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Apr 27, 2005 07:55 PM

Tilapia misery

  • d

This has been bugging me since last weekend and I am curious about any experiences out there. I was pretty excited to find fish tacos on a menu (finding a decent rendition in Manhattan is a thin business at best) and ordered 'em up. The fish was tilapia and it was horrible, at least to me. Not as in Bad Fish, but it had a muddy, unappealing taste that no amount of spice could make palatable.

I'm wondering if this was a curious happening or perhaps a characteristic of the fish itself. Or maybe my sense of taste is still compromised by a sinus misery last February that nearly (nearly) put me off martinis.

I love fish, all fish, from arctic char to sturgeon (okay, I don’t really like sturgeon, and don't worry too much about the mackeral next time, come to that), but I reeeeeely didn’t love that tilapia. God, it was lousy!

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  1. No, can't blame your dislike on sinus infection, tilapia does often taste muddy.

    6 Replies
    1. re: 4chowpups

      I've stopped buying the stuff because it is so often muddy like that and, to me, inedible.

      1. re: bibi rose

        Have to agree. It is a farmed and nasty fish. It almost always tastes muddy to me, just like (most) catfish. Even the live tilapia I've had at Chinese restaurants dissapoints. People eat it because it is cheap but if cheap was my only criteria I would choose a non-fish dish.

        1. re: JudiAU

          I've certainly eaten my share of muddy-tasting wild catfish, but the catfish farms in the Mississippi delta produce fish that always taste clean and delicious to me. In fact, I'm frying Mississippi catfish for supper tonight. Hot diggity! I totally agree about the tilapia and will never buy it again.


          1. re: JudiAU

            Tastes pretty much like catfish to me, which is probably my favorite fish of all. Especially wild catfish, but that's becoming real hard to find. But if you don't like catfish, I'd say you definitely won't like tilapia.

            1. re: Steve

              The reason that Tilapia is cheap and farmed so much is because it's one of the most productive and farm friendly fish! The joke is you could throw two tilapia in a bathtub and start a farm of your own.

              Like the above poster, I love catfish and I enjoy Tilapia, which I mostly buy live from the tank at 99 Ranch and sometimes have them deep fry for me right there... Hmmm...

              On the flip side though, I hate Salmon... even the wild stuff I've had... BLEH!!! :P So in the end, as always, it has to do with personal preference...


          2. re: bibi rose

            Mark Bittman's book about fish has no recipes for tilapia because of the flavor quality issues. So I'd say it's quite likely that it's the fish, not the sinus problem.

        2. I get fish tacos made with tilapia from a restaurant in my neighborhood, and I don't find the fish to be muddy-tasting in the least. On the contrary, it has a very mild flavor.

          Occasionally, they substitute salmon, which to me, tastes not necessarily bad, but too strong for its seasonings and the chipotle sauce they put on the taco.

          Come to think of it, sometimes salmon just doesn't taste right to me at all. Hmm.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gina

            Doe you get fried or grilled tacos?

            1. re: MidtownCoog

              The fish is marinated and sauteed, served on flour tortillas. I'm kind of addicted to them.

          2. I used to get tilapia fillets once in a while about 3 yrs. ago when I was on a tight budget and that was one of the rare fishes I could justify buying. I'd bread them and pan fry them like fried catfish. They sufficed then.

            That said, I would never buy them today. First, they have grown ridiculously expensive for what they are. And now that I can afford higher-end seafood, I recognize that tilapia has very little flavor w/ crappy texture...what I describe as gray and blah. Some muddiness can be appealing, as I still love good southern or Chinese style catfish.

            1. I think the muddy taste isn't an inherent characteristic of tilapia, but happens at times due to blooms of blue-green algae in the ponds where they're raised. Blue-green algae can be a problem in public water supplies as well, where they produce a similar "muddy" odor and flavor in the water - and there are well-established ways to correct the problem, so the off flavor could be thought of as a result of poor aquaculture practices. I don't have any personal knowledge of any of that, but it's what I've been able to glean from a fair bit of reading about the issue - and it's consistent with the usual conflicting reports about the taste of tilapia.

              1 Reply
              1. re: FlyFish

                That has been my impression as well. Just as some farmed salmon is good and most is blah to horrid. I blame the ever-present downward pressure on price (the enemy is us). I've had excellent tilapia lately (in restaurants) so have had to revise my initial "never-again" opinion.

                I want to like it because it can be farmed pretty much anywhere, and indoors, and I like the idea of locally farmed fish.

              2. You experience mirrors mine.

                I think it's the fish. Nasty farm raised mullet.