Monger mastery: Buy fish like a pro
Knowing your stuff at the fish counter is the difference between a tasty, omega-3 rich meal and chronic food poisoning. Here's how to buy fish like a pro.
By Robert Carry
There is something slightly disconcerting about buying fish. It might be something to do with the fact they are the only food produce in the supermarket that can give you that tragic, maudlin stare.
Anyway, the brand of food poisoning you can pick up from gone off fish is like a turbo-charged version of what you get from most other foodstuffs so you’re playing for high-stakes. Here is how to pick a winner.
Gaze into its eyes
Choosing a fish is a lot like choosing a woman. Gaze lovingly into its eyes and if what gazes back are as bright as a 19-year-old nursing student fresh off the Bus Eireann from County Cavan, then you’re onto a winner. On the other hand, if they are dulled and mottled like a liver-diseased, alcoholic cat lady, then it may be on the turn.
Check out the skin
Strangely, choosing a fish is also a lot like buying a second-hand car. The fish’s skin should have a clean, metallic sheen to it which indicates that it hasn’t been out of the water for too long. If it is dulled or has discoloured patches, then like that clapped-out, rusty Seat Ibiza you were duped into buying as a bushy-tailed, gullible 19-year-old, it’s probably a bad bet.
Give it a sniff
Buying a fish is also a lot like, erm, actually – it’s probably not best to go there. This might sound odd but fresh, uncooked fish are not supposed to smell in any way fishy. They should smell, for the most part, vaguely like the sea but without anything by way of a strong odour. As is always the way with such things, anything fishy should be avoided like the plague.
Give it a poke
There is literally nowhere left to go with these slightly disturbing analogies so we'll press on. The fish’s flesh should be firm to the touch and resilent enough to spring back into place if you poke your finger into it. If the fish monger lets you, give it a quick jab of your finger. If he doesn’t, wait until he’s not looking and give it a quick jab of your finger. If the indent stays, then his fish are for the bin.
Check for liquid
The flesh of the fish shouldn’t be leaking much by way of identifiable liquid – and especially not anything milky. If there is anything by way of milky fluid on the surface of the fish then flip out, stamp your feet, maybe fling a handful of ice chippings in the direction of the fish monger and storm out.
Because fish fillets come minus eyes and, quite often, skin, so the liquid check, along with the sniff and poke tests are particularly key.