Go Fish


The goods at Manila Oriental Market.

Don’t get me wrong. Where I live in Bernal Heights, I have sun and tacos and mid-century modern furniture stores within walking distance, and I appreciate it, but every time I’m out in the Richmond or Sunset District, trying to decide between New May Wah market or Sunset Super (not to mention a pho joint or some Korean bbq place)—my ideas of heaven—I say the same thing: “If there were more trees out here and it wasn’t so [expletive] foggy, I’d move out here in a second.”

So, now I don’t have to move. A few months ago, just down Mission Street in the Excelsior (4175 Mission Street, right beyond the freeway overpass, to be exact) a new Asian market opened: Manila Oriental Market (or MOM, which I like to call it). And except for the produce, which is so-so, it’s great.

I took my son there to grab some frozen dumplings the other day, not thinking about the fact that the child hadn’t seen the likes of fish section like that in his five-and-a-half years of life on the east side of town. Tanks of live catfish, oysters, clams, spot prawns, conch and periwinkles; over 25 varieties of sparkling fresh whole (not live) fish, including Strawberry Grouper, White Bass and Red Bandit. As far as my son was concerned, it was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While all the Asian kids were perched in their grocery carts all blasé, Silas was jumping up and down.

The queue at MOM (the last photo I was able to snap before being told sternly, "No Pictures!").

MOM offers fish filleting services (fin-on, scale, scale and fin, etc.) as well as deep-frying (regular, medium, crispy). Silas and I watched as the fishmonger netted one of the big, lively catfish. I then had a split-second child rearing decision to make—the moment of truth where a mother decides it’s time to quit sheltering her child from the harsh realities of the food chain (beyond Charlotte’s Web)—that fish does not start its life filleted. So, we continued to watch as the fishmonger conked the catfish over the head with a swift, but not unserious, thunk of a mallet. Silas seemed OK about it, maybe a bit deflated. I just hope the sex talk isn’t next.
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