7 Tips for Navigating the Fresh Fish Markets in Sanya

By Leila Hashemi, June 7, 2021

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We’ve all seen them – the fish tanks. They can be seen all over Sanya and the surrounding areas filled with fish, lobsters and what seems to be prehistoric sea creatures. While they are everywhere, the best and most delicious place to enjoy fresh fish is at one of Sanya’s wet fish markets. Walking into a large fish market seems daunting at first as all the vendors vie for your business but here are a few tips on how to navigate one like a champ.

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Tip 1: Keep Calm and Carry On

Walking into the market you will find yourself in a sea of tanks with a variety of fish, shellfish, octopus, shrimp – you name it. The vendors will yell and wave you over. Do not be afraid. Try to tune them out and make your way around the market to see which vendor has fish that are actually still swimming around in their tanks. Once you find your ‘lively’ fish vendor, the fun and games begin.

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Tip 2: Look at the Signs and Your Receipt

Each tank will have a sign showing the price of the fish per weight. Make sure you don’t get scammed. This is where knowing Chinese or having a Chinese friends with you comes in handy, but that’s not always going to be the case. My advice is to make sure when they are filling your bag with shrimp or grabbing that big lobster, you ask them to weigh it and tell you the price right away. At the end of your transaction, make sure to get your receipt and double check the prices match up.

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Tip 3: Haggle for Best Price

Vendors will usually give you a better price if you push a little bit. It’s part of the fun. If they won’t budge at all, walk away slowly and act like you’re looking around at the other tanks. You can get better deals if you purchase all your items from the same vendor.

Tip 4: Find a Place to Cook It

After you have purchased everything your heart desires you will want to start cooking! Walking past the wet market to where you will see various vendor areas with seating. There, they can cook your food. My advice, as most people follow in China, is find the vendor with the most customers and go there.

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Tip 5: Different Dish, Different Styles

There are various ways to have your fish cooked: steamed, steamed with garlic, spicy with peppers or with onions. For whole fish, I suggest steamed with garlic, for lobster go with garlic and butter and for shellfish, I usually ask them to make it a little spicy. When you hand over your fresh catch just show them which item you want cooked what way. There’s never been a problem using a translation app to deliver the message.

Tip 6: Keep it Saucy

Don’t skip the sauce! On the tables at the front they have a selection of items to make a seafood dipping sauce. A great combo is vinegar, red chili, chopped green onions and the mini limes.

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Tip 7: Build a Banquet

While they are cooking your food, other sellers will come up and offer side dishes. The water spinach and shredded potatoes go great with the seafood and are usually only RMB20 each. With a group of four, you can have a feast fit for an emperor for around RMB200 each.

Here are two fresh fish markets with two very different styles and which our editorial team at That's Sanya have been to. Enjoy!

Sanya Bay Dragon Prosperity Fresh Fish Supermarket

Daily, 11am-midnight. 128 Sanya Bay Lu. See listing.

Little Dolphin Seafood Plaza

Daily, 10am-11.30pm. Shop B9A. Hubin Commercial Jie, Yalong Bay. See listing.

READ MORE: Hee-haw: Donkey Hot Pot Joins the Restaurant Ranks in Sanya

Leila Hashemi is a Beijing-based writer and editor with a passion for dad jokes, pizza and memes as well as sharing her experiences of living and working in China over the past five years. Follow her on Instagram @astaggeredmind.


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[Images by Leila Hashemi/That's]


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