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Fish etc in China


liuzhou
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I love fresh sardines; have done since I was a kid. One of my warmest and earliest memories is being on a quayside in southern France, near the Mediterranean border with Spain, eating freshly grilled sardines straight off the boat. I must have been about four years old.

 

Here in China, I’ve never seen a fresh sardine, which isn’t really surprising. They aren’t found in Chinese waters. At least, not what I call sardines.

I mentioned this to a Chinese friend years ago and she told me “Of course, we have sardines”. I clarified that she wasn’t talking about canned sardines, another topic which I will get back to later. “Every supermarket has them!”, she declared.

 

So, I got her to show me. At the fish counter she pointed to some small skinny fish and triumphantly pointed to the sign reading 沙丁鱼 (shā dīng yú). This is a loanword from English with the first two characters being pronounced vaguely like ‘sardine’ and the third meaning ‘fish’. Chinese doesn’t really have its own name for sardines. (Some joker will point me to the word or (wēn), but that’s a made up name, too and rarely used. It isn’t even in most dictionaries.)

 

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Not sardines, but Japanese Sardinella. The gap in the circular display is where the samples I bought were placed before I messed up the hard work.

 

Anyway! They look and taste nothing like the sardines I was used to, the European sardine, Sardina pilchardus. I did a bit of research and found out what these really are, Sardinella zunasi, sometimes known as Japanese sardinella. They are not particularly Japanese though, but are common all around the eastern coast of China, too. The two species are distantly related. That’s all.

 

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The Missing Sardinella

 

These are straight bodied and about 15 cm / 6 inches long and about 2 cm / ¾ of an inch at their widest.

 

1424769443_sardines2.thumb.jpg.903cfba412875ba017083efe7cf5b547.jpg
 

They are most often gutted and quick fried, perhaps in breading / batter but more often just dipped in seasoned flour or starch, and even more often as they come. They don’t have the typical oily flavour I associate with European sardines.

 

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Japanese Sardinella coated in seasoned potato starch and deep-fried. Served with shichimi togarashi, sea salt and mini lemons.

 

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Japanese Sardinella coated in seasoned potato starch and deep-fried. Served with shichimi togarashi, sea salt and mini lemons.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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These babies are 秋刀鱼 (S*) / 秋刀魚 (T*) (qiū dāo yú, literally ‘autumn sword fish’) - Cololabis sairaPacific Saury.

 

Also known as mackerel pike despite being related to neither, this is a species native to the North Pacific stretching from Alaska down to the Mexican coast and over to Japan, Korea and China. The 25 – 28 cm / 10 – 11 inch long fish are scaleless yet considered kosher. The skin is impossible to remove and when filleting these there is no need to remove the pin bones as they soften completely when cooked. The fish are very popular in Japan where they are known as さんま or サンマ (san ma) and usually grilled kabayaki style along with unagi eel, and in Korea where they are 꽁치 (kkongchi) and are simmered or salt-grilled. In Russia’s eastern areas, the species is often smoked and / or canned. Having started in 2002, China’s catch is increasing enormously year on year.

 

It is not advised to make stocks from this fish as its head can introduce bitterness. For the same reason, it is also suggested that one doesn’t eat the intestines, but as few westerners would do so anyway, that info may be superfluous.

 

The interwebs are full of recipes from many different cultures and in many languages. Search under the alternative names, too. I’ve eaten it often, but never cooked it, so no partiular recommendations.

 

Having been raised in Atlantic waters (not literally; more the North Sea), this was never a fish I encountered until I moved to Asia. Is it common where you are? If so, how do you deal with it?

 

* (S) means Simplified Chinese as used on the Chinese mainland and (T) means Traditional Chinese as used mainly in Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and an ever-shrinking proportion of the Chinese diaspora.

 

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1495178675_IlishaelongataChineseherringorslendershad.thumb.jpg.79fe4d8eba18545646a71f912c3ca5eb.jpg

 

This was a bitter disappointment, but it wasn’t the fish’s fault. I had read somewhere that this is a kind of herring but although 曹白鱼 (cáo bái yú), Ilisha elongata is called the Chinese Herring, it is only distantly related to the true herrings. So my plans to make kippers fell apart and dreams of Liuzhou becoming the kipper centre of Asia went out the window.

 

This species lives mainly in the Indian Oceans and East China Sea and is extensively commercially fished, the vast majority being landed in China. It is regarded as of least concern in sustainability terms. They can grow up to 45 to 60 cm / 18 to 24 inches, but are normally marketed at around 25 to 30 cm / 10 to 12 inches. Despite being unkipperable, it is a fine tasty fish to eat, but somewhat bony, as are the true herrings. But we are not here to cater to cartilogenophobiacs!

 

The fish are usually fried – shallow or deep.

 

In Guangdong province (home of Cantonese food), it is often salt-dried as a type of  广东咸鱼 (guǎng dōng xián yú) - Guangdong salted fish, but is considered to be highly carcinogenic in that form.

 

This species should not be confused with tenualosa toli, the unsustainable and now vulnerable, “toli shad”, also sometimes referred to as Chinese herring. It comes from SE Asia and isn’t a herring, either!

Also, in the Wikipedia article titled “Ilisha elongata”, it is described as, and illustrated by, a totally different species – a leatherjack. Hmmm.

 

Dammit! I may try kippering one anyway!

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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turbot.thumb.jpg.0dc5f8d8ddda09d47629a4e989f3b313.jpg

Turbot

 

Next up is one of my favourite fishes, 多宝鱼 (duō bǎo yú, literally ‘many treasures fish’, but also chosen for its perceived phonetic similarity to the English), Scophthalmus maximusTurbot.

 

I was surprised, but delighted, to find it in China. Surprised because it is native to the north-east Atlantic with a presence in the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas, but it seems it is extensively farmed in China (probably with some escapees) as well as in many other countries around the world. Delighted because it is so delicious.

This left-eyed flatfish can grow to up to one metre / 40 inches long and 25 kilograms / 55 pounds) in weight, although those I get here tend to be around ⅓ of that which, as I live alone, suits me just fine. If I have guests, I can always do two or three.

 

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Turbot Fillets

 

Sometimes, after cleaning it, I reduce it to four fillets (it is easy to do) and simply pan fry it, but other times I give it a more typical Chinese treatment, steaming it with soy sauce and chillies as they do in at banquets in Hunan.

 

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Steamed Turbot with Soy Sauce and Chillies as served in a restaurant in Huaihua City, Hunan

 

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Beltfish.thumb.jpg.f5dd2b5d5a6fabde5965484990fb9d11.jpg

 

Chances are everyone will know 带鱼 (dài yú), Trichiurus lepturus, Belt Fish, although the names you use may differ. I’m going with ‘belt fish’ as it’s the one I know best and it is a direct translation of the Chinese name. It is also known as ‘largehead hairtail’, ‘ribbon fish’ ‘atlantic cutlassfish’ or ‘pacific cutlassfish’, among other names.

 

These long, thin fish grow up to 2.34 metres / 7 ft 8 inches, although most are around 500 cm – 1 metre / 1 ft 8 in – 3 ft 3 in. I understand those caught in Australian waters may be longer. Those in the image above were just under 60 cm / two feet.

 

Distinctly blue tinged when alive, the colour quickly fades post mortem to become a silvery grey. They are native to many seas around the world, although there is argument about whether they are all precisely the same species. They all taste the same, and that’s all that matters here. Their value as food means that they are one of the world’s top ten most commercially landed species.

 

Most supermarkets sell these whole as well as cut into approximately 10 cm / 4 in pieces. These segments are also often sold after being flash frozen at sea.

 

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Segmented Belt FIsh

The popular, sweet tasting fish is easy to de-bone and can be fried or braised and is often prepared in 红烧 (hóng shāo) style, a term that is often translated as ‘red-cooked’ and is simply braising in soy sauce.

 

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Breaded Belt Fish fried and served with home made tartar sauce.

 

There is also a mysterious red-fleshed version, no mention of which I can find anywhere. But I have a photo!

 

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Red Belt Fish?

May be a dfferent species.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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1274720373_.jpg.87b61348d7ce8def4eeb8e1f81703420.jpg

 

This is a common variety here, despite being native to the west Atlantic. 白龙鱼, Sciaenops ocellatus, Red Drum, aka 'redfish' or 'spotted tail bass' is farmed around China’s eastern and southern coastlines.

 

The fish (which is not red)) is recognisable by its black spots; there is always at least one, most often two but occasionally up to three per side. The one pictured was 33 cm /13 inches long and weighed 111 grams / 4 oz.

 

It is a difficult fish to scale and clean. Those large scales can go flying all over the place if you are not careful. I usually fill a large sink with water and descale the fish underwater. It still takes a lot of effort though. The gills and belly contents are equally resistant to removal and cleaning them involves the use of a pair of pliers. Filleting them requires care too, as the flesh is rather delicate.

 

Here they are nearly always steamed whole with aromatics, but I have also fried the fillets after flouring them lightly. They can also be poached and I have used them occasionally for fish and chips.

 

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Steamed Red Drum

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cod.thumb.jpg.759dacfe92220a0efeb6cb6a4d374d93.jpg

Cod steaks

 

Talking of fish and chips, my preferred fish for the dish, 鳕鱼 (xuě yú), Gadus macrocephalus, Cod was easily available until about a year ago, when it simultaneously disappeared from every supermarket. I don’t know why.

 

I can still buy it online at silly prices and the descriptions are all hopelessly confused. Arctic cod (which isn’t really cod) from New Zealand⁈ Antarctic cod from the USA, frozen in France⁈ Cod know what it is!

 

Also, several ads for the product advise that “Nucleic acid has been detected”. I’d be worried if it wasn’t; nucleic acid is present in all living organisms on earth. It’s in us and all our food - meat, grains and vegetables!

 

Even when I could get real cod, I had a problem. There would be a huge hunk of whole fish (well, half a fish) parked on the fishmonger’s slab and I would indicate how much I wanted. It was always cut across the spine (as pictured above), never filleted laterally as I would, given the choice.

 

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This is how I fillet fish – laterally. Here in China only freshwater fish seem to be butchered this way. This isn’t cod, but here for illustrative purposes only; it is actually 巴沙鱼 (bā shā yú), Pangasius bocourti, Basa Fish (to which I will return).

 

I have also found so-called ‘Black Cod’ on rare occasions. It isn’t cod, either. Actually, it is 银鳕 (yín xuě), Anoplopoma fimbria, sablefish. Interestingly, the Chinese literally means ‘silver fish’. No mention of black.

 

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'Black cod' with ponzu.

 

Dried and salted cod are both available as is imported* cod liver oil as a food supplement for babies. It is high in vitamin D, which is effective in reducing the incidence of rickets. I remember it well from when it was dispensed free of charge to all children in the UK – none of whom liked it. The 1960’s revolution wasn’t only fuelled by marijuana; cod liver oil played a part too!

 

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Dried  Cod

 

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Cod and Chips

 

* from Australia

 

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mackerel.thumb.jpg.a1eb9c7a260e87ed9f9216d7285bb88f.jpg

 

Another favourite that is usually mistreated by the filleters is 鲭鱼 (qīng yú), Scomberomorus sinensis(?), (Chinese?) Mackerel. I am questioning the precise name as there are so many possibilities, mackerel not being a single species but a large number of vaguely related fish sharing certain characteristics.

 

Being relatively near the sea, I get this one locally caught and landed at Beihai on the Tonkin Gulf, near the border with Vietnam. It is sold both fresh and flash frozen at sea. Some is dried.1

 

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Salted, dried mackerel

 

Mackerel is notorious for the rapidity of its spoiling after being caught and unless refrigerated or frozen correctly, should only be eaten on the day it’s landed. It’s still not a particularly popular fish in China, but can be found. I always buy it when I see it. But I’m guessing the lack of popularity could be linked to its reputation for rapid decay. Even Norway with a population of around 5 million eats more mackerel than China’s 1.4 billion.

This doesn’t mean mackerel isn’t caught though. Chinese, Japanese and Spanish mackerel are all landed and frozen for export. It is also canned and sold like sardines, usually in a tomato sauce.

 

1546273012_mackerelsteak.thumb.jpg.0acc5f33ee052e3fc563777ed1b9de8d.jpgMackerel Steak

 

When sold frozen, it is usually in the form of steaks, again cut cross-sectionally rather than laterally. I always try to get the whole fish and do the job myself.

 

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That's better!

 

Being a naturally oily fish, it is nearly always shallow fried. I have used it happily in a version of kedgeree and even made ‘mack and chips’! I’ve ‘breaded’ fillets with oatmeal and fried it to be served with a salad.

 

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Mackerel and chips

 

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Mackerel Kedgeree

 

I’ve never tried it, but I can’t see it working well being steamed, China’s favourite way of dealing with fish.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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salmon2.thumb.jpg.c9b0fac1c6b383ed8d2a3fadd227b8ad.jpg

Norwegian salmon bought in Liuzhou

 

Talking of Norway, I must mention this fish, semi-officially called 鲑鱼 (guī yú), but more often referred to as 三文鱼 (sān wén yú), a phonetic near rendering of the English name, Salmon. Now I hasten to note that here I am talking about Atlantic Salmon, Salmo salar. Pacific salmon don’t show up here, although recently some attempts to import Alaskan salmon have been trialled.

 

Most salmon here comes from Norway and is farmed. Supplies were severely restricted in 2020 due to the pandemic and it didn’t help when traces of the virus were found on a salmon chopping board in a Beijing wholesale fish market, but sales are now recovering rapidly, with this years importation level surpassing previous records. In August 2021, the Norwegian Seafood Council (NSC) reported that 18,079 metric tons of fresh salmon had been shipped to China since January.

 

In June 2021, Global Times, a Communist Party propaganda ‘newspaper’ reported that China had harvested 3,000 salmon from the first Chinese salmon fish farm. The article added that they have plans to extend from this first attempt to 300,000 fish per annum. No date was given for when this is going to happen.

 

Salmon is still considered an expensive and exclusive variety in China and appears on few menus – most people experience it only at Japanese restaurants (nearly all of which are Chinese owned and run) or from piss-poor sushi sold in supermarkets and made from low quality fish. I can really only think of one supermarket in town that does good sashimi grade salmon.

 

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Salmon sashimi with seagrass

 

Canned salmon is unknown but low quality smoked salmon is available online.

 

Maybe I’m just too fussy, having been brought up on fresh wild salmon from some of the best salmon waters in the world. My brother and I were known to occasionally, ‘accidentally’ catch one or two by hand as they jumped their way upstream in the breeding season.

 

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Salmon and sole ramen

 

So, from the lack of evidence otherwise, I’m guessing that most of the Norwegian (and less from New Zealand) stuff is sold for the sushi / sashimi trade. I’ve been through all my Chinese language recipe books, but not seen a single recipe for salmon. The internet is no help, either. Although there are Chinese language recipes, they are for western style dishes.

 

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Salmon with chickpea purée

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sole.thumb.jpg.40eb8be3a1f10bf74b63c0279c5bc1b0.jpg

Sole of a Sort

 

The salmon and sole ramen image above leads naturally me on to 龙利鱼 (lóng lì yú)*, Solea solea, Sole. By ‘sole’ I want to be referring to the common sole, aka Dover sole. American sole is a different family of fishes. But so might this be.

 

In fact, I strongly suspect it isn’t sole at all, but Limanda aspera, Yellowfin Sole which, unlike true sole, does inhabit local waters. This is probably a good thing as the true soles have been red-listed by Greenpeace International since 2010 as the species’ survival is severely threatened. Yellowfin sole are considered sustainable.

 

Whatever the species, it’s a rather tasteless flatfish sold, both fresh and frozen, in every supermarket. I never buy the frozen; it is usually more water than fish! I occasionally buy the fresh to bulk out fish soups etc. I have fried it dressed with oatmeal. Once. It is mostly steamed by the locals, I’m told.

 

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Frozen Sole Fillet

 

Not a lot to say about this, I’m afraid. It’s not bad; just boring. No soul! Hopefully, something more interesting will turn up in tomorrow’s net!

* The Chinese name is also sometimes given as (tǎ), but that is only really used in zoological circles. I’ve never seen it on any fish counter or frozen product label..

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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parrotfish1.thumb.jpg.25925b6f87c663e047b7a20c339a57d6.jpg

 

This is one that isn’t very common, but does turn up from time to time. 鹦哥鱼 (yīng gē yú), Scaridae, Parrot Fish (or parrotfish). This brightly coloured fish is a member of the large Scaridae family, but that has 90 different species and I have no idea which this is.

 

These are interesting fish. They are born female, then some of them turn male to breed and can turn back again! When they change sex, they also change colour. They consume mainly algae which they find in coral. Their powerful, hard teeth grind into the coral to extract their dinner, then they excrete sand. Huge amounts of sand. As much as 90 km worth of beach a year each.

 

It was thought that they were harming the coral reefs, but scientists now believe the reverse as they are eating what are to the coral, parasites and their sand trails can actually form new coral reefs.

 

WARNING

 

Parrot fish are known to carry the ciguatera toxin, which is tasteless and cannot be destroyed by cooking. Ciguatera poisoning is seldom fatal (less than 1 in 1,000), but it is a very unpleasant survival and symptoms can linger for months. There is no known antidote.

 

I wouldn’t eat this one.

 

parrotfish.thumb.jpg.ab5d53e6982e7ff22f5c939037459947.jpg

 

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24 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

parrotfish1.thumb.jpg.25925b6f87c663e047b7a20c339a57d6.jpg

 

This is one that isn’t very common, but does turn up from time to time. 鹦哥鱼 (yīng gē yú), Scaridae, Parrot Fish. This brightly coloured fish is a member of the large Scaridae family, but that has 90 different species and I have no idea which this is.

 

These are interesting fish. They are born female, then some of them turn male to breed and can turn back again! When they change sex, they also change colour. They consume mainly algae which they find in coral. Their powerful, hard teeth grind into the coral to extract their dinner, then they excrete sand. Huge amounts of sand. As much as 90 km worth of beach a year each.

 

It was thought that they were harming the coral reefs, but scientists now believe the reverse as they are eating what are to the coral, parasites and their sand trails can actually form new coral reefs.

 

WARNING

 

Parrot fish are known to carry the ciguatera toxin, which is tasteless and cannot be destroyed by cooking. Ciguatera poisoning is seldom fatal (less than 1 in 1,000), but it is a very unpleasant survival and symptoms can linger for months. There is no known antidote.

 

I wouldn’t eat this one.

 

parrotfish.thumb.jpg.ab5d53e6982e7ff22f5c939037459947.jpg

 

Fascinating.  I have seen parrot fish while snorkling/diving but never knew that people ate them! 

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149683458_redsnapper1.thumb.jpg.b3c8e1694bcee8494953aeae18371db8.jpg


Everyone here, I am sure, knows the problems there are with misidentification of table fish – whether accidentally or through downright fraud . One species that this applies to more than most is the red snapper. In fact, it is often found to be tilapia masquerading as snapper in ‘Japanese’ restaurants around the world. One Canadian 2018 study reported that in Vancouver 100% of ‘red snapper’ was tilapia or rockfish. Several bet-hedging online companies here are offering something which they call “Fresh frozen snapper fillet red snapper fillet Tilapia fillet Japanese sashimi fitness ingredient snapper fillet”. It’s almost certainly plain old tilapia!

 

Even when we are not being defrauded, it can be difficult to know exactly what a red snapper is. It isn’t one thing The term is legitimately applied to a number of different species. Those in Europe and the Americas would probably expect it to be Lutjanus campechanus, the Northern Red Snapper native to the western Atlantic and especially the Mexican gulf. New Zealand and Australia have their own varieties.

 

What we mostly get here are 红腊鱼 (hóng là yú), Lutjanus argentimaculatus, the Mangrove Red Snapper. It is mainly a Western Pacific and Indian Ocean species, also found off China (including locally landed at Beihai, near me) and down to Australia. It is also farmed. This is also known as 红槽鱼 (hóng cáo yú), 红枣鱼等 (hóng zǎo yú) and several other names while English has even more names (and misnames) including mangrove jack, grey snapper, creek red bream, Stuart evader, dog bream, purple sea perch, red bream, red perch, red reef bream, river roman, rock barramundi etc.

 

The real deal is a fine, sweet tasting white-fleshed fish – often steamed or braised, although it can also be fried / pan roasted.

 

961749713_redsnapper2.thumb.jpg.25c72729aa925c12683262d9f2bc1846.jpg

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Capelin.thumb.jpg.4dc4135ff8620a7498ef1e53534f2fb5.jpg

 

Here is another occasional visitor to the fish slabs here. 毛鳞鱼 (máo lín yú), Mallotus villosus, Capelin may, in people’s minds, be more associated with the Northern Atlantic, but they are also native to the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea including the waters off China’s north-eastern provinces, particularly Jilin and Liaoning.

 

pic_Fis-22900.jpg.753c9921504142b7a3a0ee779033616a.jpg

Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Citation: AquaMaps (2019, October). Computer generated distribution maps for Mallotus villosus (Capelin), with modelled year 2050 native range map based on IPCC RCP8.5 emissions scenario. Retrieved from https://www.aquamaps.org.

 

At spawning time in spring, thousands of these fish shoal onto sand and gravel bottoms or sandy beaches to do their parenting. Most then die after spawning, if not caught first.

 

The fish are relatively small with the males usually around 15 cm / 6 inches in length and the females outgrowing them to around 20 cm / 8 inches.

 

The females are more prized as, in season, most will be carrying a full load of roe. This is popular in Japan where it is used as a cheaper but inferior substitute for flying fish roe. It is often mixed with wasabi or more likely green food dye and marketed as ‘wasabi caviar’.

 

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Capelin Roe

 

The fish themselves are good eating, tasting somewhat similar to herring. Best fried.

 

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Fried Capelin

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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1996877615_CannedDace.thumb.jpg.c1483ac5d902dde528a8e35dd8474f5c.jpg

Fried 'dace' in black bean  sauce

 

Today I’m heading for somewhat different territory. As I have mentioned before in these forums, China does very few canned foods. In most supermarkets, if they have a canned food section at all, it will be a couple of shelves with some spam-like meat products and some 鱼罐头 (yú guàn tou) – canned fish. 99% of those cans will contain 豆豉鲮鱼 (dòu chǐ líng yú) which translates as “fermented black bean dace”. However, 鲮鱼 (líng yú) is not ‘dace’ at all. It is actually Cirrhinus molitorella or Mud Carp. Real dace is Leuciscus leuciscus and seldom, if ever, found in China.

 

Mud carp are a freshwater fish, native to southern China and Vietnam. They have been cultivated in China for over 1,000 years and today are mostly farmed. Although, they are spmetimes sold fresh, the majority of their meat is used in a number of industrially-made fish products including fish balls, fishcakes, dumplings etc. In 1893, a Guangzhou (Canton) company started canning these fried mud carps from the Pearl River with fermented black bean sauce.

 

These canned ‘dace’ have always been considered as food for the poor or, at best, as emergency rations. A 227 gram / 8 oz can costs in the region of $2 USD and the contents can be eaten straight from the can or with rice or noodles. The shelf life is stated to be three years. Probably actually much longer than that. Every cornershop has them.

The product is extremely salty. Ingredients are listed as dace, black beans, salt, vegetable oil, salt, soy sauce (with caramel colouring), sugar, spices and MSG. Yes, they list salt twice, plus it’s in the soy sauce.

 

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Fried 'dace' in black bean sauce

 

There have been intermittent reports over the years of this product containing minute traces of malachite green, a chemical with carcinogenic properties although it is generally considered the levels are too low to constitute any danger.

But it does smell like cheap cat food.

 

Alternatives are few but do include these similarly priced 凤尾鱼 (fèng wěi yú) which are anchovies of some sort and are in a sauce full of similar ingredients. With there being somewhere between 140 and 160 (opinions vary) species of fish called ‘anchovies’, I’m not even going to try to start to identify them. I buy my anchovies from Italy.

 

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Canned anchovies

 

An even cheaper (around $1.50 USD) choice is labelled as 豆豉海鱼 (dòu chǐ hǎi yú), which is ‘black bean sea fish’. I’ve never gone there. It could be anything.

 

We do get canned sardines, almost always in tomato sauce, in a few stores, but most of these are imported from Thailand or the Philippines. I buy canned Portuguese sardines. Expensive but wonderful!

 

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Sardines from the Philippines

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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My hubby, our 3 kids, and I  all love the "Dace" in black beans. When they were young and we went camping on a shoestring, a couple of cans of this with rice was an economical meal. As grown ups, they still love this, but haven't been able to get their spouses onboard;-)
For a couple of years, the product was taken off the shelves because of what liuzhou said: "There have been intermittent reports over the years of this product containing minute traces of malachite green, a chemical with carcinogenic properties although it is generally considered the levels are too low to constitute any danger" Then it came back on the market without the black beans - not a favourite then!
Now, it's back in full force, and we all keep several cans on hand just in case;-)

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Dejah

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pangasius.thumb.jpg.5d3e942831aca5262a181153a04b7abb.jpg

 

There is nothing wrong with this fish! It wouldn’t be my death-row last wish fish, but I’ll scoff it down in less troublesome times.

 

巴沙鱼 (bā shā yú), Pangasius bocourti, Basa Fish is one of the world’s most under-rated fish while also being unjustly libelled and vilified in certain sectors. Known variously as “basa” or “river cobbler” in the UK, "basa fish", “swai” or "bocourti" in the US and Australia and “dory" in parts of SE Asia, this is a freshwater type of catfish, native to the Mekong river in Vietnam where it is extensively farmed.

 

In Vietnamese, it is “cá ba sa”. It is also found in Thailand’s Chao Phraya river basin where they call it "ปลาเผาะ (plā p̄heāa)”. China farms it in lesser amounts.

 

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Basa Ramen

 

Much of the species is sold as frozen fillets. The mild-tasting flesh of the fillets is firm, white and boneless with a texture not dissimilar to that of cod or haddock. In fact, it has been illegally sold as cod in some fish and chip shops in the UK. It can be sold legally if described simply as “fish and chips”, but “cod and chips” must be cod. I have often used it happily in fish and chips when cod was unavailable, as well as using it in fish stews and soups.

 

Quote

Despite all the controversies the truth is we need fish like pangasius, it’s just the kind of cheap and nutritious protein essential to feed a growing and ever-more hungry world..

 

For more information on the vilification may I refer you to this 2013 article on “the money-maker that nobody loves”?

 

For a more recent report see this 2020 “more balanced appraisal of Vietnam’s pangasius sector”. The article includes this video which I will also link to separately for those in a hurry!

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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I had just posted the above when this landed in my email.

 

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Vinh Hoan, Vietnam’s leading pangasius exporter, increased its October earnings through more exports to the United States ... 

 

https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/premium/supply-trade/growing-us-sales-lift-vinh-hoan-s-export-earnings-in-october

 

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1738542907_seacucumber.thumb.jpg.eb355bb13fdebae1438aa944e539ea29.jpg

Dried Sea Cucumber

 

Not quite a fish; more of an etcetera are the 海参 (hǎi shēn) or Sea Cucumbers. These echinoderms are members of the Holothuroidea family which runs to 1,707 species, although only a fraction of these are commercially fished for food. They go by various names: trepang in Indonesia, ナマコ(namako) in Japan , bêche-de-mer in France, etc.

 

They live in large packs on deep ocean floors worldwide and are basically scavengers surviving on plankton and any organic detritus which falls from above. This breaks down the said material allowing its nutrients to recycle.

 

Sea cucumbers are sold both dried and fresh. The dried ones resemble dog turds more than they do cucumbers. The live ones are not much better – slimy and utterly pointless. They taste of nothing but rubber. Smelly, tasteless rubber. Yet they are inexplicably loved by many in China and other parts of Asia. So much so, that in 2013, the Chinese government banned its officials from eating them at official banquets. Civil servants all across the country were paying fortunes for them and apart from the perceived greed, the strain on the public purse was just too much. I’m told wild Alaskan specimens were the most highly valued.

 

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Fresh Sea Cucumbers

 

This ban didn’t help the creatures, though. The prices tumbled after the ban and sales went up, this time to private citizens attracted by the new lower prices.

 

Sea cukes require boiling in water for about a week before being fried or stewed in sauces where they may soak up some flavour. They pair well, I’m told by enthusiasts, with mushrooms. Waste of some good mushrooms, if you ask me.

 

They are also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), particularly in cancer cases, but the American Cancer Society has said

 

Quote

there is little reliable scientific evidence to support claims that sea cucumber is effective in treating cancer, arthritis, and other diseases...

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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