Fish Market in Calabar

Fish is an essential addition in Cross Riverian cuisine. Whether fresh, smoked or dried, there's no soup that doesn't have the all important ingredient. It is also readily available.

There are a number of places to buy fresh fish in Calabar. You can decide to visit the wharf (Esuk) at the Marina in old Calabar just as the fishermen return from their trip. You can also find some at the two major markets, Watt and Marian markets, as well as various street corners around the city.

But the major fish market is situated in Lagos Street, a short stretch of road within the vicinity of the popular Watt market. Depending on the season, you can find all kinds of fresh produce sourced from the surrounding salty and fresh seawater.

Vendors start setting up and displaying their wares from 4pm but the market comes alive after 5pm when most buyers start trickling in. It’s always an animated scene as sellers call out to potential customers and buyers haggle for a fair price. I'm a regular customer at Lagos Street. For this visit, I went with my camera.

Lagos Street

Still early. It's just after 4pm

Cat fish is prevalent here.
The king of catfishes: the grey, salt-water Inanga. Tastes so much better than the pond-reared black Inanga. They grow really big and can be be expensive. This bad boy here was priced at 7,000. You can bargain. At Lagos Street, there is always fish for every pocket. 

For these two, the seller wanted ₦13,000

Sold to a discerning buyer. According to the seller, these were caught in Itu River. The River, along the Calabar-Itu road, is reputed to have the best Inanga. If you're coming into Calabar or leaving Calabar early enough by road, you'll see some vendors selling fish on the bridge across the River.

More Itu River Inanga. I like the look on this woman's face. She's posing with her Inanga.

Inanga for the regular people

Cat fish is delicious in pepper soup and fisherman soup. It's also great grilled (that's why it's the popular choice for point-and-kill). To clean them, you'd need to dip the cut pieces into hot water then scrape off the slime and wash with regular water. Season and let it marinate for a bit before cooking.

Now that we're heading into rainy season, we'll get a variety of scaly fishes like this Sole fish (Upek in Efik) here: 

My personal favourite in the scaly fish department: Upek. The smaller one is Oniok in Efik. No idea what the English name is. 

I like Upek for pepper soup and white seafood okra soup (no oil) garnished with Iko (curry leaf)

Tilapia. Perfect grilled, fried, in fisherman soup, stew, pepper soup.

A cross section of Inanga, Shiny Nose fish (Edeng) and Tilapia.

These are juvenile Bonga. Ekpai in Efik. They are made into a sauce using palm oil and a lot of pepper. The sauce is paired with boiled yam or plantain.

   Some more Inanga, Upek, Ekpai.


   Arranging her shrimps into sections that would be sold for ₦200, ₦300    

I was trying to buy shrimps from this woman when one Asian man walked over. She immediately focused on him and momentarily forgot that I was there. See the expectant look on her face. She asked him to pay ₦5,000 for that small tray of shrimps. In reality, it's not more than ₦3,000 if she sections it into small parts of 500 each. I quietly walked away and went to the next stall. The funny thing is that the man didn't buy from her either. He just bargained, made a funny comment about the shrimps not breathing and walked away. 

Close-up of the shrimps

Crab. Nkongo in Efik. Fantastic in pepper soup. Have you tried it? You should.

Clams. Nkob in Efik. I like them for stew and fisherman soup

Everything you need for a delicious seafood dish.

I was thinking of seafood okra when I took this picture.


Take a trip to Lagos Street the next time you're in Calabar. I'll be happy to be your guide if I'm still here. You don't have to buy anything. You can just walk around and take pictures like I did. 

10 comments on "Fish Market in Calabar"
  1. Uchay Ifedinriu Onuakalusi22 May 2015 at 08:22

    How can i follow your blog please. This post is very detailed. I like...and i like Efik food too :)

    i wouldnt mind a mail


    1. Hi Uchay,

      Thank you so much. I didn't have the "follow by email" link on my page but now I do. You can now add your email. I'm glad you like Efik food. I hope you've tried the ones on here.

  2. More modern preservation is overdue, the traders lose out if the they don't sell out that day

    1. I agree. For now they just use the cold rooms close to the market.

    2. I like this. I am giving the challenge of preservation to my undergraduate student as a research topic. Let's see the outcome of the proximate analysis of the fresh, frozen-stored and fish sold a day after catch in Lagos street.

    3. The results are out. Frozen-stored inagha competes favorably in terms of protein content, fat and moisture contents with the fresh one. The exception is that it has higher moisture content, which of course is a plus. So if it is possible to get a good frozen stores around the market, the fish can be preserved to be sold during off season periods

  3. I recall my moms weekend shopping Efut street to either the Esuk Nsidung, or Lagos street, or Esuk Obutong (if I recall clearly), to buy fish my favorite dish, sea food for me any time. Edesi isip ye iyak (cat fish and large crayfish)

    1. You're right Emeka. My mom also buys from Esuk Nsidung and Ikang.

  4. The first set of fish look very big. It's been a long time I tried shrimps and thse just brought memories of shrimps and coconut rice to mind. Cross Riverians are huge lovers of seafood (I school here so I know). When next will you be in Calabar, Ekif gal?


    1. Hiii Cherish,

      Thank you so much for your kind comments!!! I am not sure when my next trip to Cally town will be for now. I would have loved to come for the December break but that's looking unlikely. Enjoy Obio Efik on my behalf...


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