Under loved fish
In many of my messages I have preached about seasonality. That is, purchasing seafood that is in season, because it will be perfect for that time of year and in best condition. It fundamentally means that we are eating what the planet provides in its own timing, which introduces a very important temporal paradigm to sustainability, one that we all need to be aware of.
This issue then leads into the matter of seasonal catches and the by-catches that are available at that time. Once these ‘by-catch’ fish were labelled ‘trash fish’ but an educational initiative in the US is now being undertaken to help seafood lovers consume them, as a great many of these fish make for exceptionally good eating and shouldn’t go to waste. Whilst fishermen, chefs and ecological organizations across the country recognize the value of so-called “trash fish”, consumers must broaden their taste buds. Marketing of course plays a huge role in this, so rather than calling the fish ‘trash fish’, the ideal term ‘under loved’ fish has evolved.
Of course, where you live defines the quantity and availability of a different range of these fish, some of which should not be missed. So, let’s explore a little what might be available in Hong Kong, where local fisheries have been decimated so imports are the norm.
Not to be mistaken with Escolar, Butterfish is normally described as a hand-sized forager that often gets caught alongside squid. The meat is white and flaky, has a mild, sweet flavor and is more oily than even cod or haddock. This fish can be fried, baked, pan-seared or steamed whole.
Known as rock salmon or rock cod in Europe, dogfish is great for frying and is often used for making fish and chips because it holds together better than cod or haddock. The flesh is white, meaty and can also be seared or grilled.
If you’re partial to shellfish, skate might suit your taste buds with its mildly sweet flavor, reminiscent of scallops. After cooking, the texture is almost like crab meat when it breaks apart.
Bottom feeders tend to get a bad rap, but the increasing popularity of halibut has changed people’s attitudes. Halibut is one of the most popular fish in Hong Kong although it is relatively pricey. Instead, ask or look for gray sole, torbey sole, yellowtail flounder and American plaice.
Prized in other parts of the world for their high oil content and savoriness, these tiny swimmers are good for more than just topping a Caesar salad. Because they’re highly perishable, they get flash-frozen at the point of catch, which preserves the integrity of the fish.
Caught off the West Coast and mostly exported to Japan, black cod has been gaining greater popularity in local restaurants over the more expensive yet favoured Chilean seabass. Absolutely superlative dressed in miso.
One of my personal favourites and usually a bycatch of black cod. It tastes like tilapia with better flavor and texture.
Also known as buffalo cod, don’t be put off the greenish tinge of this fish’s flesh. Gorgeous and already well established in Hong Kong.
Moving forward then, look out for these items. They are occasionally available in the market. Or, be more proactive, possibly make a suggestion to your retailer or online provider for them to source and supply. They should be able to but will be constrained by what in the business is called ‘MOQ’ or minimum order quantity. So, the more of you that make the call, the more likely a better result.
Carpe diem all.
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