Fish Market and My Favorite Meal

So, I know this is a long time ago, but I thought I would do a few posts on Ecuador, since our trip was such a big part of our summer, and the country is a really big part of our lives. This first post is on one of the most interesting places I went (and by interesting, I mean strange, different, a little scary, but also fascinating): the fish market in Libertad. Before I get to the pictures, I should say that my husband prepared me for visiting the fish market by saying that I should were close-toed shoes because we would be walking through some stuff. I wasn’t really sure what he meant, but other than that, I wasn’t sure what to expect. We took the half-hour bus ride and arrived at the center of Libertad on a Saturday morning; everything was bustling already.

The fish market was inside a large, open-air building. It was tiled and filled with rows of tiled counters with people standing behind each one and a plethora of seafood stacked on the counters. As we walked down the aisles, people were shouting prices and proclaiming the quality of their goods, and if I happened to make eye contact with anyone or even look at their offerings, I was immediately bombarded with offers and decreasing prices.

There’s my husband with my little angel (no, I don’t let him have a beard all the time, it was a special treat for the vacation). I’m sure I and my little baby bean were quite a sight in there, and I know we got more than a couple stares, but I was too interested in what was going on to worry too much about that. I was too busy looking at everything.

A few disclaimers that made me only slightly hesitant about this place: There was no form of refrigeration anywhere, everything was just sitting directly on the counter or in bowls of water, with flies buzzing around everywhere. Also, there didn’t seem to be much concern about washing hands after handling the slippery products, and I watched many times as the same hands that gut fish also dealt with the cash (luckily, Joel’s mom handled all the fish buying transactions, and I had my hand sanitizer at the ready). And the close-toed shoes? Well the floor was wet and slippery with salt water and fish juice. But other than that, I really enjoyed our visit. It was exciting and different from anything I’d seen before, and little angel girl loved it too.

The whole point of going to the fish market was so we could make ceviche, a delicious Ecuadorian dish that I would describe as cold fresh fish soup. I don’t know if that sounds very appetizing, but it is really very good. There are all different kinds of ceviches, with fish, lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, or pretty much whatever other kind of seafood you can think of. My mother-in-law had already made us a fabulous squid ceviche, and I had requested another ceviche before the end of the trip. So off to the fish market we went to procure the necessary ingredients.

It’s a good thing my mother-in-law knew what to look for, because I had no idea how to choose the right stand to buy from; they all looked pretty much the same to me.

We decided to do ceviche mixto, which was a combination of shrimp, squid and octopus. Maybe a strange dish for a pregnant woman with strong food aversions, but I’m not kidding when I say this was probably my favorite meal I had while we were there.

Here’s a little of the process and some close-ups of the main actors.

Joel’s mom did an excellent job preparing everything, and I was intrigued by how she worked.

Besides not having access to fresh shrimp, squid, and octopus, I don’t think I would have the know-how to prepare this wonderful meal, so I guess I’ll just have to wait till we go down again. Hmm, my mouth is watering already.

Here’s the final dish with a delicious avocado to accompany it (those things are giant, and they’re only about 30 cents each; I could go on and on about how much I love the produce in Ecuador, but that’s another post):

Yes, those are suction cups, but sometimes, you just have to not worry what you’re eating and live a little.


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