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Buying Canned Fish
Several varieties of fish can be purchased in canned form. Among the popular species are anchovies, cod, haddock, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. An American favorite is tuna.
Tuna is packed in various sizes and forms. It may come as a solid pack, in chunks, grated, or flaked. You may also select tuna packed in vegetable oil or water.
When buying canned fish always check the label to be certain no noxious chemicals have been added.
Buying Fresh Fish
The form of fish is only one consideration in purchasing fresh fish.
When buying a whole, drawn, or dressed fish look for a fresh, mild odor and firm springy flesh. You can check the firmness of the flesh by pressing your finger on it. The flesh should not separate from the bone. Also, the skin should be iridescent and smooth. Another tip in buying a whole fish is to examine its eyes. They should be bright, clear and bulging. The gills should be intact, red, and free from residue. All fresh fish should be displayed and packaged on ice.
When purchasing fresh fillets, steaks, or portions, the first thing to check is odor. It should be fresh and mild. Also, check the flesh. It should be freshly cut without traces of browning or drying around the edges.
Buying Frozen Fish
Freezing presents special problems to the astute fish buyer. Freezing masks the signs of freshness, making it difficult to tell the age of the fish under consideration. There are many signs that indicate good quality however. First, the flesh should be solidly frozen, and there should be no signs of discoloration. Be sure to look for freezer burn, which is indicated by a white dry appearance around the edges of the flesh, or by ice crystals. Freezer burn indicates that moisture has been lost, possibly as a result of thawing or refreezing. In addition, the fish should be wrapped in moisture-proof material with little or no air-space between the fish and wrapping.
There should be no odor. Once a fish is frozen do not refreeze.
Adam Starchild has combined business travel with discovering the delights of native dishes from Hawaii and Hong Kong to Russia and the Caribbean. He is the author of The Seafood Heritage Cookbook (Cornell Maritime Press), co-author of another seafood cookbook, and the author of a number of food and cooking articles.
Submitted By BARRY WEINSTEIN On 08-30-95