Buying Fish For The First Time? 7 Essential Tips To Keep In Mind
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Buying fish can be fun but also daunting if you’re doing this for the first time. While there are many options today and you can order pre-cut and pre-cleaned fish, if you are headed to the market, knowing how to check the quality of fish will ensure you don’t get duped or end up making the wrong choices. To begin, do some research on the recipe you choose and what kind of fish best suits it. 

For instance, the differences between sea fish (marine fish) and river fish (freshwater fish) are significant. This includes taste, nutritional content, and culinary uses, among other things. Understanding these distinctions can help in making informed choices about which type of fish to purchase and how to prepare them. Generally, sea fish have a stronger, more pronounced flavour as compared to freshwater fish and the texture is firmer. River fish or freshwater fish usually have a milder, more delicate flavour. The texture of freshwater fish is often softer and more delicate.

The culinary uses of these fish can also vary. For example, sea fish are highly versatile and are used in a wide variety of culinary applications, including grilling, baking, frying, and making sushi Freshwater fish are commonly used in traditional and regional recipes such as Bengali fish curry (hilsa) and southern-style fried catfish, among others.

We’ve made a list of tips that will help you confidently shop for fresh, high-quality fish and enjoy the vibrant flavours and health benefits that fresh fish brings to your dining table. 

Opt For A Trustworthy Source

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To ensure you get the finest seafood, make a trip to your nearby fish market during the early hours of the day. Seek out markets that offer a wide variety of fish and are recognised for their exceptional quality and trustworthy vendors.

Seafood Specialty Stores: If you're looking for a wide range of fresh and frozen fish, both speciality stores and supermarkets are great options. You'll find a variety of choices to suit your preferences. Additionally, the staff at these establishments are usually well-informed and can help you choose the perfect fish for your specific requirements.

Online Fish Delivery Services: With the rise of e-commerce, many online platforms now offer fresh fish delivery services. Check reviews and ratings to ensure the reliability and quality of the vendor before making a purchase.

Freshness Indicators

Appearance: Freshness indicators for fish can be easily identified through their appearance. Look for fish that have clear, bright eyes, shiny scales, and firm, elastic flesh. Conversely, avoid fish with dull, sunken eyes or discoloured flesh, as these are clear indications that the fish is no longer fresh. 

Texture: The texture of fresh fish should be moist and a little slippery. Give the flesh a gentle press with your finger; it should bounce back when you let go. 

Smell: Fresh fish should have a gentle, salty smell that reminds you of the ocean. Stay away from fish that have a strong, fishy odour, as it could mean it's gone bad.

Know Your Fish

Learn about the diverse selection of fish in India, from local favourites like pomfret, mackerel, sardines, and seer fish to popular imported varieties such as salmon, tuna, and tilapia. Every type of fish offers a unique taste, texture, and cooking quality, allowing you to select the perfect one based on your personal preferences and the needs of your recipe.

Ask Questions 

Feel free to inquire with the fishmonger or vendor regarding the fish's origin, how it was caught or farmed, and when it arrived at the market. This knowledge will assist you in making a well-informed choice before making a purchase.

Consider Seasonality 

It's important to keep in mind that certain fish species are only available during specific seasons. You might find that some types of fish are more plentiful and affordable at certain times of the year, while others may be harder to come by or more expensive. Choosing seasonal fish is a great way to ensure that you're getting the freshest and highest-quality options, as they are harvested when they are at their peak abundance.

Inspect Packaging And Handling

Before purchasing packaged or frozen fish, inspect the packaging for any damage or signs of tampering. Confirm that the fish is securely sealed and frozen solid, with no visible ice crystals or freezer burn. Check the expiration date and storage instructions on the packaging to ensure the fish is safe for consumption and has been handled correctly throughout the supply chain.

Support Sustainable Fishing Practices

When choosing fish, prioritise those that have been harvested or farmed using sustainable and environmentally responsible methods. Keep an eye out for eco-certifications and labels that confirm the fish was sourced sustainably. It's important to steer clear of purchasing fish species that are overfished or in danger of depletion. Instead, opt for alternatives that are plentiful and well-managed. Certifications, such as Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification, indicate that the fish was sourced responsibly.

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Once you have bought the fish, store it correctly to maintain its freshness and prevent it from spoiling after purchase. Refrigerate the fresh fish at temperatures below 4°C (40°F) and consume it within 1-2 days for optimal taste. If you decide to freeze the fish for later, tightly wrap it in plastic wrap or aluminium foil and store it in an airtight container.

Whether you're grilling, frying, baking, or steaming, let the natural flavours of the fish shine in your cooking. From the Kerala fish curry, the Bengali fish fry, and the Goan fish curry experiment with the diverse culinary traditions of India by sampling a range of local fish varieties and traditional dishes.