Steven Wong: The seafood 'sourcerer'

  @FortuneMagazine October 10, 2013: 7:25 AM ET
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Wong and his wares


Shipping lobsters by airplane requires some careful packing. "Lobsters are very temperamental travelers," says seafood purveyor Steven Wong, who runs an export business out of Brooklyn, along with a specialty storefront called Aqua Best in Manhattan's Chinatown. "They get stressed, and they will die," he adds. Best to tuck them, tail first, into cardboard slots in a Styrofoam container stuffed with ice packs and pumped full of enough oxygen to get the live crustaceans from New York to China, one of Wong's main markets. He travels about six months a year, meeting fishermen, and buying, selling, and sourcing fresh catches. Here are his travel tips.

Roam free. The first time I went on a trip with my iPhone to Hong Kong, for five days, I came back with a $2,000 data charge. Now I rent a mobile Wi-Fi for $12 a day.

Be social. There's no way for people to know what I saw unless I can Facebook it, Instagram it, tweet it out.

Bootstrapping. In Canada, I always have a pair of Sorel boots. It's cold, it's wet, and if you're buying from a lobsterman short one guy, it doesn't matter if you're the biggest owner in the world, you jump down and help them out to show your loyalty.

Come bearing news. Fishermen like to hear what others are catching, and how much it's going for.

Travel light. I always carry a flashlight with me. I have one of those wind-up ones. Crank it for a minute, and it'll last for 10.

Pocket dictionary. I'm halfway fluent in Spanish.

Stomach settler. I always bring Imodium with me. If there's one thing I have to bring, it will be that. If there's no bathroom, or you're in the middle of nowhere ...

Try anything. We don't usually catch sunfish in the U.S., but I had it in Taiwan, and it is one of the best I've tasted. The texture is like meat. In Singapore they have something called mantis shrimp. Looks kind of ugly, but it tastes tremendous.

Real carry-out. Bring fishermen food they've never had. I'll pack authentic Chinese from Chinatown -- roast pork, duck, pork buns. You show you care. It's the human side of the business.

This story is from the October 28, 2013 issue of Fortune. To top of page

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