There are very few non-vegetarians who would say no to steaming hot rice served along with fish curry that’s a perfect balance of taste and flavor. Or is it fried fish with flavorsome masala that your taste buds yearn for? With Greek, Roman, Chinese, Portuguese, Arab and Dutch traders making their way to the port towns of South India, it is no wonder that the cuisine here is blessed with a spectacular range of culinary influences.
With fishing vessels like modern trawlers, the power of mass marketing and supply chain improvements, the fish that we consume is also no longer local. An urban household now consumes fish that is caught and transported across vast distances. While the demand for seemingly fresh and varied types of fish has steadily increased, one could argue that the supply chain and logistics part of the business has failed to keep up with this fast pace.
This mass production and supply chain woes have resulted in a number of concerns for the end customer – Fish are injected with hormones to improve growth, transported suboptimally across large distances leading to lactic acid build-up and decay, and hence also laced with chemicals to prevent decay. Despite the end consumer being spoilt with choices, when it comes to quality, the situation is indeed alarming.
In this situation, what can a fish buyer do to ensure health and safety to themselves and their family? Here are a few tips and things to remember to make sure that your intake of this amazing “lean protein” is as healthy and safe as possible:
- Touch and feel: The skin of the fish should have a natural metallic glow and not look dull. Cracked skin or loose scales could be signs of rotting fish. The flesh should bounce upon touching and the scales should be tightly held by the fish’s skin.
- Buy smart: If you’re buying packaged fish, look for certification that the produce is free of harmful chemicals, hormones etc. Check out what steps the company you’re buying fish from has taken to ensure that the fish is fresh.
- Smell test: Although the smell of the fish is dependent on the place from where it has been caught, the scent would generally be mild. If there is a strong, pungent and sharp smell, the fish could be rotten and it’s best to avoid that.
- The eye test: If the fish is fresh, its eyes would be bulging and clear. If it’s sunken or cloudy instead, chances are high that the catch is old and the fish is rotting already.
- Gill check: If it is a whole fish, the gills should be bright pink or reddish in color. They should also be slightly wet and not slimy or dry.
- Color check: Any type of discoloration, sliminess and spongy texture on the skin of the fish means that it’s an old catch, and needs to be avoided.