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May 14, 2008 01:23 PM

Help me get over seafood fears

I have a mental block about seafood, due to getting very sick as a child after eating some fish sticks. For years I wouldn't touch anything from the sea, except for the Friday night special at HJ's eating fried clams (which I didn't know came from the sea!) and I also had the fried scallops. I liked both, but I know that is pretty lowbrow seafood. My mom used to get those nasty frozen deviled crabs, which I didn't like, and the shrimp cocktails in the little juice glasses, Yuck! But then as a teen I had shrimp tempura at a Japanese restaurant and loved it.

Now as an adult I have branched out a bit more and have tried, and liked, crawfish, shrimp, lobster and calamari. I have tasted filet of sole (is that right?) that was lightly breaded and pan fried, some cornmeal breaded catfish, some kind of fried crab leg or maybe it was a crab finger, and after just a taste of these I did like them. What I have had that I did not like was Tilapia, but that was at a Red Lobster (not my choice!), smoked salmon out of a package (the cats ate well that night!) and crab cakes. I Used to like salmon croquettes, but haven't had one in years.

My problem is that if it has a "fishy" taste, I just can't get past that. So what would you recommend that I try? I really want to eat more fish, but not sure where to begin. I need a guide to go eat with me! My girlfriend goes with me and lets me taste her seafood, which is why I know what I do like, but I can't get my DH to even walk into a seafood place.

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  1. Some mild-tasting fish are: flounder, cod, halibut and grouper. I'd also recommend mahi-mahi and fresh salmon (not smoked).

    I usually cook my fish with a lot of aromatics or pan fry it. I'm not a big fish fan either, but feel the need to eat it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: QueenB

      Yeah, all the flat fishes (flounder, halibut, sole) are very mild, almost sweet. I don't like "fishy" fish either -- I don't even like most shellfish -- but I love flat fish. They're some of the best environmentally as well (at least, the Pacific ones are), and aren't especially high in mercury like some of the other popular fish like swordfish. http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~frf/sea-meh...

      Since you're just learning to like fish, you can start by totally avoiding fish that are on the seafood watch "red/avoid" list. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr... If you never try them, you won't miss them!

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Sadly, after looking at the 'avoid' list for the Southeast (I'm in NC), I see that all the local mild flat fish are on it. :( What a bummer.

        1. re: romansperson

          Unfortunately, the Atlantic coast has been so overfished that most local fish are on the avoid list.

    2. Have you tried sushi? I started eating it in college. First starting with california rolls and veggie rolls and slowly moving towards raw fish (first in rolls and then moving towards eating larger pieces of raw fish). Now I eat sushi about once a week. My boyfriend wasn't a big fan of seafood either but really enjoys sushi now.

      4 Replies
      1. re: tatertot

        I tried sushi (I thought) at a buffet once. When I told my knowledgeable friend about what I ate she laughed and said it was just vegetables! I do want to try it again, but need a guide for that!

        1. re: danhole

          The tempura roll might be your gateway roll into sushi. Typically it's a roll with a piece of shrimp tempura and avocado. As you get more adventurous you can get variations of this roll combined with raw fish, either inside the roll or on top.

          It's great to go with a small group of people so you can sample a bunch of different rolls and figure out what you like. Also things I didn't like at first I love now, like eel, tobiko (fish roe), and soft shell crab.

          For the first year, I used to get whatever combo special they offered, usually a california roll and 5-7 pieces of nigiri (typically salmon, tuna, yellowtail tuna, shrimp, eel, mackerel, or octopus).

          Also, freshness makes a huge difference in how "fishy" something tastes.

          1. re: danhole

            If you're feeling especially brave, get your friend, and go to a sushi spot for lunch, where you can probably get a "sashimi" special. It will probably be 8-10 pieces of fish - 2 each of salmon, tuna, shrimp, mackerel, and some kind of whitefish. Each piece is just a single bite, so it's not like you have to slog through 8 oz of a piece of fish that you didn't like after the first taste. Plus by varying the amount of wasabi, soy, and ginger you use, you can enjoy a variety of tastes.

            Frankly, I don't even eat regular sushi anymore; the rice is just extra carbs I don't need. Sashimi is where it's at for me! Good luck; let us know if you give it a try.

          2. Try pickerel, or black cod- fresh only. They are the best "whitefish" IMO.

            Also arctic char, it is like a mild salmon.

            No matter who tells you to try Chilean sea bass, don't! It is endangered. Likewise orange roughy.

            Go for some great fish n' chips at, say McNie's. And have a beer. All fish battered and deep fried at a British style place, like halibut or haddock is mild.

            Also I have generally found that fresh unprepared fish that has been frozen too long-aside from prepared product like fish sticks, can often be fishier than fresh, so, go with fresh only.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Scary Bill

              Are fish 'n chips made with Cod, or what? I have been told that fresh is the best, but how do I know if it is or not? Other than watching someone catch it, I mean.

              1. re: danhole

                In the good old days (before the mushrooming seal population started hoovering up all the east coast cod), cod was the "cheap" fish at a fish and chip shop. If you wanted something "better", you asked for halibut. Now, cod is virtually unavailable, and most places serve haddock. Both are very mild in flavour.

            2. I was the same way,

              the fish I enjoy are "mild" fish, Mahi, Swordfish, shark, orange roughy, grouper, lake perch, and walleye.

              6 Replies
              1. re: swsidejim


                That makes me feel better that you can relate!

                1. re: danhole

                  we always had shrimp and scallops growing up, but very little fish(the fish we did have was a "salmon loaf" on fridays during lent, or tuna casserole, or cream of tuina on toast). I still cant eat salmon to this day.

                  As an adult I got exposed to clams, lobster, and crabs, crawfish, & now I am addicted to lobster, crawfish, and crabs, and love a good chowder.

                  1. re: swsidejim

                    I forgot about the tuna salad and tuna casserole. I can tolerate the casserole, but I do like tuna salad. Now a salmon loaf sounds as appealing as a ham or chicken loaf. Depression food, I guess.

                    I really want to try a soft shelled crab. It just looks so good to me, but those deviled crabs mom ate were rank, IMO.

                    1. re: danhole

                      Soft shell crabs are wonderful - if you get the chance go for them.

                      With fish I'd start with halibut, grouper, mahi-mahi. I don't agree with the salmon recommendations, though - one of my least favorite fish (unless freshly caught by my uncle on the Oregon coast - lol).

                2. re: swsidejim

                  Same here. I grew up just miles from Cape Cod, and didn't eat any seafood except for the occasional fried scallop. I'm just starting branch out into eating more fish.

                  I've learned that I like mild fish, and in smallish quantities. And I don't like things like pasta with seafood, where the whole dish takes on the fishy flavor. It's kind of fun, discovering a whole new food group to explore.

                  1. re: swsidejim

                    Fresh walleye is one of the best foods, the cheek meat is especially fine. It is a very mild fish. If it smells fishy, it is old and past its prime.

                  2. My Dad grew up in the depression and as a Catholic had fish on Fridays; apparently the fish was often not so good and for much of his life he had a problem with eating fish. He did come to particularly like grilled fish starting in his 40s -- swordfish was a big favorite (I don't like it personally).

                    I've also once had some bad skate wings, and to this day have a very hard time trying skate again.

                    On a positive note, I think your aversion to a "fishy" taste is a sign of good taste. Fresh fish shouldn't have a strong fishy taste (well, maybe some fish like bluefish and mackerel).

                    I think that you will most always find good fresh fish at sushi/japanese restaurants, they can have both raw sushi (which most often has a mild flavour) and cooked fish dishes. I'd say that you might avoid mackerel and fish eggs at first but it should be a learning experience and you will be the best judge of which fish flavours that you like.