Fish-y Q & A
You think Filipinos know everything about a fish? Considering that we live in an archipelago, the Pinoy does have enough knowledge about our fish-y friends to merit attention. However, there are still a lot of info that the ordinary Pinoy — as opposed to fisherman needs to know about his most abundant source of protein.
Here are some frequently asked questions about fish…
How much fish should one buy?
It is best to allot about 1/3 to ½ pound of cooked fish per person. The reason for this is because there would surely be other edible dishes on the table come mealtime. Filipinos love to eat almost all parts of the fish — even the bones if fried crunchy enough. As such, dont even bother worrying that there wont be enough fish for all family members on the dining table.
How does one judge if a fish is fresh?
There are many ways of judging if a fish is fresh — although not all are foolproof. The fish’s eyes should be bright, clear; the flesh firm, and should not retain the impression of fingers when handled; the scales should be of high sheen. Also, fresh fish has no odor. If you detect an odor of any sort — other than natural fishy smell — chances are the fish is not fresh.
How long should one keep fish?
There’s a saying that “fish and guests smell after two days.” Fish is very perishable foodstuff, as such it shouldn’t be kept longer than necessary. The reason for this is practical enough as the flavor of the fish immediately deteriorates once caught.
How does one defrost frozen fish?
Some fish products can be bought frozen in most supermarkets. The key to defrosting fish is to defrost it slowly by placing it first in the refrigerator! If you don’t have the luxury time, place the fish in running water to defrost it faster. Do the same with frozen fish steaks and slices.
How long should fish be cooked?
Fish is cooked to develop or further enhance its natural flavor, and not to make it tender (as in meat). As such, it takes minimal time to cook fish. One way of bringing out the natural flavor of fish is to cook it in butter.
What sauces should accompany fish?
In the Philippines fish dips may actually be made of fish sauce! As such, fish is dipped in fish. However, there are other sauces that go well with fish. Considering that fish meat is usually lean — probably because of too much swimming — it can actually be accompanied by fancy sauces like hollandaise, béarnaise, mousseline, or even a curry-based sauce. Nonetheless, a dip made of butter, parsley and lemon would do nicely as well.
Can one actually fry fish and not make the kitchen smell fishy?
Probably, if one has a state-of-the-art exhaust system. However, one way of minimizing fishy smells would be to fry fish by not allowing the fish fat to reach the smoking point. Pan-frying fish, as quickly as possible may also do the trick.
What is seviche or ceviche?
This is a curious Peruvian dish similar to our kinilaw. However, unlike our homegrown creation, the fish slices in the ceviche is cooked by the reaction of lime juice, onions; and green and red bell peppers. It is then allowed to stand overnight. In comparison, our kinilaw uses vinegar (the stonger the better) to cook the fish meat. Recently though, some Filipinos seamen have introduced the method oof cooking vinegar to some Peruvian colleagues. Time will tell if the Peruvian ceviche will evolve into the Pinoy kinilaw.
Are frog meat and turtle meat considered fish meat?
Oddly enough, somewhat. Since frogs and turtles are amphibians, they are not considered “meat” per se. As such, and this enlightening in a Roman Catholic country like ours, they are allowed to be eaten by the Church during Holy Week and fast days. In Mexico for instance, hundreds of thousands of turtles are slaughtered every Lenten Season for their meat. The same could probably be said of the hundreds of thousands of frogs that are stuffed and deep-fried in our country during Lent.