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World Supper Adventure

Inviting myself to dinner, around the world, to bring recipes and tales of great hospitality home to you.

I’m so glad you’ve decided to do some shopping at the fish market!  Now, whether you know exactly what you want, or you’d rather shop around, you’re going to want to make sure what you’re buying is fresh.  Although, yes, you’ll find your freshest options here,  but of course there are exceptions.  Be on your toes, here’s what to look for when you want to eat…

Actually, before I start with the tips, I’m going to give you a list of fish not to buy.  Not until I say it’s okay, anyway.  Not because they aren’t delicious or nutritious, they’re both of those thing.  Because they’re being over-fished and need some time to rest and re-populate.

  • Bluefin Tuna (albacore troll- or poll-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia is fine)
  • Chilean Sea Bass
  • Grouper
  • Monkfish
  • Orange Roughy
  • Farmed Salmon (wild-caught Alaskan is fine)
  • Hammour

Ok, here you go:

Whole Fish

  • Bright & clear eyes:

    Clear Eyes

    This is the first sign of a truly fresh fish.  The eyes start fading into murkiness when they’ve been sitting around.  They could still be safe to eat, but you could do better.

  • Shiny Skin:

    Shiny Skin

    Does the skin glisten with clean, metallic beauty?  Be ware of dull skin with discolored patches.

  • Fresh Smell:

    See, no stink lines.

    A fresh fish should smell like clean water.  A bit briny if it came from the ocean, or even (bear with me here) a bit like cucumbers. Never buy a fish that smells gross, cooking it won’t improve anything no matter how you season it.

  • Red Gills:

    Red Gills

    They should be bright, rich red. An old fish’s gills will fade and resemble a dull brickish color.

Fish Fillets

  • Bright Flesh: All fish fade as they age. If the fillet still has skin, that skin should look as pristine as the skin on an equally good whole fish – shiny and metallic.
  • Fresh Smell: Same as with a whole fish…nothing stinky, you get it.
  • Clear Liquid: If the fillet is sitting in liquid, it should be clear. Milky liquid on a fillet is the first stage of rot.
  • Springy: Press the meet with your finger if you’re allowed. Your indentation should spring back,  if your fingerprint lingers, keep looking.


Make sure they’re alive:

Not just alive, but alive and kickin’.  Is your crab or lobster scampering around like a school child, or skulking in the corner like a creep?  Shellfish are sold alive, so they should react to you.  Oysters are a little tough to tell, but your clam or mussel should react to you.  They should have a tight shell to begin with, but put them on the countertop and back away for a moment. Then tap the shell: It should close tighter than it was. You can also tell a dead shellfish after you’ve cooked them all. Dead ones do not open after being cooked. Do not eat them.


Scallops are special, you’ll almost always find them shucked already.  If they’re bathing in milky yuckiness, don’t buy them.


If you’re lucky enough to be near a good shrimping area or have access to truly fresh shrimp, go ahead and buy them. Head on if possible, they’ll stay more moist that way.

If you’re not near good fresh shrimp, buy them whole and frozen. Whole means the shell protected them while being frozen and they didn’t lose as much moisture.  If they’re frozen they haven’t had a chance to start rotting…shrimp rot quickly.

Rules for Crawfish are the same as shrimp if frozen.  Same as  lobsters and crabs if fresh.

Squid or Octopus

Again, if you can buy squid and octopus fresh, do it! They are rare to find, even at great markets, so take advantage. Like finned fish, look at their eyes first, which should be clean and bright.

Now you’re good, no one will call you a fool at the fish market, go get ’em!  And if you happen to have chosen skate at your market then you’re in luck!  But you’ll have to wait.  To be continued…

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