal. Once they’ve nabbed their catch, a chef will prepare sashimi with it on the spot. While perhaps not an activity for the animal lovers, this is a squid game not to be missed for intrepid foodies visiting Hakodate.
For a homemade recreation, invest in store-bought squid meat — this way, no one in the family is likely to form an attachment to their dinner before it gets chopped up. Ikayaki is grilled and dressed in a flavourful soy and ginger marinade, a decadent small-plate conversation starter for summer celebrations. Alternatively, try a tempura recipe by battering and flash-frying your squid in preparation for dipping.
5. Wanning, China
The city of Wanning is found on China’s largest tropical island, Hainan. Throughout its long history, Hainan has hosted tribal communities and a diverse mix of migrated residents, creating a vibrant culture that attracts tourists from around the world.
Hainan boasts a number of renowned dishes from its various locales, including Wenchang chicken and Jiaji duck. As for Wanning City, Hele crab is the most famed delicacy. Once freshly caught, locals prefer to steam the crab, maintaining its structure, colour, and flavour — the dish is described as having a hard outer shell containing a tender, creamy meat.
At home, we recommend sourcing fresh crab to steam and cook the meat inside, just like the people of Wanning. Compared to others on this list, preparing crab gets a little bit technical, so you might also benefit from watching a handy tutorial for correctly cracking and cleaning one.