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

fldhkybnva Feb 9, 2013 08:39 PM

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?

  1. westsidegal Feb 9, 2013 08:43 PM

    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. s
      sueatmo Feb 9, 2013 08:50 PM

      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
        fldhkybnva Feb 9, 2013 11:33 PM

        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. o
        ohmyyum Feb 9, 2013 08:51 PM

        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. s
          Sal Vanilla Feb 9, 2013 08:55 PM

          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
            fldhkybnva Feb 9, 2013 11:35 PM

            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: fldhkybnva
              magiesmom Feb 9, 2013 11:47 PM

              i think tilapia tastes like mud.

              1. re: magiesmom
                fldhkybnva Feb 10, 2013 12:09 AM

                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
                  magiesmom Feb 10, 2013 10:27 AM

                  I like catfish, but not tilapia.

                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                    Sal Vanilla Feb 10, 2013 10:41 AM

                    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
                    Njchicaa Feb 10, 2013 08:10 AM

                    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
                      fldhkybnva Feb 10, 2013 11:53 AM

                      Parmesan and butter make everything good :)

                  3. re: fldhkybnva
                    Sal Vanilla Feb 10, 2013 10:45 AM

                    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
                      Sal Vanilla Feb 11, 2013 11:52 PM

                      How did you end up doing that swordy?

                      1. re: Sal Vanilla
                        fldhkybnva Mar 1, 2013 05:43 PM

                        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
                      Vidute Feb 9, 2013 11:56 PM

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

                    3. C. Hamster Feb 10, 2013 08:00 AM

                      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. juliejulez Feb 10, 2013 10:23 AM

                        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. v
                          Violatp Feb 10, 2013 10:33 AM

                          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
                            magiesmom Feb 10, 2013 10:35 AM

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

                            1. re: magiesmom
                              Violatp Feb 10, 2013 10:36 AM

                              Yeah, good point.

                          2. k
                            kengk Feb 10, 2013 10:43 AM

                            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. r
                              RBofSF Feb 10, 2013 07:49 PM

                              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. j
                                JudiAU Feb 10, 2013 08:18 PM


                                1. w
                                  weedy Feb 10, 2013 08:27 PM

                                  I don't consider it an edible fish

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: weedy
                                    Snorkelvik Feb 11, 2013 08:24 AM


                                    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
                                      kmcarr Feb 11, 2013 09:46 AM

                                      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
                                        C. Hamster Feb 11, 2013 10:05 AM

                                        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
                                          Sal Vanilla Feb 11, 2013 11:51 PM

                                          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
                                          Snorkelvik Feb 11, 2013 10:17 AM

                                          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
                                            EricMM Feb 12, 2013 02:46 PM

                                            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
                                              hotoynoodle Feb 13, 2013 05:01 AM

                                              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
                                            MonMauler Feb 12, 2013 01:41 AM

                                            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.

                                        3. THoey1963 Feb 10, 2013 09:24 PM

                                          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
                                            THoey1963 Feb 14, 2013 12:14 PM

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

                                          2. Wayno Feb 10, 2013 09:41 PM

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

                                            1. 1
                                              1MunchieMonster Feb 10, 2013 09:51 PM

                                              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. a
                                                ARenko Feb 11, 2013 09:01 AM

                                                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. C. Hamster Feb 11, 2013 09:03 AM

                                                  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. nomnomnoms Feb 11, 2013 10:17 PM

                                                    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. mudcat Feb 12, 2013 08:46 AM

                                                      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. hotoynoodle Feb 12, 2013 08:55 AM

                                                        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. fldhkybnva Feb 14, 2013 12:21 PM

                                                          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?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                            EricMM Feb 14, 2013 02:07 PM

                                                            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.

                                                          2. fldhkybnva Feb 6, 2014 01:38 PM

                                                            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. greygarious Feb 6, 2014 02:19 PM

                                                              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.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: greygarious
                                                                fldhkybnva Feb 6, 2014 02:57 PM

                                                                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.

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