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Does anyone love/prefer tilapia to other common raved-about seafood?

Tilapia was on sale at Whole Foods today and I had no idea what I wanted to make but wanted seafood and had already planned to have both tuna and salmon this weekend

I am on a seafood kick this weekend. This morning I stood at the seafood counter dazed and confused as I already planned to have both tuna, shrimp salmon this weekend and couldn't decide on another option to satisfy my ocean-loving needs. In casual conversation at the counter, another customer and the person at the counter recommended tilapia and raved about how much they liked it. It was on sale and so I went for it and now have about 2 lbs of tilapia I have no idea what to do with although they suggested that nearly any preparation works as it's so mild. As I Googled to find a good idea it seemed that the majority of the world has some vendetta against tilapia. I love the heartier, more naturally flavored fish and eat tuna, salmon, and swordfish quite regularly because they are so wonderful, but I thought I might add another fish to my repertoire. I understand the concerns about its production, but separate from those concerns do you ever choose tilapia over something else not only for price but because you like it's flavor. What are your favorite preparations?

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  1. try looking up mojarra frita.
    pretty common preparation around los angeles.
    since my favorite restaurant serves it , i end up eating it quite frequently.

    1 Reply
    1. re: westsidegal

      Love mojarra frita! I spend two months a year in Guatemala, where tilapia is locally farmed and a very important source of protein for the indigenous population. This is one of the most popular preparations, and can often be found sold from street carts during Lent.

    2. Your tilapia might be fine. I like it in a sandwich. You can grill it in a stove top grill pan and put your fixings on with your favorite bread.

      The fillets I used to get were bigger and better tasting than what I have gotten recently, so I haven't been as interested in this fish as before.

      I think it is farmed in Vietnam and possibly elsewhere under less than ideal conditions. You should check the source with seafood. I won't buy from China and I'm leary about stuff from Vietnam.

      But I have noticed a steady decline in availability of fish in general in the last decade or so.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sueatmo

        Thanks for the tip on the sandwich, sounds good perhaps a tilapia BLT. It completely escaped my mind this morning, as usually I glance at the sign to note the origin of my fresh seafood. I'll give it a look see tomorrow.

      2. I will only get tilapia if everything else is too prohibitively expensive because I find it to be somewhat "boring," and there are so many other delicious sea proteins that I'd rather eat.

        That said, my favorite way to prepare it is just simply blackened.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ohmyyum

          Tilapia is great panfried in coconut oil, french country herbs and Benedictine and Brandy, all found at Trader Joe's...Hope you try and like it.

        2. I do not eat tilapia, but I am familiar with its texture. Sorta like a thin cod or maybe rockfish? I might blacken or steam it for healthier alternatives. On the grill you can foil it in packs with onions, garlic and some butter/white wine. Poach with a smoky note.

          You cannot get those whole can you?

          I don't have a vendetta against tilapia, but they are grown in some strange sesspits in SOME places - like China. I bet the ones grown here are fine. Just fine in fact.

          Sometimes you can't get wild salmon or halibut. Or $20 a pound is a little rich... whatever. I totally get ya. I bet they are a nice vehicle for a light sauce.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Sal Vanilla

            It's hilarious that I've already spent many a $ on fish this weekend with both the tuna and wild king salmon at $24/lb and swordfish at $20/lb and yet for some reason after dropping what my bank account has declared enough money on seafood this weekend, I decided to add some random tilapia. It's fresh never frozen so I can always freeze for later.

              1. re: magiesmom

                Yea I've read/heard that. Some think it tastes similar to catfish. I guess it's just hard for me to place the taste of mud :)

                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                    I looked it up last night after posting a comment here - Tilapia here are fed corn meal and soy for the most part. Since they are farmed, they probably fed some sort of antibiotic. How well they are regulated... who knows? Probably as well as any other food.

                    and ps to the mud taste - saltwater catfish are bottom scavengers.

                  2. re: magiesmom

                    Me too. Not all of it but more often than not it tastes like dirt to me. I don't buy it any longer.

                    My MIL made us tilapia with a Parmesan coating. I think it was mayo, butter, Parmesan, dried basil, and something else... maybe celery seed? It was very good.

                    1. re: Njchicaa

                      Parmesan and butter make everything good :)

                  3. re: fldhkybnva

                    Most ever person makes economies. I don't eat filet mignon every night and sure appreciate a good chuck steak in the oven. Thankfully there are seafood products that even the tightest budget can afford. We buy a ton of salmon during certain times per year - but when they aren't running I happily buy $5.99 wild true cod or rockfish. Sorta bland, but a really good fish none the less. The calories and nutrition are top notch.

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      How did you end up doing that swordy?

                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        I apologize I just read this post. I did an Asian-style marinade with sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and green onion and broiled 4 minutes each side. It was delicious. In fact, I spotted your post as I returned to this post to consider pulling out that frozen tilapia to use.

                    2. re: Sal Vanilla

                      you can get them whole. you can even get them live, at some stores.

                    3. I dislike the flavor and texture of farmed fish, especially tilapia.

                      The majority of tilapia sold in the US is factory fish farmed in Asia or central America, sometimes in very questionable conditions. I'd never eat that.

                      WF tilapia is also farmed and I'm sure in sanitary conditions. I've had it once at a friends house fairly recently and I still think it suffered from that odd farmed taste and texture.

                      For the record, she made tilapia meunière. If you like tilapia it otherwise was a nice dish

                      1. I am not a huge fish fan, as the ones I like (halibut etc) are NOT in my budget, so I usually reserve for eating out. But, I like these fish tacos made with tilapia, although they might be better suited for summer as they're pretty light and require grilling the fish: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/el...

                        I would also think you could treat them like cod, and bread/fry them to make fish & chips.

                        1. I don't understand what happened to tilapia. 10 years ago I used to see it for $2 a pound at most independent and Mexican markets in the LA area.

                          What happened that it got fancy?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Violatp

                            same as short ribs, etc. what the market will bear. but in the case of tilapia I really don't get it.

                          2. I don't "hate" Tilapia but it is sure not one of my preferred fish. I think farm raised catfish is better. IMO, the growers in the Southeast U.S. are putting out a good product.

                            1. My parents love it (I think bc it's mild, white, not fishy). My mom is Indian, and she does a great version - rub with cumin, coriander, salt, pepper - pan fry. Maybe ginger-garlic paste too. It handles the Indian spices & is light compared to the rest of the Indian meal. Lots of lime on top. Cilantro too.

                              Or oven bake in parchment or foil, with good pico de gallo or salsa verde.

                                1. I don't consider it an edible fish

                                  9 Replies
                                  1. re: weedy


                                    Read the NYT profile on farmed fish in Asia, learn what a dangerously underregulated industry it is, and once you see the pic of the tilapia jampacked into a pool, their lips at the surface to suck in air; and you will choose a different fish when your wallet prohibits you from buying wild salmon and tuna.

                                    1. re: Snorkelvik

                                      But not all farmed tilapia come from Asia and almost all vendors nowadays display the country of origin for fish.

                                      The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list does indeed recommend avoiding tilapia farmed in Asia, but tilapia farmed in Central/South America is a "Good Alternative" and U.S. farmed tilapia is a "Best Choice". http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr...

                                      Irresponsible farming of this species in Asia doesn't mean the species as a whole should be avoided; just avoid the irresponsible farmers.

                                      1. re: kmcarr

                                        According to the USDA almost all of the tilapia imported into the US comes from China.

                                        BUT ... almost all tilapia from Asia (China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, etc.) is frozen and most fresh tilapia imported from other countries comes from Latin America.

                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                          You can look on the pack or ask the fishmonger.

                                          It is just like shrimp. Do you say you will never eat shrimp because of the poor practices of shrimp raising in Asia? If so you miss out. In America there are many shrimp caught wild and are healthy and tasty.

                                          It is worth having a little tiny peak at the info out there - it is so easy to find out these days.

                                          Not attacking you at all. Sometimes ya just don't know. I didn't until I got curious and decided to go see for myself what the truth was.

                                        2. re: kmcarr

                                          meh, it's simpler to avoid the species. Are we to trust our seafood purveyors to label tilapia's country of origin correctly, when more than 2/3 in NYC identify red snapper incorrectly to their benefit?

                                          1. re: kmcarr

                                            Yes, almost all vendors display the country of origin for their fish. That doesn't mean much of anything if it can't be verified. One of my local markets was selling tilapia as "wild, from Canada". Unfortunately, while Chinese tilapia may be very problematical, since it is "finished" by acclimating in salt water, they actually have a better taste, not as muddy, than tilapia raised only in freshwater. (That's not saying much....I still hate tilapia.) If there are Asian markets in your area, they are frequently sold live. That way, you'll know they are fresh, and most likely of US origin. But to me, a major issue with tilapia is their grain based feed leads to a product with much fewer of the benefits associated with fish, as the Omega 3 fatty acids are replaced by Omega 6, from the grain.

                                            1. re: EricMM

                                              lol, wild canadian tilapia? all kindsa wrong.

                                              they require temperate fresh water and die if it gets under 70 degrees!

                                              i also just read they give the farmed fish hormones to reverse engineer females and keep the population male-centric.

                                              their omega 6 to omega 3 profile is typically 11:1 vs. 1:1 for wild fish.

                                          2. re: Snorkelvik

                                            Ah, yes. The old EPA / PETA argument. I simply do not care or concern myself with such trivialities. All animals are considerable for consumption in my book. What differentiates the consumable from the in edible, as far as I'm concerned, is taste.

                                            Tilapia, for me, needs help. It is a very mild white fish that, on its own, is uninspiring. Cook it properly, with an abundance of herbs and seasoning, perhaps some garlic and lemon, and a nice pan sauce, and tilapia can be a wonderful dish.

                                            1. re: Snorkelvik

                                              Still sounds good to me. About the only thing that I won't eat is the heart of a coyote that has heart worm.

                                          3. My Korean wife cuts it into small chunks and does a herb and seasoned egg batter. Served like an appetizer. Everyone that has had it, loves it.

                                            Living in the Texas gulf area, I think ours are locally fresh. I'll have to check next time I am at HEB.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: THoey1963

                                              Checked when I went to the store and ours is an import from China. Hmmm... Mighty tasty though...

                                            2. I've always felt that tilapia is to seafood what turkey roll is to poultrey and provel is to cheese.

                                              1. We like it coated w/ almond meal, dried herbs, then sauteed in a pan with olive oil and/or butter. Salt & pepper to taste.

                                                You should figure out if it tastes like mud to you. If not, then steamed with fine threads of scallions, ginger and a dash of oil is a very nice way to prepare mild white fishes. You can really taste the fish that way (hence, make sure you like it to begin with).

                                                1. I remember several years ago fish restaurants might have one tilapia dish on the menu. Basically something for the person that doesn't like fish. A couple of times I've heard waiters or other diners make snide comments when someone ordererd or asked about tilapia. That all changed around 2008. Now there are several tilapia dishes on seafood restaurant menus and tilapia is often a highlighted dish, or even a special of the day. The change seemed to coincide with the economic downturn - restaurants turned to cheap, farm-raised tilapia for larger profit margins.

                                                  I find tilapia bland, but we do often have some in the freezer. We usually just dust in flour and pan fry for a quick, cheap week night meal.

                                                  1. Make sure you know the source of your Tilapia.

                                                    If its from China or some other asian country you do NOT want to eat it.

                                                    1. My mom always steamed it with ginger, scallions, and a splash of sake. Serve with 1:1 rice vinegar and soy sauce, and maybe a drizzle of chili oil. She usually served it with some ouster sauce sauteed bitter greens.
                                                      The aromatics takes the muddiness away, it's super light, and delicious!

                                                      1. As I sit here munching on a cold leftover spotted weakfish fillet my answer is answer is, "No I never choose tilapia over something else." I prefer salt/brachish water fish with few exceptions.

                                                        1. the only farmed "fish" i will eat is oysters. the texture is too flaccid and the flavor is just off, if not downright bad, from the krap chow they get. the necessity of antibiotics is also something i can't abide.

                                                          i appreciate fresh wild fish isn't always in the budget, but so it goes.

                                                          1. I checked the store this morning and there are two "tilapias" - farmed from South America and fresh USA Hake which is what I think I bought. Isn't hake a different species?

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                              Hake is a completely different species. It's a wild, saltwater fish, in the same family as cod. There are several species of hake, but silver hake is sold as whiting. Red hake is called ling by fisherman, in a store it would probably just be called hake. There are other species as well. There are species of hake all over the world, so frozen hake can come from anywhere. I think Trader Joe's comes from S. Africa.

                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                Hake is not tilapia. It is hake. :)

                                                              2. I finally tried tilapia. I spotted some fresh tilapia from Ecuador at Wegmans and remember reading that it's a better source of the fish than most of the rest which comes from Asia. I simply steamed it over a bed of kale with garlic and white wine and I must admit that I enjoyed the dish as a whole. The fish didn't really have much flavor, but for me it would work well as an inexpensive protein option. I didn't sense any sort of muddy taste at all so all in all it was worth trying and I'll probably buy it again.

                                                                1. Apparently, I don't have the "tastes like mud" gene for tilapia though I DO think beets taste like basement.

                                                                  A store near me used to sell a dressingless slaw of zuke, summer squash, scallion, red and green bell pepper, and carrot. Very pretty but what to do with it? I'd mix a bit of teriyaki marinade into it, then spread that over the tilapia and bake. It was even better with a layer of storebought seafood stuffing (the Ritz crumb type) spread into the baking pan as a bed for the fish. Bake at 350 until the top of the slaw, and the edges of the stuffing, are nicely browned. The tilapia stays moist. Now that I have to recreate the slaw myself (rather time-consuming), I don't make it as often as I used to. It's triffic with salmon and other mild fish, too. Since you have to buy at least one of each vegetable, it makes a lot of slaw but it's okay to freeze the extra. Doesn't matter that it's soggy when defrosted since it wilts during baking. Just drain before adding the teriyaki. This would work with vinaigrettes or other thin dressings, too.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                    Great, thank for the tip. I actually have a squash summer Mediterranean vegetable mix frozen which I rarely use. This would clean it out of the freezer. Thanks, I think tilapia is great for things like this. I feel bad for avoiding the poor fish for so long. I don't eat much or any farmed fish but tilapia is OK in my book. I guess I'll have to try the stuff from Asia to see if I taste any difference but I think I'd like to stick with the South American source.

                                                                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                      Why anyone would want to eat something raised on pig and chicken manure is beyond me.


                                                                      1. re: Scoutmaster

                                                                        to counter that thought - Tomatoes? Organic gardening relies heavily on manure - and one of the benefits of raising chickens is the free fertilizer -

                                                                        That said - industrialized and water-borne it does get sort of gross

                                                                        I find Tilapia pretty worthless on taste & texture so I don't get past that anyway.

                                                                  2. Tilapia is the cheapest frozen fillets in the grocery stores around my area in the Midwest. Can't go wrong with it. 6 or 7 dollars for 10 fillets, heck yeah. I do like a more gamey taste than tilapia though. But it's just fine. I hate spending any more on fish when tilapia is so cheap.

                                                                    Fishing licenses and deep freezers are more of an investment though, and more yummy ;)

                                                                    I like most of my fish plain -- Fried in minimal butter or EVOO or coconut oil, with some dill. Maybe some flour and graham cracker prior to frying. Maybe an overnight soak in Italian dressing prior to that. Purposely make extra for cold fish sandwiches the next day with Hellmann's mayo and lots of black pepper on cast iron butter toasted Texas Toast. Oh yeah.

                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Muddirtt

                                                                      It's cheap for a reason, some think it tastes like your username. I try to avoid farmed fish except shellfish but keep tilapia around because it's useful for a quick meal.

                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        I've never tasted the dirt taste but if I did, I'd probably enjoy it more -- Kind of like why I like raw portobello mushrooms.

                                                                        1. re: Muddirtt

                                                                          I've never tasted the dirt taste either but then I don't think raw portabello mushrooms taste like dirt.

                                                                          1. re: Muddirtt

                                                                            It depends on where it comes from. I've tasted it in the past. But I haven't eaten tilapia in years.

                                                                        2. re: Muddirtt

                                                                          Frozen tilapia most likely comes from China.

                                                                          "At Chen Qiang's tilapia farm in Yangjiang city in China's Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, Chen feeds fish partly with feces from hundreds of pigs and geese. That practice is dangerous for American consumers, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety.

                                                                          "The manure the Chinese use to feed fish is frequently contaminated with microbes like salmonella," says Doyle, who has studied foodborne diseases in China.

                                                                          On a sweltering, overcast day in August, the smell of excrement is overpowering. After seeing dead fish on the surface, Chen, 45, wades barefoot into his murky pond to open a pipe that adds fresh water from a nearby canal. Exporters buy his fish to sell to U.S. companies.

                                                                          Yang Shuiquan, chairman of a government-sponsored tilapia aquaculture association in Lianjiang, 200 kilometers from Yangjiang, says he discourages using feces as food because it contaminates water and makes fish more susceptible to diseases. He says a growing number of Guangdong farmers adopt that practice anyway because of fierce competition.

                                                                          "Many farmers have switched to feces and have stopped using commercial feed," he says. "


                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                            I've seen photos of farm chickens cages right over the fish ponds. Easy for the chicken / fish farmer not to have to "clean up" the chicken dung. YUCK

                                                                            They've probably got shrimp under there too.

                                                                            1. re: Scoutmaster

                                                                              I'd be more concerned of the hormones that our farm animals are being fed, and the sprays on our crops.

                                                                              Bottom feeding fish in our rivers eat the crap at the bottom and they cook up just fine.

                                                                            2. re: C. Hamster

                                                                              Fecal consumption is not, in and of itself, a reason to avoid eating an animal. Lots of "delicacies" - shrimp, crayfish, lobster - are shit-eating bottom feeders. Not to mention the good ol' staples pig and catfish which will eat just about any kind of garbage. If an animal can safely turn waste into protein, I'm all for eating as much of it as possible. I see nothing in the article to indicate that the tilapias' diet affects the health of the people who eat it (contamination during processing and packaging, is another story).

                                                                              1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                                The quote did mention salmonella microbes ...

                                                                                But the issue goes well beyond the tilapia's diet.

                                                                                "FUQING, China — Here in southern China, beneath the looming mountains of Fujian Province, lie dozens of enormous ponds filled with murky brown water and teeming with eels, shrimp and tilapia, much of it destined for markets in Japan and the West.

                                                                                Fuqing is one of the centers of a booming industry that over two decades has transformed this country into the biggest producer and exporter of seafood in the world, and the fastest-growing supplier to the United States.

                                                                                But that growth is threatened by the two most glaring environmental weaknesses in China: acute water shortages and water supplies contaminated by sewage, industrial waste and agricultural runoff that includes pesticides. The fish farms, in turn, are discharging wastewater that further pollutes the water supply.

                                                                                “Our waters here are filthy,” said Ye Chao, an eel and shrimp farmer who has 20 giant ponds in western Fuqing. “There are simply too many aquaculture farms in this area. They’re all discharging water here, fouling up other farms.”

                                                                                Farmers have coped with the toxic waters by mixing illegal veterinary drugs and pesticides into fish feed, which helps keep their stocks alive yet leaves poisonous and carcinogenic residues in seafood, posing health threats to consumers.

                                                                                Environmental degradation, in other words, has become a food safety problem, and scientists say the long-term risks of consuming contaminated seafood could lead to higher rates of cancer and liver disease and other afflictions."


                                                                          2. If tilapia were the only choice of fish in the market, I still would not eat it. It's farm raised, and farm raised fish in general is not a good product. WHERE is it raised, is certainly important. Fish raised in Asia is pretty well known to be "dirty." That is to say, practices are sketchy at best. Lots of farm raised fish end up feeding on their own feces.

                                                                            Tilapia is considered by many "clean eaters" to be garbage fish. As much as I love fish and seafood, no way I'm buying or eating it. Anywhere.

                                                                            Not to mention that it doesn't taste like anything at all...

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                                                              Farm raising fish saves the world's natural fish populations.

                                                                              1. re: Muddirtt

                                                                                +1 to muddirt
                                                                                Tilapia is indeginous to where I live and the population is going down and down. Without fish farming it would have died out.
                                                                                Our local farmed tilapia (zambia) is more expensive than the chinese import though.
                                                                                We fry them whole or use fillets (beer battered) or use it in a fish curry.
                                                                                It is not my favourite fish as I prefer sea fish, but I will eat it without a problem.

                                                                                1. re: Muddirtt

                                                                                  On the contrary....farmed salmon has severely depleted the natural forage fish, menhaden, anchovies, and herring. Pollution from open ocean salmon farms has depleted the ecosystem in the immediate area. While tilapia are raised in ponds on poop and plant material, they easily escape and are considered a destructive invasive species through the southern US and the warmer regions of the world.

                                                                                  1. re: EricMM

                                                                                    I've been burned by muddy tilapia too many times. My market doesn't have country of origin, though. For a white fish, I find that Basa (Pangasius ) is better and more predictable.

                                                                                    1. re: rudeboy

                                                                                      Basa is an Asian catfish (Pangasius), probably raised under the same conditiions as tilapia.

                                                                              2. At first, I thought tilapia was good, and I used it often. Then the fillets I was finding got smaller and less nice tasting. I heard that they were farmed in less than good conditions in Vietnam, and I have not consumed Tilapia in several years.

                                                                                1. No. I do not prefer tilapia over anything else; I don't purchase or consume tilapia. I also don't eat catfish.