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Fish: ammonia-like flavor?

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Hello - I had fish tacos (for those folks in LA, at Bread & Porridge on Wilshire in Santa Monica) and in one of the tacos, the fish had an odd ammonia-like aroma. This has happened to me once before at a casual fish restaurant that's basically on the beach and fairly popular so I assumed there was good turnover on the fish (Reel Inn on PCH in Malibu). After eating the fish, on both occasions, I didn't get sick, but I'd like to know why the fish tasted this way. Are there any Chowhounds out there who might know why this happens, and also what is it?

Thanks very much for any information - I'm quite puzzled.

Angie5

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  1. I don't know what sort of chemical reaction causes this unpleasantness, but I've always thought of it as a sign that the seafood in question has gone past it's prime. This is common with shrimp, I know. I've noted this before buying "fresh" seafood. When buying fish I always smell it first. If the fishmonger won't allow me to smell it, I don't buy it. pat

    1. s
      Suzanne Fass in NYC

      It means the fish is BAD, as in rotted. If you get anything like that again, take the offending item back, tell them you are afraid it may kill you -- it may or may not -- and never go to that place again.

      1. Yes, it was starting to spoil. The reason you didn't get sick is because spoilage bacteria are not necessarily pathogenic, whereas pathogenic bacteria alone might not give any bad taste to the food, even though you could get very sick later.

        My daughter and I had some really bad uni once, and if spoilage could kill, we'd both be dead. As it was, we didn't even get sick.

        1. Yes, the fish is bad. I once ate a piece of fish with the ammonia-like smell. I had a horrible reaction. My throat closed up and my face puffed up. I had to be taken to the ER. I have no fish allergies whatsoever.

          1. Yikes! Now that I know, I'm so grateful they were only two bad meals and not anything worse! Thank you so much for responding so quickly. Angie5