Fish

Fish

Cooks often divide fish into two categories, fatty (or oily or rich) and lean. These two categories can be split again, by whether their texture is firm or flaky.


Fatty, firm fish include tuna, eels, catfish, shark, and swordfish.

Fatty, flaky fish include salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines.

Lean, firm fish include grouper, lingcod, mahi-mahi, and striped bass.

Lean, flaky fish include cod, flatfish, and rockfish.


Shellfish aren't technically fish, but they're usually sold at the fish counter, so we've lumped them into this category.


See also: Smoked or dried fish.

abalone, awabi, ear shells, loco, muttonfish, muttonshells, paua, sea ears
abalone
Asian markets are a good place to find these. Prod them gently before buying to make sure they're alive. The smaller ones are better. Canned or dried abalones are acceptable substitutes for fresh in some dishes. Unopened canned abalone can be stored for up to a year in a dry, cool place. Once opened, it will keep for up to two days if you wrap it well and refrigerate it.
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American black caviar
If substituting an inferior caviar, consider perking it up with a splash of fresh lemon juice.
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anchovies
anchovies
It's best to get these salted rather than canned. Rinse the salt off before using. Unopened canned anchovies can be stored for up to a year in a dry, cool place. Once opened, they will keep for up to two days if you wrap them well and refrigerate them.
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arctic char, Arctic charr
arctic char
A trout relative, the arctic char is highly prized for its sweetness and tenderness. It's often roasted or smoked.
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ayu, aroma fish, ayu fish, sweetfish
ayu
Japanese fishermen tie knots around the necks of cormorants (black sea birds) and have them dive and catch these exquisite fish. They're very sweet and delicate.
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basa, basa catfish, bocourti, China sole, Mekong catfish, Pacific dory, panga
basa
The flesh is firm and white and milder than our catfish. This Vietnamese catfish relative has a mild flavor and firm texture.
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bay scallops, Chinese scallops
bay scallops
Shopping hints: These are easier to find in the East than in the West. Frozen scallops are a good substitute for fresh.
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beluga caviar
beluga caviar
In recent years, over-fishing in the Caspian Sea has greatly depleted sturgeon populations. Please consider using caviar and roe from more abundant species until the Caspian Sea sturgeon populations can recover. Beluga caviar is one of the best and priciest of the caviars. The eggs are large and bluish-grey, and slightly sweet. A pasteurized version is available in jars, but fresh caviar is much better. Malossol (lightly salted) beluga is the finest, and the most expensive. If substituting an inferior caviar, consider perking it up with a splash of fresh lemon juice. For substitutions for caviar in general, click here.
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blackfish, cunner, hogfish, tautog, tog
blackfish
This category includes hogfish and cunner, which are very similar to blackfish.
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blue crab, Atlantic blue crab, Chesapeake blue crab, soft-shell crab
blue crab
These are found on the Atlantic coast. They're small, but otherwise similar to Dungeness crabs. When they molt, they're called soft-shelled crabs, a wonderful delicacy that can be eaten shell and all
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bluefin tuna
bluefin tuna
This is the favorite for sushi. It is the most expensive.
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bonito dried, katsuobushi, katsuo-bushi
bonito dried
Bonito are related to mackerel, and the Japanese dry them and use them in soups. They're often shaved into thin flakes called bonito flakes or hanakatsuo.
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bonito flakes, katsuobushi, dried bonito flakes, hanakatsuo, hana-katsuo
bonito flakes
This includes kezuribushi = kezuri-bushi, a version with smaller flakes.
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bottarga, botarega, botargo, boutarque, salted mullet roe, Sardinian caviar
bottarga
This Mediterranean specialty is made from the salted and sun-dried roe of either tuna (bottarga di tonno) or mullet (bottarga di muggine). You usually buy it as a sausage and shave off thin slices for hors d'oeuvres or grate it over pasta, fish, or salads. It's expensive but very tasty.
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bowfin roe
This has small, very dark olive-green eggs with medium firmness. It's an inexpensive, environmentally responsible alternative to the luxury caviars from the Caspian Sea. Consider perking up the flavor with a splash of fresh lemon juice.
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buffalofish
The buffalo fish is a North American bottom feeding game fish. It is similar to a carp. They are long lived and can grow up to 80 lb. and 4'.
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butterfish, American butterfish, Atlantic butterfish, sablefish
butterfish
The name "butterfish" is sometimes also given to sablefish and to the delicious escolar, which you should read about before buying, since it's also called ex-lax fish.
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canal shrimp, kuruma ebi, shrimp, canal
canal shrimp
These are popular in Japan, where they're often served as tempura.
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capelin roe, masago
capelin roe
Japanese cooks use these tiny, fluorescent eggs as a topping for sushi.
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caviar, sturgeon roe, Malossol caviar, payusnaya caviar, pressed caviar
caviar
Over-fishing in the Caspian Sea has greatly depleted sturgeon populations. Please consider using roe from more abundant species until the Caspian Sea sturgeon populations can recover. Caviar is known for its subtle, buttery flavor, sensuous texture, and high price. It should always be served cold. Just as diamonds are rated according to the four Cs, caviar can be evaluated by the three Fs--flavor, firmness, and freshness. The flavor of caviar depends on the sturgeon's species and habitat, and is variously described as buttery, nutty, sweet, fruity, earthy, briny, and even herbaceous. The firmness of each egg determines how the eggs burst when you squeeze them against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Fresh caviar is considered much better than the pasteurized version. Varieties: (from highest to lowest price) imperial caviar, beluga caviar, ossetra caviar, and sevruga caviar. Imperial caviar is the rarest and most expensive. Beluga caviar is soft, and almost melts in your mouth. Ossetra and sevruga caviars are relatively firm, and will pop when gently squeezed. Within these categories, malossol, or lightly salted caviar, is of higher quality than pressed caviar = payusnaya. If substituting an inferior caviar, consider perking it up with a splash of fresh lemon juice. Equivalents: 2 tablespoons = 1 ounce Fresh caviar lasts just over a year if properly stored, though its shelf-life can be extended with heavy salting. Experts claim that some of the fresh caviar that's being sold at bargain prices over the Internet is well past its prime. The color and size of the eggs--called the bead--can help you (and your guests) identify the different varieties of caviar.
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clam
clam
See also pismo clam, soft-shell clam, razor clam, Manila clam, hard-shell clam, bar clam, and geoduck clam. Storage: Unopened canned clams can be stored for up to a year in a dry, cool place. Once opened, it will keep for up to two days if you wrap it well and refrigerate it.
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cod, codling, markets, streakers, cod cheeks, cod sounds, cod tongues, schrod
cod
This includes cod cheeks, which are good and inexpensive, cod tongues, cod sounds, which are the cod's air bladders, and scrod = schrod, which are young cod. See also salt cod.
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cod cheeks
cod cheeks
cod cheeks, which are good and inexpensive
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cod roe
cod roe
Scandinavian markets sell this in tubes, so that it can be extruded onto crackers and such for hors d'oeuvres. It's relatively inexpensive, but very salty.
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conch, lambi, lambie
conch
This is popular in Florida and the Caribbean. In other regions, your best bet is to look in Asian or Italian markets.
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coral, lobster coral, lobster roe
coral
This roe turns a lovely coral color when cooked.
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crab
crab
Eat fresh crab the day you buy it. Unopened canned crab can be stored for up to a year in a dry, cool place. Once opened, it will keep for up to two days if you wrap it well and refrigerate it.
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crayfish, crawdad, crawdaddies, crawfish, craydids, ecrevisse, écrevisse
crayfish
Crayfish are very popular in Louisiana, where restaurants serve them on large platters along with bowls of melted butter. Buy live ones if you can; if not, large supermarkets sometimes stock frozen whole crayfish or crayfish tails. Get the whole crayfish if possible--most of the flavor resides in the shells. Allow one to two pounds per person.
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