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what is butterfish? [moved from Toronto]

l
Loquax Jun 30, 2006 09:53 PM

Does anyone know what butterfish is and who serves it in toronto? I have had butterfish sashimi at sushi on bloor and it was good, but still a bit frozen when serves to me, which is pretty mediocre. I was also served something at sushi inn last night that they claimed was butterfish, and they said it is albacore/white tuna. while similar it was not as good as what i was given at sushi on bloor. both were not far off from something i had in brazil last month, called Meca, which i believe is a kind of swordfish. I googled butterfish and a picture of a very small fish came up, and i am sure the sashimi i had was from quite a large fish. so what is butterfish?

  1. Bill Hunt Nov 1, 2011 09:29 PM

    It can depend. The name Butterfish is applied to many fish species, and there does not seem to be a regulation. As Funfoodie mentions, I see the name applied to Sable Fish, or Black Cod most often, but not always.

    Going back some years (decades?), and in the Gulf Coast region, we applied the name to a flatter, golden fish, sort of like a Sheepshead, but without the stripes, and with slightly longer fin tips. We caught them in the Deep Harbor, and used them for bait, when fishing for Jack, and Sharks. That particular fish is not usually seen in any restaurants, though it might find its way into some gumbos, or fish stews.

    I have never seen the name applied to any billfish, but I suppose that it might be.

    Some fish have different regional names. The Lemon Fish of the Gulf Coast is called Cobia, or Ling Cod elsewhere.

    Hunt

    1. letsindulge Jun 4, 2011 11:42 AM

      Butterfish on it's own is texturally nice but bland and overrated. JMHO.

      1. k
        KTFoley Jul 2, 2006 06:59 PM

        A couple of details about what escolar is and is not.

        Escolar is NOT butterfish. Butterfish is a market name for several different types of fish. Many of these fish belong to the Peprilus genera, whose species are the various Pomfret. In the market, the name is used interchangeably for species that are otherwise known as Skipjack, Dollarfish, Sunfish, Harvestfish and Sheepshead. Butterfish is also one the many vernacular (local) names for Sablefish, Greenbone and several kinds of Pompano. But NONE of these are Escolar!

        Escolar is NOT Black cod or Sable. Black cod is a local name for Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria).

        Escolar IS the market name for the fish whose Latin name is Lepidocybium flavobrunneum. It is from the Snake Mackerel taxonomic family (Gempylidae), which also includes Oilfish (Ruvettus pretiosus).

        On ice at the fish counter, the white flesh of the Escolar looks a bit like Sea Bass. It's a crime to sell one labelled one as the other, but it has been reported in the UK.

        Even when properly handled, Escolar CAN make a person sick. The UK's version of the FDA is the Food Standards Agency, who warns "The high indigestible wax ester nature of the oils may cause stomach cramps and diarrhoea in consumers."

        My terrific local fishmongers (http://www.coastalseafoods.com) have always warned us to limit servings to 4-6 oz, about half the portion for other fish types. But recently they've also posted the following notice:

        " Due to recent reports of possible allergic reactions to Escolar, we will no longer offer this fish to our customers. We at Coastal Seafoods feel that any potential risk, regardless of how small, is not worth compromising the health of our customers.

        Escolar is possibly a scombroid species of fish that can produce histamines if it becomes too warm. Cooking will not destroy these histamines. Some people may experience an allergic reaction to these histamines while others are unaffected. "

        Hope that helps -- keep the names accurate, the portions small and the stock cold, and you should do just fine.

        7 Replies
        1. re: KTFoley
          pinstripeprincess Jul 2, 2006 09:01 PM

          ah, sorry about that. was misinformed about the various white fish types. thanks for the clarity.

          1. re: KTFoley
            c
            Captain Critic Jun 4, 2011 09:15 AM

            Wrong. Escolar IS butterfish, named that way for the oil content in it's flesh. As for it's toxic content, that is very much related to it's preperation. People also eat blowfish, which could be deadly, but well prepared, it is a delight.

            1. re: Captain Critic
              Bill Hunt Nov 1, 2011 09:44 PM

              Perhaps in a restaurant near you, but not commonly.

              My research, and experiences mirror KTFoley's, and in bodily appearance, the two fish (again, commonly), do not even come close.

              Not sure where you are getting your material, but I would definitely check the sources.

              Hunt

            2. re: KTFoley
              s
              silia Sep 11, 2011 06:12 PM

              I like KTFoley's description. I would have said this was absolutely true based on my life experiences with black cod/sable always being used in the recipes I know. However, the wikipedia entry says calling escolar "butterfish" is a marketing thing. I haven't seen this near me, but who knows? It seems you almost have to ask your fishmonger what the scientific name of anything is these days.

              1. re: silia
                Bill Hunt Nov 1, 2011 09:37 PM

                While not an ichthyologist , I would question the Escolar = Butterfish link too. The Escolar is more like a Tuna, and is often called an Oil Tuna, while the Butterfish (most, anyway), are more akin to Cod. I would also think that marketing might well be at play there, sort of like the Patagonian Toothfish being called Chilean Sea Bass, or the Slimehead being called Orange Roughy. "Waiter, I'll have the Slimehead fillets... "

                Hunt

              2. re: KTFoley
                o
                oldunc Sep 12, 2011 06:29 AM

                A problem with many common names - they are used for great numbers of different fish in different places, sometimes even the same place. In my area, Butterfish is mostly Pacific Sablefish or California Pompano. Mostly notable to me because I used to get it for about fifteen cents a pound when I was in college- whatever fish that actually was was pretty bland, but welcome at the end of the month.

                1. re: oldunc
                  Bill Hunt Nov 1, 2011 09:31 PM

                  The Butterfish that we caught on the MS Gulf Coast were more similar to the Gulf Pompano (though a golden color and smaller), and had far less meat, than a Gulf Pompano. I have never heard of a CA Pompano, but will keep my eyes out for it.

                  Thanks,

                  Hunt

              3. o
                orick Jul 2, 2006 06:39 AM

                I think Sushi on 7 actually serves butterfish as part of their all you can eat dinner

                1. j
                  jayseeca Jul 1, 2006 10:29 PM

                  I find the best way to enjoy butterfish, it a little cooked, or fully cooked.
                  I know at Japango they use a kitchen torch on the outside, and top it with browned garlic, and it is DELICIOUS. I find cooking it a little brings out the wonderful flavours.

                  1. dlw88 Jul 1, 2006 03:06 PM

                    Are you serious? I ordered that much for single servings from City Fish a month ago, and had no such problem. Where does this oil secrete from?

                    Also, does anyone know where Black Cod can be purchased fresh, and not fresh from frozen?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dlw88
                      pinstripeprincess Jul 1, 2006 07:44 PM

                      maybe each individual person is prone to the leaking more than another or not at all. the thread i found is here:
                      http://chowhound.com/topics/show/3018...

                      do you remember those "fat free" chips made with some variation of oil called olestra or some such.... exact same idea except orange. people have been known to leave puddles in seats....

                    2. pinstripeprincess Jul 1, 2006 04:05 AM

                      it's also known as escolar.

                      raw butterfish is available at nearly all the sushi joints but the better ones will definitely not serve it up to you frozen (omi, japango, etc.) and will often do it up cooked as miso cod.

                      one word of warning.... well several words:
                      there's a post about this from a few months back in one of the general boards and if you ever choose to buy butterfish a la carte or to cook at home, DO NOT eat more than 8oz (or is it 6?). your body does not process the fats and oils in the fish very well so when you eat too much you leak.... orange oil. profusely and at any moment and in amounts inconceivable.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pinstripeprincess
                        b
                        bjngirl Nov 1, 2011 12:36 PM

                        Okay. I know this is an old topic, but thank goodness I randomly ran across this discussion. THIS IS REAL people. I had butterfish sashimi for lunch yesterday. Today, I noticed this orange oily leakage and I was freaked the hell out. Now I know what happened.

                        Watch yourself and the butterfish folks. Lesson learned.

                      2. f
                        funfoodie Jun 30, 2006 10:36 PM

                        It is also known as Sable or Black Cod.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: funfoodie
                          p
                          peppermint pate Jun 30, 2006 11:11 PM

                          Yep - they regularly serve it as sushi/sashimi at Edo or Edo-Ko and I've also had it at Omi. Quite tasty.

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