Keelung is well known for its Kanziding Fish Market. It’s not only a top tourist attraction, but it’s also the place to go for restaurateurs -big and small- to get the best and cheapest seafood to satisfy their demanding clienteles’ palate.
Not-fish marine species found at the Keelung Fish Market
In a previous article , we told you about some of the most common and some of the most exotic fish you might find in the market, but this market is not only about fish! You can find some very exotic marine invertebrates here, too! I will tell you some of the most common you might find on your tour of the market.
As with the previous article about the fish in the Keelung Fish Market, this list is by no means an exhaustive one (I might again need to write a whole book for it!), so I have included a short list of references where you can find more information about these and other species that I did not have time (or space) to mention here.
Also, for more details about the Keelung Fish Market, see our excellent review here
So strap yourselves once again and let’s go!
Here are Four Marine Species are Mollusks:
1. Spiral Babylon
The Spiral Babylon (Babylonia spirata) is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous snack fried foods (the meat, not the shell!) you’ll find in port cities like Keelung. The locals call it a “first class wine pairing”; by wine, of course they meant the Chinese rice wine or the Japanese sake, not that fruity stuff from Europe (😛)… or maybe(?). You can find fried meats from this snail from street vendors in the Keelung Night Market, and I can attest, it lives up to its reputation as an excellent companion to beer and other liquors!
2. The Taiwan Abalone
The Multicolor Abalone (Haliotis diversicolor) is known locally as the Taiwan Abalone. It’s also known as the Pillar of Gongliao (the easternmost district of New Taipei City on the island’s North East tip) because in Taiwan, this mollusc comes mostly from aquaculture farms from this area. Abalones look like bivalves that lost one of its valves, but they’re in fact snails with nine holes on top of their shells for oxygen and food filtrations. The locals like to steam or stew them on their shells to get tender meat. I have yet to try it, but it’s on top of my priorities list!
The Golden Cuttlefish (Sepia esculenta) is known simply as squid in Taiwan (or sometimes Taiwanese True Squid). It’s another extremely common shellfish found in night markets and restaurants in the island. The night market stands specialize on grilling them skewered on low fires. Having tasted a few, I can’t say it’s one of my favorite local foods, but all visitors should at least try one and see for themselves! I recommend dipping the grilled ones in Hoisin or Brown sauce!
4. Gun Squid
The Mitre Squid Uroteuthis chinensis is known in Taiwan as the Chinese Gun Squid. They’re usually white in color; the ones you see in this picture were bleached in hot water, thus leaving a red (cooked) coloration. They’re attracted to light at night, so fishermen capture them by shining powerful lights onto the water to draw them to their boats. You can see these colorful boats at the Badouzi harbor, at Keelung’s Southwestern end; they have many large light bulbs hanging on them.
The squids have different nominations according to their sizes: “small rolls” for small ones (the ones pictured here), “medium rolls” for medium sized ones, and “tortoise” for the large adult ones! They’re very tender and sweet on stir fries, but they can be cooked in many ways, including grilling in skewers.
Another Four Marine Species are Crustaceans (shrimps, crabs, and lobsters):
5. the Western Rock Lobster
The Western Rock Lobster Panulirus cygnus comes to Taiwan mainly from the Australian West coast. It is known locally as Swan Lobster, and it’s a staple on high-end seafood restaurants, meaning it can be quite expensive to dine on one of these, but that doesn’t deter its popularity in Taiwan. Locals love to eat it on butter sautes or even in sashimi.
6. Japanese Prawns
Penaeus japonicas or Japanese Prawns are some of the most beautiful shrimps you’ll ever see in the Keelung and other fish markets in Taiwan; they’re unmistakeable with brownish and yellowish stripes and blue-tipped tails. Locals love it in sashimi as well as grilled with a pinch of salt, which enhances its rich umami flavor! Exquisite!
7. Mud Crab
Scylla serrata, known in the West as Mud Crab or Mangrove Crab, and in Taiwan as Red or Blue Crab due to its variation in coloration, is a large meaty crustacean found in most estuaries in Asia and Africa. In Taiwan, the females are also harvested and their roe (eggs) is sought after as delicacies. The females (called sand mothers) are much larger and cost more than their male counterparts (called sand males). They’re also grown in aquaculture farms in Taiwan. They’re the main ingredients of Red Rice Cakes, an indispensable dish on Taiwanese wedding banquets.
8. Three-Spotted Swimming Crab
Portunus sanguinolentus, better known as the Three-Spotted Swimming Crab in the West or the Red Star Swimming Crab in Taiwan, is easily recognizable for its three black spots on its shell. They’re mainly farmed in the Wanli District, in New Taipei City, just north of Keelung. It requires prime water quality for growth, making it somewhat difficult to farm, but its price is not too high, so it’s quite popular on local dishes. You will find this crab on many stalls in the Keelung Fish Market.
- A Market guide to Fishes and Others by Wu Jiarui [in Chinese]
- Taiwan seafood Choice Guide [in Chinese]
- Keelung Fish Market (pdf document) with short descriptions of some of the seafood species found in the Keelung Fish Market and how to prepare some of them [in Chinese]