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Dealing with sustainability in nonEnglish-speaking restaurants

  • f

I can readily check web sites or call to find out whether or not items--especially seafood--are sustainable or not at many places, but it's a problem at Chinese spots in particular.

This poses a pretty big problem, since sustainable seafood is a major concern of mine and Chinese food is our favorite, Alas, I speak no Chinese of any variety except for 2 or 3 words.

Has anyone found a way to deal with this issue?

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  1. How do you deal with sustainablity in other restaurants? Do you just ask them 'are your fish sustainable?'? or can you identify the various species by name, and possibly appearance?

    If there is a large Asian grocery near you (e.g. 99Ranch in Calif), browse their fish counter. A lot of their fish is farmed (e.g. carp, catfish), others are rarities in high-class American restaurants (beltfish, milkfish).

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      99 Ranch lists country of origin for its fish, so you can do a little research on that country's general practices. It won't tell you about a particular batch, but will give you a general idea. Now if they had would list the binomial name so I knew just what a particular fish actually is - but that's a problem in general.

    2. FYI, after listening to this series of reports, I have concerns whether the information one might receive from restaurants or fishmongers may even be accurate in their assessment of sustainability.

      1. I always take the attitude that if I don't make it myself I can't worry about sustainability. I often eat vegetarian out for that reason, among others. Seriously, if you want my advice, limit the amount of meals out you have if you really care. What do you think they are going to tell you?

        1. Most, if not all, authentic Chinese restaurants generally don't care about sustainability.

          If sustainability is an issue for you, you can either stop eating Chinese, or make an exception for Chinese food when it comes to your sustainability mantra.

          1. I regard sustainability and other ethical matters as pretty much a lost cause with most restaurants. There isnt the interest. Means I usually have to put to one side the committments I make when buying for home. But I will still be aware of the issues. Like knowing the major fish varieties which are under threat. Or always assuming that, say, veal is not raised humanely unless the menu states country of origin and I know that country raises veal humanely.

            1. Hate to say it using the word 'sustainability' and 'non-english speaking restaurants' is an oxymoron generally speaking.

              1. Most seafood you find in the Chinese menu are of sustainable. Not because Chinese restaurants are into sustainable seafood, but because most Chinese restaurants use farmed fish. Obviously, some Chinese seafoods are from unsustainable source, like shark fin.

                <Has anyone found a way to deal with this issue?>

                A easy way around your problem is to get the regular seafood on the menu which are likely to be from farmed fish, as opposed to getting the whatever "catch of the day" which is likely to be wild caught. I mean you know what fish are endangered and what fish are not. Just order based on that. No different than other western restaurants really.

                It is funny how people always prefer "wild caught" but also want to be told that they are sustainable.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I should have been clearer in my query: I always carry the 8 Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood charts with me, so I'm not asking if the fish are sustainable so much as where they're from. Those familiar with these pocket-sized guides know that raised is far from always OK--e.g., salmon--and wild often not either. Sometimes it's the country, other times it's one particular variety.

                  1. re: Fine

                    Many environmental hand-outs from the Ca coast seem to be more political than reliable. But if over-fishing our oceans, which IS a big problem, is something you want to improve I'd agree that there are better ways to help than being worried about the fish in a "non-English speaking" restaurant. Unless you plan to boycott them simply not ordering seafood would have the same effect. In general, customers trying single handedly to raise the consciousness of non chain restaurants (ethnic or otherwise) are probably tilting at windmills.