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Recs for more unusual types of fish to try

So, I've recently discovered that certain unwanted tubbiness might be related to all the fruit I eat and various other 'hidden' sugars (I know, fruit suddenly isn't healthy? Jeez.) I have to swap out these sugars for more protein. I won't eat land-animal proteins, but I'm dandy with fish. The only problem is I've only ever cooked tilapia and salmon before, and I need to branch out but don't know where to start.
Any recommendations for more 'adventuresome' types of fish and sea life? I'd prefer types that are on the cheap side. Also, any simple or fast preparations for the fish would be really appreciated. I'll eat anything sea-related so long as it's not the endangered stuff like bluefin or chilean sea bass.
I have an amazing market nearby, so finding a variety of stuff isn't an issue.
Many thanks in advance!

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  1. How about sardines? Yes, the canned kind (well, OR fresh if available in your area)...some would consider it quite normal and everyday but still "special and desired" (like ME and a bunch of others here who love them!) and others would consider them "unusual." Just throwing out an idea for starters...Oh, and "on the cheap side"--sardines are a great buy...for around $1.25 you can obtain a great source of Omega 3's AND still be environmentally safe...they are low on the food chain. Canned salmon will give you even more Omega 3's for 4 ounces but that might be too "usual" for you from your post. Try some sardines!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Val

      Yes to sardines! Also, if you can find salt-packed anchovies: rinse off the salt and mince the anchovies with garlic and a handful of fresh mint, mix with a few tablespoonfuls of fresh bread crumbs, quick-cook in olive oil and serve on pasta. Amazing how many people love this without realizing they're eating anchovies. (This works with canned anchovies too, if you rinse them carefully.)

      1. re: elenacampana

        Sardines are great on the grill. Mackrael too.

    2. If you can find fresh clams or mussels, they are pretty easy (and tasty) to make in a white wine sauce.
      Black cod (sablefish) has a nice buttery texture, but isn't really cheap and may be hard to find outside of the West Coast.
      Halibut would be a nice choice - it's a common whitefish used in things like fishsticks, so you may want to try some type of light breading (e.g. Panko) and fry in just a little bit of oil (no need to deep-fry if it's a relatively flat cut.
      Some other fish you may want to try are sea bass (various kinds) and catfish (also various kinds). If you're being health-conscious, probably check to see if they are likely to have high concentrations of heavy metals (e.g. mercury) as would be common for large predatory fish (e.g. tunas), are from fish farms (possibly high in pesticides and toxins -- depends on the farm), or are freshwater (higher chance of pollution).

      Agree with sardines as cheap and healthy. Anchovies are a good choice, too. Smelt and mackerel probably also good as small and relatively cheap fish.

      2 Replies
      1. re: hye

        Halibut is delicious but twice the price of tilapia. Squid is under $5 per pound but most fish is over that. I like monkfish (called "poor man's lobster" not for flavor but texture) but if sauteeing I slice it into medallions so as not to overcook. I'll also endorse skate - sweet and tender. I love bluefish but you have to get past the gray color, and be extra-sure it's very fresh, since it goes off very quickly. My recommendations here are based on taste and do not take mercury or sustainability into account.

        1. re: greygarious

          Understandable - tilapia are very easy to fish-farm as they grow in even very polluted waters, and grow quickly. If there weren't a big market for them as food items, they'd definitely be considered invasive species. (I think some of them are.)

          Re: squid prices - I know a guy who studies squid and apparently had a freezer full of Humboldt from the most recent northward incursion. He was just giving it away, but not sure they would be as suitable for some cooking methods as the more common and smaller market squid.

      2. White fish like cod and scrod and haddock is easy to cook and usually on the cheaper side of the fish spectrum. You can just bake it with a little bit of olive oil and lemon and whatever seasonings you like -- very easy and as long as you make sure not to overcook it you can't go wrong. I also really like squid (calamari) and that is usually very cheap. You can sautee it but be careful not to overcook it. Guess this advice goes for all fish!

        I also want to add: I can't believe FRUIT could make you tubby, unless you're eating like 12 bananas a day, drinking a lot of juice, or eating dried fruits. Fresh, whole fruit is good for you and I would question anyone who tells you to eat less of it. Just my opinion though -- I'm sure plenty of no-carb types would disagree.

        1. Squid might be something to consider. It is inexpensive, delicious and versatile. Some ideas on how to cook it include simply grilled squid with a bit of olive oil (this is great with carmelized onions- Gracias a Jose Andres), grilled with a salty/sweet teriyaki style sauce, stuffed (with tentacles and rice or bread crumbs), stir-fried (especially Korean style), with pasta or rice, in seafood stews, and the list goes on.

          1. I'm on team squid as well. And skate. Skate is cheap, around $5/lb. And very hard to screw up. Overcooked skate is still pretty good (I speak from experience).

            2 Replies
            1. re: small h

              Skate is overfished; I'm mentioning it because the OP specified no fish that are endangered.


              1. re: visciole

                overfished does not equal endangered, just as endangered does not mean governments will do anything about it!

            2. I have been experimenting with fish as well. I go to CMart's fish section, shut my eyes and just point. I get the fish cleaned and the head taken off. But I like fish cooked whole so I don't get it filleted. They don't label the fish with English names, so I often can't even research specific recipes. I figure the worse that happens if I don't like it is that we'll eat toast for dinner and never get that particular fish again. So far, I've encountered fish I might not get again, but find perfectly acceptable to eat once. (Mainly because the fish was too bony.) After the first time, if I like the fish, I've learnt enough about the taste and texture to find more "appropriate" cooking methods.

              There is a method I always use when I'm "getting to know" a strange fish.
              Make a spice mix as follows: 1 TBS garlic powder, 1 TBS ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground chilli, 1/2 tsp turmeric. Alternatively, I just use a pre-made curry powder from the Asian store. I get the one that says "for fish" on the packet.
              Start the broiler.
              Wash the fish, drip dry then dab dry with paper towels. Make 3 slanting cuts on the surface of the fish. (One side if using fillet, both sides if using whole fish. The point is to create more surface for the seasoning to adhere to, and aid fast cooking.
              Season with salt inside and out to taste. Sprinkle the spice mix on the fish inside and out. How much to use? Until the fish has an even, thin layer of spice all over. For a 3 lb fish, I'd probably use all the spice. But I really like spice.
              Place fish on an oven tray. Dribble olive oil or some other vegetable oil over the top of the fish. Place under broiler for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, take out, flip the fish with a fish-flipper or egg-flipper. Dribble the other side with oil. Put back into broiler for 8 minutes. The oil helps to crisp up the skin.
              Take fish out, cut a section to the bone (or flake a middle section of a fillet). If fish flakes easily, it is cooked. If it is not, pop under broiler for another 2 to 5 minutes.

              The reason I use this method is because the spice makes just about any fish tasty. And yet, it is just on the surface so I can get at the natural fish flavour. Grilling/broiling allows me to see how the fish texture responds to heat.

              1. Grouper, they're yummy! I get them at the asian markets for cheaper than what I would from normal ones.

                7 Replies
                1. re: BamiaWruz

                  Grouper has high mercury content, so be careful not to eat it too often if you're concerned about that. Also, according the the Environmental Defense Fund website I referred to above, many species are over-fished.

                  1. re: visciole

                    You may be right -- and I haven't read the details, but I'd caution against taking the word of EDF or any NGO that publishes lists of "ok" species (Monterey Bay Aqauarium's Seafood Watch is one of the most well-known). A lot of these places have inaccurate information (e.g. EDF has some basic factual information about fisheries incorrect), or err on the side of caution because they need a one-size-fits-all listing. My suggestion would be to find someone local who is knowledgeable about the fish you are likely to see to get the best info.

                    1. re: hye

                      I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "someone local." A fisherman? A fishmonger? But these people don't test their product for mercury or other pollutants, right? Maybe you mean someone else I'm not getting.

                      I am sure you're right that any published list will have some errors, but I have no idea what other reference to use. However, I would love to hear any suggestions for better sources.

                      1. re: visciole

                        Either would be ok. I also find good sushi chefs to be fairly knowledgeable about where their fish are coming from, as well. (they kinda have to be, I guess)

                        A lot of places near me typically sell farmed salmon from Scotland. I have no idea what the farming practices are, so I've never purchased any. I usually stick to wild salmon caught in Alaska or Canada, but if the person behind the counter could convince me that the farmed salmon was free of antibiotics and feed the proper diet (i.e. zooplankton, insects, etc. rather than fish chum), then I would feel comfortable buying. For instance, I am aware that some farms in Canada selectively breed for resistance against diseases and parasites and thus do not use antibiotics.

                        The primary issue with heavy metal toxins is biomagnification: the relative concentration goes up as you go up the food web. This is why things at the top, like dolphins, sharks, and tunas tend to have higher concentrations of mercury. When farmed fish are fed fish chum, it usually comes from fish that they wouldn't normally eat because the juvenile farmed fish are too small to eat something that big. In essence, you are elevating them up the food web to be above the fish that was made into chum.

                    2. re: visciole

                      Oh I didn't know that!

                      I first had it in Dubai where it's very popular and expensive but very good. I will be more careful, thank you!

                      1. re: BamiaWruz

                        I love fish and really like grouper, too, but I guess I err on the cautious side when it comes to mercury. I've mostly given up the high-mercury fish, although I like them and miss them! Waaa, swordfish!

                        I know some people poo-poo it, but I'm already losing brain cells, so why push it?

                    3. re: BamiaWruz

                      I'd be especially careful about buying seafood from Asian markets or any general grocery store (try finding a local fish market instead) because of their lax approach to sourcing fish. If they can't tell you where a fish is from and if it's farmed or wild, then it's time to run away as fast as you can. (also if it smells particularly fishy -- they might smell a bit like the ocean, but they shouldn't smell like rotting fish guts!)

                      The introduction of snakeheads from Asia has been driven almost entirely by demand from Asian immigrants as a "health-food product". The outbreak on the east coast was traced back to a guy who ordered one live for an ill relative who then dumped the fish into local water supply when the relative got better! An even worse situation occurred on the west coast:

                    4. Shrimp and scallops are not fish, but they're worth noting here. I get a lot of mileage from a couple of large dry-packed scallops over a risotto. Squid (also not a fish, I assume?) is awesome. Either cook it fast or cook it long.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        Mmm, scallops and risotto. I would have mentioned scallops earlier, but the OP said "on the cheap side". ;)

                        Yes, squid are not fish, they are mollusks (same phylum as clams, oysters, scallops, etc.). Sharks and skates and other cartilaginous swimmy things are fish, however.

                        Not sure if that distinction matters to OP. (you never know what kind of weird restrictions people have about eating animals, though)

                        1. re: hye

                          Glad to find another scallops and risotto fan! While it's hard to find dry-packed scallops around here for less than about $11 per pound, you really only need a couple of them per serving. On the cheaper side--and just last night, as it happens--I made this dish with baby scallops sold frozen in little 4oz packages under the Ocean Signature label out of Rhode Island. These packets go on sale here for $1 apiece, which factors out to $4 per pound! One packet and a 3rd cup of arborio rice made an awesome one-serving risotto. Dirt cheap.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            Yes, I usually get the larger sea scallops because they make for better presentation, but bay scallops are cheaper and suffice depending on the dish. Since they come from NE (sometimes), it may be possible to get them fresh up there, too.

                      2. When fishing, I used to toss back the "unwanted" fish, but lately I've been sampling - skate is delicious, and sea robin is sweet and tasty (if bony). I no longer think of fishing as a failure if I don't bring home a striper or a blue. And the bouillabaisse at my house is greatly improved!

                        1. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned trout. At our local Wegmans, you can get whole trout for $5.49/lb. which I think is fairly cheap. Also, mussels are $4.99/lb. and super-easy to steam.

                          There's nothing like a whole rainbow trout from the grill -- just brush with some olive oil, s&p & herbs of your choice, and grill on each side about 7-8 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges, or, if you want to get 'fancy', some horseradish cream. Heaven on a plate.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: linguafood

                            I'll repeat my concerns here about freshwater fish (some trout count, some do not, others are different fish mislabeled as trout).

                            Both the USGS and the EPA have done extensive studies on sampling toxins in freshwater fish. USGS found 25% exceeded EPA guidelines, EPA found 49%. Links below:

                            I'll add that these levels are probably nowhere near the levels in bluefin tuna. The idea that our bodies can't get rid of mercury is also false. It does suggest not eating these fish everyday, however. I think if everyone followed the fish guidelines for pregnant moms, we should be ok. (Might also help out the overfishing problem, too.)

                          2. Wow guys, I had no idea this would create such debate! I'll definitely have to seek out skate. I live in Amsterdam, so I'm sure cod, haddock, etc are relatively cheap once I figure out the Dutch words for them. I've seen some beautiful trout, so that's also on the list as well. And yup, shellfish is amazing amazing, so I'm going to have to get over my nervousness and actually try to cook some.
                            I agree with Hye, I've also worried about Asian markets as well. The fish there is cheap, but considering it's not labeled and it's definitely 'mystery meat', I sort of worry about what contaminant it's been pumped up with (mmmm melamine)

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: sufunsified

                              Re: cod & haddock, Just draw a fish with three dorsal fins (fins on the top/back of the fish) and you should be good to go:


                              1. re: sufunsified

                                Cod is not generally a good choice of you're worried about sustainability.

                                Have you tried mackerel, plaice or dover sole?

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  That's true for Atlantic Cod in North America, but I don't know the details about the Baltic Sea stocks, which would be what you get in Amsterdam. They could be fairly sustainable, though some research suggests they will collapse or shrink as a result of changing ocean conditions (probably unrelated to climate change).

                                2. re: sufunsified

                                  If you can get striped bass there, that's my current favorite. I get it in season for $5.99. Baked with a miso glaze it is fine dining!

                                  1. re: coll

                                    No striped bass in Europe.

                                    Here's a list of sustainable fish according to the Marine Stewardship Council.


                                    Of the ones mentioned, pollack, gurnard and mackerel are the cheapest. Bream isn't bad either, pricewise.

                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                      MSC is kinda a joke within fisheries circles. They certified a small fishery of Chilean Sea Bass as sustainable, which may be true if there were no illegal/unregulated/unreported fishing, but the latter significantly outnumbers legitimate take. The main reason fisheries get MSC certification is so that Wal-mart and other large chains will carry their product.

                                      1. re: hye

                                        Despite what she's written, greedgirl's link is to the Marine Conservation Society not the Marine Stewardship Council. MCS is a highly respected body here.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          Obviously having a senior moment - yes, it's the Marine Conservation Society, which is the authority in sustainable fishing in the UK.

                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                            My bad, didn't click through. I don't know much about the MCS.

                                  2. re: sufunsified

                                    Well, if you live in the 'dam, herring seems like a natural choice. Matjes season ain't too far away now '-)

                                    1. re: sufunsified

                                      I haven't seen it scanning this thread, but if you haven't tried arctic char, and you like mild fish and salmon, you'll love it, and it's completely sustainable.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        I'd never even heard of Arctic Char until recently - I've never seen it in Europe, although you can apparently get it in Scandinavia.

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          It's very good, and my non salmon eating husband will eat char. We both like it best with a bit of grilled crust (I'd say char, but it seems redundant) on it.

                                      2. re: sufunsified

                                        The North Sea fish, plaice, is a favorite of mine. You should be able to find it where you are, and it should be fairly inexpensive.

                                      3. Don't know if the OP would regard the following as "unusual" but they're certainly readily available, cheap (and not on anyone's "endangered" list that I know of):

                                        Plaice (appears on some endangered lists)