How To Shop for Seafood: Find the Markets, Order It Pre-Prepped

Two women are busy cutting fish for their customers before Chinese New Year at their fish stand in Xicun Agricultural Market. They normally filet the fish for fish ball makers.

Two women are busy cutting fish for their customers before Chinese New Year at their fish stand in Xicun Agricultural Market. They normally filet the fish for fish ball makers.

When it comes to consistently eating healthy anywhere, but especially in China, cooking at home is a great option. Luckily for seafood lovers, Dongguan is located in the estuary of the Pearl River and most of the city’s downtown seafood markets source from Humen, Guangzhou or Shenzhen, which are all within a two-hour drive. Read on to learn the where, what and how of shopping for the harvest of the sea.

Jinqiao Seafood Market (金桥水产市场)

One of four seafood markets in Dongguan—the only in central city— Jinqiao Aquaculture Market has a rich collection of seafood with over 20 kinds of shellfish from expensive Australian lobster to common mussels. Freshwater seafood takes up two thirds of the market, but saltwater stalls, with rows of tanks, have managed to secure a lane at the end. Aside from popular items (e.g., salmon, oyster, scallop and at least five kinds of shrimp), the tanks offer some things more evolved, such as turtles and crocodile—local favorites for soup.

Staff from an oyster shop in the Jinqiao Seafood Market unload bags of oysters from the truck and open them right away before sending them to customers. It’s not wise to eat these oysters raw.

Staff from an oyster shop in the Jinqiao Seafood Market unload bags of oysters from the truck and open them right away before sending them to customers. It’s not wise to eat these oysters raw.

On the edge of Dongcheng in the Xiaqiao area along the Dongjiang River, the market claims to do a lot of wholesale business with local markets and restaurants, but the retail prices are not much cheaper compared to local wet markets like Xicun Agricultural Market in Guancheng.

Be sure to bargain and get prices from at least three shops. Reading on dianping.com, a famed Chinese website for food and drink reviews, among 11 remarks from 2010 to 2014, five said, “Not cheap,” five of them mentioned deceit and one had a positive comment. If you don’t feel trusting, the market has set up a public scale.

Over half a dozen salmon booths stand along the street. The price for filets is as cheap as 38 per half kilo (jin), which is cheaper than bone-in at the wet markets. Because Dongguaners like to pick seafood here to take to a nearby restaurant, just before dinnertime is the busiest. The market closes at about 8:30 p.m.

Mark It:
Jinqiao Aquaculture Market
Baidu map link: http://j.map.baidu.com/kBLDb

Xicun Agricultural Market (细村农贸市场)

This market near Keyuan Garden offers seafood items in great demand such as shrimp, oysters and shellfish. But don’t expect them to be super fresh. Many of these creatures are merely sitting in a box with little water and without an air pump.

Most seafood in the wet zone is freshwater. They do have salmon at RMB 60 per jin, but won’t filet it. Avoid holidays because of the crowds; the prices rise and service declines. If you do make the effort, be sure to take advantage of cheap prices for foods and necessities such as snacks, vegetables, fruits
and shoes.

Mark It:
Xicun Vegetable Wholesale Market
Baidu map link: http://j.map.baidu.com/BxEQ6

Dongcheng Market (东城市场)

This one is visited by many expat residents due to its location, quality and overall sanitation, its prices are even more expensive than the supermarket above it. “We call it the Noble Market,” joked a local housewife surnamed Li. The nice, big scallops sell for RMB 20 each, while other markets sell RMB 26 to 40 per jin. Common shellfish asks RMB 18 per jin, while upstairs, Allgood has them at RMB 11.80. The only thing priced properly is probably salmon, selling RMB 58 per jin with bones.

Mark It:
Dongcheng Market
Baidu map link: http://j.map.baidu.com/JeF2m

TIPS:

If freshness is your thumb rule when buying seafood, go to the Jinqiao Market which has bigger turnover, or more expensive places such as Dongcheng Market and high-end supermarkets which have smaller stocks.

For smaller quantity, most places will provide a stronger plastic bag to carry the seafood with some water. If you have a long trip home, ask for a Styrofoam box. Stores in the Jinqiao Market can even aerate the water allowing animals to live up to eight hours.

PREP IT:

Cleaning and de-boning smelly fish can deter even seafood lovers from preparing it. Use these phrases to make life easier.

Pack in ice.
fàng bīng jìn qù
放 冰 进 去

Give me a Styrofoam box.
gěi wǒ pào mò xiāng
给 我 泡 沫 箱

Filet the fish.
qǐ yú ròu
起 鱼 肉

Aerate the water
gěi wǒ dǎ yǎng qì
给 我 打 氧 气

Clean the shells.
shuā gān jìng ké
刷 干 净 壳

Open it, clean it and put it back.
ròu kāi chū lái, xǐ gān jìng, fàng huíqù
肉    开 出 来,  洗 干 净,    放 回 去