What fish does your market coolie buy?

Culinary time travel to 1962

“[…] foreign residents in HongKong usually confine their purchases of fish to a very few kinds. In the main the choice is restricted to groupers, ‘white salmon’, pomfret and Macao-sole. We believe that this limited selection is due to various causes of which ignorance on the part of house-wife and market coolie is one. In European fish markets far fewer varieties are offered for sale and the house-wife quickly learns to recognise the different kinds and to know their respective merits and the best way to cook them. Here, with perhaps a hundred varieties to choose from many strange shape and of unfamiliar brilliant colours, it is not surprising that no attempt is made to try out more than a few varieties, perhaps only those recommended by the salesmen as being the best,- possibly because they command the highest prices amongst foreigners. We hope that this book will encourage people to try kinds of fish which they have previously ignored as being unfamiliar and unsuitable.”

G.A.C. Herklots & S.Y. Lin, 1962, “Common Marine Food Fishes of Hong Kong”

Well, it is now 50 years since that book was published and I think it is time to put expat fish-eating habits to the test.

Foreigners of Expats of HK: what local fish species have you tried?
Take part in the online survey

Regardless of the result of this anonymous poll, I have set myself a task to eat all 50 fish in this charming book and prove to the world that I am not a ‘fishist’. I also think this will be an interesting exercise in sustainable fish eating and tell me something about changes in Hong Kong’s marine life since 1962. The relative success or failure/hospitalisation of this project will be shared with the world in this blog every week.
Having figured out what a ‘catty’ is (604 grams) and having selected my first three victims (Golden Sardine, White Herring or Hilsa Herring), I will try the first of 50 fish tomorrow. Wish me luck!


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My PhD was about Antarctic deep-sea ecology and biodiversity, but I am passionate about southern China’s rich marine (and terrestrial) environments. This blog is a collection of facts, news and articles about Hong Kong's diverse marine environment.

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