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After A and F’s wedding, we had a day to look around Funchal, the main city of Madeira. Our hotel is on the western side of the city. The Workers’ market is situated on the east end of the town center in the area of Santa Maria. The market was built in the 1930’s in the style of Art Deco with a hint of modernism.


It has several levels: the higher level sells fruits and flowers, and the lower level sells meat and fishes. There was a wide range of exotic fruits on offer, some of which I have never seen before – e.g., those that look like a cob of green corn.

We have been to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market several years ago and there were lots to see. So I (Chris) went to explore Funchal’s fish market, after all this market is located in the middle of the Atlantic.

Warning:  Graphic images of dead fishes below.


As it was around midday when we visited, the market was winding down with most of the stalls emptied or closed. They kept the old scales on display and put an electronic one in the middle.


The market sells both dried and fresh fishes.



They seemed like the same species of fish but some displayed a rich orange coloration – I wonder if the grey varieties and orange varieties taste differently.


The most recognizable fish is the black scabbardfish which is an economically important species for Madeira’s fishermen. It is on all the menus and we had it for lunch while touring the island. As shown, some had been skinned to remove that ink black exterior which was not appetizing.
According  to Wikipedia,

The black scabbardfish, Aphanopus carbo, is a bathypelagic cutlassfish of the family Trichiuridae found in the Atlantic Ocean between latitudes 69° N and 27° N at depths of between 180 and 1,700 m. Its length is up to 110 cm, but reaches maturity around 80 to 85 cm. The black scabbardfish is a fish with a body that is extremely elongated, with body depth 10.8 to 13.4 times in SL. The snout is large with strong fang-like teeth. Pelvic fins represented by a single spine in juveniles but entirely absent in adults. Color is coppery black with iridescent tint. The inside of the mouth and gill cavities are black.

My apologies in case the image of this pile of fish heads and guts startled you. The black scabbardfish  has to be the ugliest fish I have seen – downright nightmarish.


The big eyes suggest that these fishes live in a very dark environment (i.e., deep ocean). I imagine there are few organisms living near the bottom of the ocean, therefore when the black scabbardfish encounters a prey, it needs sharp teeth to pierce and capture the prey with one bite. It has a dainty tail fin but given the ribbon-shaped body, the tail fin is redundant.

I think these are tunas – rather small. We have seen much bigger bluefin tuna – see our earlier posts here and here.


Never saw a moray eel in a market before. This one was more than 3 feet long!


Local limpets (a general name for any shellfish whose shell is not spirally coiled) are on many menus and I had a few in a dish. While they looked attractive, particularly the iridescent interior, the taste was unremarkable.


Portugese bacalhau!


Well, I visited the Funchal market as if I was on a zoology field trip. But if I had a kitchen and time, this place has many interesting ingredients for cooking experiments.


One Comment

  1. Hi Chris the fish that has diferent colours (red, etc) they all taste the same. Its called BODIAO. Its one of my favorite fish in the world, it tastes sooo gooddd.

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