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So where will you go to buy fish in Mumbai?
The most famous fish market here is Sassoon Docks.
This is a wholesale fish market. Fish is brought here from trawlers that fish in the seas around Mumbai. The market opens by around 4 in the morning and there is a flurry of activity till about 9 am. You can go here to buy fish in bulk…a basket of pomfrets or prawns for example. They don’t cut and clean the fish for you but there are women who sit outside the market who will that for you. This is a very crowded market, the floors are slushy and you are likely to come out smelling of fish. A fascinating experience but not for the faint hearted.
Sassoon docks is where Koli women come to buy fish to sell in the retail markets around the city as do restaurateurs. The spot auctions that happen here are quite fascinating. If you are willing to ignore the grime and the stench then this is one Mumbai experience that you should not miss.
Sassoon Docks is shut during the monsoon months as fishing is stalled during these months locally. That’s when the Shivaji market at Crawford market comes to fore as fish comes here from other parts of the country too. Over the years wholesale markets have come up in places like Dadar and Bhayander which help people avoid the trip to South Mumbai.
There are a number of retail fish markets across Mumbai. I go to the one near Khar station.
There are a couple of things that distinguish fish markets in Mumbai from my native Kolkata. Koli women sell fish in the markets here unlike in Kolkata where men sell fish. Plus, the fish is sold by piece here and not by weight unlike in Kolkata.
While the fish markets are dominated naturally by sea food here there are a few people who sell the freshwater fish which we Bengalis are fond of. You can also visit the top 5 Places to Enjoy Great Seafood in Mumbai .
Another unique tradition in Mumbai is that of the fisher woman who comes to people’s houses to sell fish. They sit down by the door of their customers, who are regulars, engage in long winded bargaining, and then cut and clean the fish there. This is a tradition that is dying out as the fish sellers don’t find entry into the sparkling modern apartment complexes of Mumbai.
I would urge you go to the local fish markets as that’s where you get the freshest of fish which makes the bargaining and walking through slush worth it.
If this scares you then local cold storages as well as chains like Godrej Nature’s Basket offer you a more sanitized environment to buy fish.
Or you can call places like Pesca Fresh to order in.
As for me, I need to see my fish before buying it, and I have my regular fish seller whom I trust.
May you find yours too.
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.