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Dry Fish and Wet Fish Markets of Negombo:Exploring the Flavors

Nestled along the western coast of Sri Lanka, the vibrant coastal town of Negombo is renowned for its bustling fish markets that offer a sensory experience unlike any other. This article delves into the heart of Negombo, where the distinct worlds of dry fish and wet fish markets come to life, captivating visitors and locals alike.


The Wet Fish Market

As dawn breaks over Negombo’s coastline, the town’s wet fish market comes alive with a symphony of activity. Fishermen return from their night-time expeditions in the Indian Ocean, hauling in a rich catch of seafood treasures. The atmosphere is electric as buyers and sellers converge to engage in lively, fast-paced transactions.

One of the hallmarks of Negombo’s wet fish market is the astounding variety of seafood available. From an array of fish species like tuna, barracuda, and mackerel to prawns, crabs, and squid, the market offers an impressive showcase of Sri Lanka’s marine biodiversity. The seafood is prized for its freshness, with much of it being brought in just moments after being caught.

Visitors to the wet fish market can glean insights into Sri Lanka’s rich culinary heritage. Engaging with local fishmongers provides an opportunity to learn about traditional recipes and cooking techniques. It’s not uncommon to see skilled fish cutters deftly slicing fish to customer specifications, ensuring that each purchase is tailored to the buyer’s needs.

For those who arrive early enough, witnessing the daily fish auction is a fascinating experience. Auctioneers energetically oversee the sale of fish to local vendors, restaurants, and exporters. The competitive spirit and spirited bidding create an atmosphere that showcases the economic importance of the seafood industry in Negombo.


The Dry Fish Market:

Just a stone’s throw away from the wet fish market lies Negombo’s dry fish market, an entirely different sensory adventure. As you enter this market, you’re greeted by a distinct aroma that’s a blend of saltiness and the rich essence of drying fish. The market’s specialty is, as the name suggests, dried seafood.

Dried fish, shrimp, and even dried prawns are among the many offerings you’ll find in the market. These products come in various shapes, sizes, and levels of spiciness, catering to the diverse tastes of local and international consumers. From small dried anchovies to larger dried fish, there’s something for everyone.

The drying of fish and seafood is a traditional preservation method practiced for generations in Negombo. The drying process involves exposing the seafood to the sun and sea breeze, resulting in a unique flavor profile that’s highly sought after. Locals often incorporate dried fish into their daily cuisine, adding depth and umami to their dishes.The dry fish market is an excellent place to shop for culinary souvenirs. Visitors can purchase dried seafood to take home, sharing the flavors of Negombo with friends and family. Experimenting with these ingredients in your own kitchen offers a delightful way to connect with the town’s culinary heritage


Opening hours

The market opens as early as 6 am in the morning and is functional till noon every day. In fact, activity starts here around 4–5 am when fishing boats start coming in with their fresh catch.


Best time to visit

The best time to visit here is either early in the morning between 5–6 am when fresh fish gets offloaded from boats, sorted, and taken to stalls for selling. If you are not an early riser like me, you would still want to check out the fish market between 9–11 am. This is when local customers visit the place for their regular purchases. The retail fish market is in full swing. Additionally, the sun is out and dry fish vendors get busy. They sort and place brined fish on large hessian sheets for drying. Both the wet and dry fish markets are pretty active between 9 am — noon.

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