Have you wonder, how to ensure the fish that we cook is fresh as from the sea catch?
First, let’s go to the market to catch some fish! Fishmonger always ensure the fishes are in chilled condition, why is that so? 1. To avoid the fish getting spoil 2. When the caught fish is kept long hours in room temperature, they will start to produce histamine which can cause allergic reaction to place after consuming it from 15min – 2 hours. Basically, according to WHO we have 2 types of poisoning name as scombroid (where no proper handling cause the release of histamine) and ciguatera (where larger and older fish that eat contaminated fish during their life spans). Remember, that fish poisoning/ spoiled fish cannot be prevented or treated by cooking or freezing the fish.
There are few places that you can make a purchase. Example wet market, morning market, night market, supermarket, latest is door delivery. The location of purchasing is not really a question, but buying a fresh fish from them is the question. So, how we ensure the fish is fresh? Before choosing a fresh fish. Cleanliness of the stall is the utmost important, because if the fish is fresh, place they sell is dirty, will the fish be free from contamination?
Selecting the fish
There are few ways to identify whether the fish fresh or good to buy. So, let see how to choose fish.
Look in the eye – Yes, if the fish eye is clear that is black & white, the fish still good. But, if the fish has a cloudy or reddish eye, better to avoid.
Gill – to ensure the freshness, open the gill and observe the colour. Normally, it will show you dark red or blacken red. Dark red is fresh, blacken red will be otherwise. These 2 indications are common.
Feel the fish – Why? Most of us do not do these, but is necessary to check the temperature of the fish. Temperature is key to preserving the fish freshness. If the fish is kept at chilled condition that is 0°C – 4°C, fish are in good condition. But, if they are kept in room temperature, fish will start to produce histamine which causes allergic reaction in people example body itchiness, swollen mouth, red eyes and etc. Basically, we have 2 types of poisoning, scombroid poisoning is cause by no proper handling of the fish causes the release of histamine. Where else, ciguatera poisoning is cause by larger and older fish that eats contaminated fish during their life span.
Make note that food poisoning or spoiled fish cannot be prevented nor treated by cooking or freezing the fish.
Press the flesh – when you give certain pressure to the fish flesh, the flesh should hold its position (this fish has a firm flesh take is fresh), if it takes time to go back to the original position (fish has been kept long)
Intact gut – Gut is where all the internal organ are. If the organs are outside of the fish which can be seen by the consumer, its definitely a spoiled fish. Fresh fish must have intact gut.
When im going to market to buy fresh produce, I will do the purchasing of fruits and vegetables first and the last stop will be seafood and poultry section. These is to reduce the room temperature holding time, which will initiate the spoiling. So, to avoid this process occur. We can carry a insulated bag which is in cold condition for seafood and poultry or shorten the room temperature exposure time.
Fish reached to the house now. What we do next? Do we dump in the freezer straight away? You want to store the fish for 2 weeks? My advice clean the fish. Washing, scalding, remove the gut and marinate will ensure the fish stays longer.
How to clean a fish?
Cleaning the fish has 2 steps. First, scald the fish.
You will need a fish scaler, new paper, and chopping board.
- Lay the news paper or garbage plastic to cover your table top for catching the scales.
- Place the chopping board on top . Hold the fish.
- Using the scaler, run through the fish body. Using back and forward motion (right & left). After all the scales are removed.
- Repeat the same action for the other side.
- When you have done, wash the fish thoroughly.
Second, clean the fish gut.
You will need cutting board and knife.
- Lay the fish down on the board.
- Insert the tip of the knife into the belly near anal opening.
- Make a slit along the belly towards the head. The cut should be shallow using knife tip only. Ensure the knife does not pierce the innards.
- Open the belly and remove all innards out.
- Rinse the cavity under running water.
You may skip these step if you have other plans for the fish. Simple marination will ensure the fish is flavorful. Salt and turmeric or any other herbs / spice you desire. After marination, if not for tonight cooking, you may freeze you fish.
So, there you go. Choosing the right stall, and fish, cleaning the fish and last marinating and storing for your next meal.