Tips from the Slow Fish Personal Shoppers

10 May 2013

Know how to spot if you’re buying a less-than-fresh fish? Think fish is a dish just for white wine? At the Slow Fish happening this weekend, the “personal shoppers” – up-to-date student volunteers from the University of Gastronomic Sciences – are taking visitors around on guided tours through the fish market, shedding light on some of the often-mystifying world of fish. Here are some of their suggestions, brought to you direct from Genoa.

1. Look beyond the usual suspects
“Humble but delicious”. In the global market, we rely on a handful of the best-known species (cod, tuna, salmon and the like), putting pressure on these fragile stocks. But there is a sea full of lesser-known and equally delicious species to discover. Of course, every country will differ in what is sustainable so we need to do our research and look at the resources available from local organizations (e.g. Greenpeace, WWF, Oceanwise, etc.), and get to know what’s available in our region. “We may automatically ask for one species because we know it, but there are a lot of fish with the same qualities,” says personal shopper Yorick Bruins, from Holland. “By diversifying we take the demand off one or two species. The more fish you know the more different ones you can eat.”

2. How to spot if it’s fresh
A few simple observations should give you a good indication of the freshness of the fish.
– the fish should smell like the sea, and never strong smelling or “fishy”
– there should be a slimy layer on top of the skin
– the tongue should be bright and gills should be bright red
– the eyes should be very bright, as an a living fish’s would be, never cloudy
– if you hold the fish vertically, it should stay firm and level and not bend. A bendy fish has most likely been frozen and defrosted

3. Size does matter
Each fish species will have a minimum length that indicates that it is adult age and therefore has had the chance to reproduce. Fish caught below this length are adolescents that haven’t been given the chance to reproduce.

4. How is it fished? Time to read up
Even if fish stocks aren’t threatened, the way fish are caught can be damaging to the environment or other species. Personal shoppers took visitors around the Presidia market to hear from fishers who still use traditional methods that have a low impact. Unfortunately labeling isn’t comprehensive so the best way to make sure the fish you’re buying is caught with sustainable techniques is to get informed – how is the particular fish caught in your country? Also trying to shorten the chain between the fish and the plate – getting to know your fishmonger, buying directly from fishers where possible – will help to shed more light on the situation.

5. Buying whole fish?
Try to clean it as soon as you get it home. As soon as 4 to 5 hours after catching, the fish’s intestinal contents will begin to change the flavor of the flesh. Click here for more tips on how to use all parts of the fish.

6. Raw fish: Be adventurous!
Often we think of raw fish as a part of Japanese cuisine alone. But in fact it features in cuisines from around the world – from Norway to South America, form Korea with its raw fish salads to raw octopus in southern Italy. There is a whole world of dishes and recipes for the home cook to discover!

7. But be careful with food safety
Raw fish needs to be taken to a very low temperature to avoid anisakis – a parasite in fish and seafood that harmful to humans. At home, this means buying very fresh fish, cleaning it immediately and then putting it directly in the freezer for 24 hours before preparing it.

8. Fish only with wine? Think again
Normally we think about white wine with fish. But fish dishes can pair splendidly with the right beer. A good way to start choosing a good fit is to go by the method of cooking fish. For poached or baked fish, pair with a low fermentation beer such as a lager or pilsner, while with a grilled fish that will have stronger flavors, pair with a fuller bodied and well-structured beer that can handle it, such as an ale. Sarde in saor, for example, a sweet and sour fish dish from Veneto, pairs well with a bitter beer, like a pale ale or bitter stout, giving a great flavor contrast.

The Personal Shoppers are volunteer students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG). The four tours – dedicated to the fish market, fishing techniques, raw fish and beer and fish – run every day of the event.

Find out more about the UNISG!

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