How to buy fish (and cook Paella) in Mexico

Buying fish in Punto Lobos

Earlier this year we went down to Todos Santos to visit our friend Joe who spends a couple of months every winter there. Joe’s new house was still being built, so we stayed at his friend Paolo, who has a spare studio that he sometimes rents to friends. The house is beautiful, just outside of town, and conveniently locates near Joe’s property

An Italian expat and a retired chef, Paolo is something of an aging Anthony Bourdain character. Chain-smoking and opinionated, especially when it comes to food, he even looks like Bourdain, or perhaps how Bourdain might look in ten years or so. Paolo moved with his Spanish Basque wife to Todos Santos over a decade prior to take over the chef position at the fancy Café Santa Fe in town. Like Bourdain, or perhaps like cooks everywhere, Paolo had a certain appreciation for fellow cooks and so got along famously with David.

We woke up in the mornings during our stay not only to find perfect coffee made in a proper Moka pot, but sometimes even some freshly made Rosquilla to accompany it. Joe told me that Paola -having spent a few years in Spain with his wife- makes a killer Paella. So we agreed to make it for our last dinner there.

On our last day, David went off to surf as usual. I remained at the house to help Paolo with the preparation for our Paella. Around three o’clock Paolo came around to fetch me. It’s time to go get some fish, he said.

the fish coming up to shore

No, it’s not a market we were heading out to. Instead, we took his jeep out to Punta Lobos, or wolf point, a beach not far from where David was surfing. There we found a few small boats huddled together on the beach. Paolo walked up to one of them and shared a friendly greeting with one of the fishermen.

doing it in style

The man looked more gangster than fisherman in his straw hat, dark sunglasses with a cigarette sticking out from a corner of his mouth. Standing in front of a blood soaked table with a large cleaver in his hand, he looked quite ready to chop more than just a fish head.

take your pick of super fresh fish

He showed us a bucket filled with red snappers, so fresh I swear some of them were still moving. We picked the three we wanted, and the man began cleaning them on the bloody table.

we're taking these

Paolo pointed out to a tiny object floating in the surf. That’s a fishing boat, he said. These small fishing boats wait just beyond the shore for a break in the surf, at the right moment, the boats come in to land right on the beach. Quite impressive, I’d say.

landing right on the beach

The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was the aggressive birds, seagulls and pelicans, that are so used to people they walked right up to you to pick up bits of fish. Not that I have anything against birds, mind you, I just like them better a bit farther away.

(to be continued)

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6 Responses to “How to buy fish (and cook Paella) in Mexico

  • Matthew Bowden said:
    November 3rd, 2006 at 7:32am

    Mmmmmmm, Fresh caught fish. Is there any better way to have it ?.
    Look forward to the finished dish !!!!!

  • dirty joe said:
    November 4th, 2006 at 7:31pm

    yo pim, i am so home sick for ts. those pelicanos can be such nasty little vagrants down at punta lobos(sea lion point). once i saw one get too close to a pescadero who was cleaning and fileting the fish right there on the beach and the dude grabed the thing by the neck and gave it a double pounding into the sand. he had his filet knife in the other hand and i thought he might cut it up into bits but he just taught it a little lesson. i felt bad for the pelicon but they do get a bit moochy down there. when can we see/read part 2?

  • shuna fish lydon said:
    November 5th, 2006 at 8:30pm

    coming from a sort of pescado, i very much appreciate this beautiful post. my grandfather used to clean fish right on the dock after fishing and the seagulls would wait, not so patiently either, for whatever he left behind. there is nothing like fish this fresh.

  • ulterior epicure said:
    November 7th, 2006 at 6:43am

    sounds and looks like a great day at the beach! wish i were there!

  • kat said:
    November 14th, 2006 at 6:12pm

    Wow… fresh fish *salivating till the carpet is soaked*… sorry… could not help myself! Hi Pim! You are my food-stylin’ icon. 🙂

  • Mohamed said:
    March 24th, 2008 at 3:06am

    Its interesitng pics and a story. If you would like to see same picture as well as just 2-3 hrs tour to catch reef fish in a clear reef of Maldive or buy the most fresh reef fish and seafoods please call me at +960 7777633 or just e-mail to

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