Grimsby is Europe’s premier food town due to it’s historic involvement in the fishing industry. Fresh fish on the Grimsby Fish Market is sourced from sustainable stocks all around the world from Norway to Sri-Lanka with varieties to match all tastes and guaranteed quality. From the days of the government’s Beeching Report which closed down railway links from Grimsby to London there have been mobile fishmongers in London and the surrounding counties as part of the biggest national fish distribution network in the country. If you’d like to find out where to buy fish in London then our free service will forward your contact info to the nearest available van. If you’ve ever thought about buying fish from Billingsgate Market then you’d need to be there before daylight with your wellies on but tons of the fish sold there comes from Grimsby anyway so why not have a van deliver it directly to your door. Street Hawkers known as Jowters have been selling fish door to door for centuries to give a trusted service from one family generation down to the next:
I Saw Three Ships and Other Winter Tales
by Arthur Quiller-Couch
” Well, I’ll tell ‘ee this much — for you look
a very handsome jowter i’ that new cart “
The Dock Towers can be seen in the background; a smaller square tower alongside the dominating 309 feet tall main tower built in 1852 after the style of the Torre del Mangia, Italy. Originally for hydraulic power working fifteen dock cranes and the lock gates.
Latest estimates are for nearly a hundred mobile fish delivery vans working out of the port of Great Grimsby. Some operated for decades by their original founders, some handed down from father to son and others started up more recently by ex-fishermen and local industry workers who lost their jobs when Europe took control of Britain’s traditional fishing grounds. It’s not a job for indoors types as the Van Lads are ouside in all weathers come rain or shine, snow or thunder from before daylight until after dark – a few lasses also run the vans.
Seafood varieties include every fish species you would normally find on a fishmongers slab. Cod, haddock, place,salmon; organic salmon, farmed salmon and occasionally wild salmon. Lemon sole, dover sole – sold as a whole fish either skinned or not, whiting, halibut, hake, dogfish (otherwise known as huss or rock salmon) catfish (otherwise known as rock halibut or scotch fillet – this fish usually sold with the skin already removed.) Brill, turbot, witches, megrims and dabs, another very occasional fish is fork-beard which looks like whiting and is delicious. The game fish such as fresh tuna, marlin and swordfish. Mackerel, herrings, sprats and sardines. Rainbow trout as whole fish or trout fillets. Seabass have bccome very popular on the tv cookery programs probably because they are delightful and easy to cook either as seabass fillets or whole fish. Monkfish tail, red bream sometimes called redfish and skate – sometimes called rays or roker.
Other lines include the usual shellfish like whole crabs, dressed crabs, lobsters, clams, scallops, oysters – always buy oysters live! Your mobile van will also usually carry other seafood items i.e. fishcakes, cod roe when in season ( january to april) smoked cod roes, smoked eel, jellied eels. Cockles, mussels and winkles can be sourced frozen most of the year, fresh live mussels in the cooler months. Fresh prawns and shrimps, king prawns either fresh or frozen in varying sizes – these are graded in size using the ‘count’ system with under 5’s being the largest (less than 5 prawns per pound) going down to 6 to 8’s, 8 to 12’s, 12 to 20’s, 20 to 30’s, 30 to 40’s, 40 to 60’s etc. These can be either head on or just ‘tails’ and pre-cooked or raw and fresh, frozen or thawed – do check when you buy because re-freezing isn’t a good idea for shelfish!
If you’ve been advised to eat more oily fish then the species to look out for are mackerel, herrings, sprats & sardines. Salmon and trout, also halibut. Occasionally you might see black/mock halibut which should cost less then the usual greenland halibut. These have a higher omega3 content than most – but any fish is very good for a fully balanced diet. Top predators should be eaten in moderation, these are the big game fish; tuna, swordfish & marlin – once per week is fine for these but why not alternate them with other less common varieties?
Everyone should try kippers once in a while, these are sold as kipper fillets or whole kippers in either natural or coloured, the manx kippers are natural smoked & a shade smaller than usual. Finnan/fynnan haddock which is a small haddock split along one side of the bone then natural smoked – this is where the name ‘finny haddock’ comes from for yellow smoked fillets. Occasionally you may see smoked cutlets which are smaller haddock or whiting cut open into butterfly fillets. Smoked mackerel as fillets or cutlets in a wide variety of flavours; plain smoked, coloured smoked, peppered, garlic and spice & herb. These extras are sprinkled over the raw fillets prior to smoking. The aroma from the mackerel smokehouse when they open the doors to let the smoke clear is awesomely mouthwatering and has to be experienced to be believed!
The very popular smoked haddock both yellow smoked and natural or clear smoked haddock (pay no attention to the chefs who tell you to only eat the natural smoked haddock – the yellow haddock is coloured by turmeric which is the best anti-oxident for your body, even better than red wine or cooked tomatoes!) smoked cod is a very similar flavour to the smoked haddock. Very rarely you might find smoked pollock or smoked hake and if you do then do not miss the opportunity as they’re fantastic flavours.
There are only a handful of traditional smokehouses in Great Grimsby. Due to european legislation it isn’t possible to build new ones in the traditional style – only stainless steel kilns are now permitted. This unique factor contributed to the granting of ‘Protected Geographical Identity’ for the smoked fish from Grimsby’s traditional smokehouses. (as per genuine champagne and the regional cheeses.) More detail on this in the video below:
Video by courtesy of Grimsby Traditional Fish Smokers Group
Coming soon: BONES IN FISH, where you’ll find them and how to remove them.