What to look for when buying fishby Scott Bird
One of them, however, was a tiny fish 'n' chip shop.
Since we first ventured over there to check it out, we've been regular customers. Why? They clearly know how to buy fish. It's always excellent.
If you're not lucky enough to have a place like this nearby, you can still reap the rewards of great seafood by keeping your eyes open. Whether you shop at a fishmonger or a supermarket, there are a few things that will help ensure you end up with a beautiful meal.
Unpackaged fish, as at a fishmonger or supermarket fish counter
No 'fishy smell'
All fish have a smell, but it only becomes 'fishy' once the fish is in decline. When it's fresh, it won't have a strong odour at all. If it has that 'fishy' smell, don't buy it.
NB : If you're buying fish from a market, don't be alarmed if the market itself has a fishy smell (many do - especially if they're filleting fish on the premises). As long as the fish itself doesn't smell bad, you'll be fine.
If you're buying whole fish, the eyes should be bright and proud; not sunken and dull. If the eyes are no good, move along.
NB : Several species of deep-water fish (such as grouper) have slightly cloudier eyes. If you're in any doubt, try a different type of fish.
Bright red gills
The area just inside the gills should be nice and red; gradually this turns a dull brown (once the fish has been landed, that is). If it's started to dull, put the fish back. Look elsewhere.
The flesh should be reasonably firm, shiny and springy. If it feels soft and waterlogged, it's no good.
Whilst the above indicators will give you an idea of how fresh the fish is (how quickly it's moved from the water to your table); it's also good to have an idea of how the fish has been handled. The most obvious sign of rough handling is bruising. If the fish has been bruised, don't buy it.
Packaged fish, as in smaller supermarkets
This date goes by different names around the world, but simply refers to the last date the supermarket expects you to eat the fish. The following day, it'd end up in the trash.
Many supermarkets use a preservative gas around the fish; simply to keep it looking as good as possible until this date has arrived. This is usually for four days or so.
Whenever possible, buy the fish as many days prior to the 'best-before' date as possible. If you happen to notice the delivery truck one day, try to buy your fish at about the same time each week. Especially if you see the shelves restocked just as you get there.
Getting it home
Having gone to the trouble of finding a great piece of fish, it'd be a shame to damage it on the trip home. If it's a hot day, the backseat of a car isn't the best place to be. Think cool and dark, and you'll be fine.
That's really all there is to it. Now the fun part - cooking it. I'll go through some of my favourite recipes in a future article; for now though, just experiment. It's beautiful food.