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Help to identify this fish please!

Hello forummers,

I bought this piece of "butterfish" at my local Vietnamese fishmonger in Melbourne, Australia, and found out through this forum (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3060...) and in particular this useful reply (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3060...) that this could be one of many different fishes including the very scary sounding Escolar. Does anyone have any ideas what fish this actually is, and especially if this is Escolar? There are 2 of us sharing this 350g piece of fish, and I really don't want to get explosive diarrhoea! Thanks!

P.s. It looks a little odd because its thawing from frozen.

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  1. Could be:


    Escolar flesh is snow-white. Does that fit?

    1. SInce so much fish is mislabeled, I would not want to guess. But according to Wikipedia, even if it IS escolar, the chance of gastrointestinal troubles is limited by eating a portion size of less than 6 ounces, and/or flesh close to the tail. Your piece may not be near the tail but your portion size is in the safe zone.

      1. GH1618: I have lived in the tropics almost all my life and the term "snow-white" is almost foreign to me ;p It does look quite white, a dirty sort of white. After googling many pictures of the alternative "butterfish", I still cannot tell if it might be black cod/sablefish or escolar.

        Greygarious: thanks for the 2 cents. The fish is quite oily to the touch, and coupled with its quite attractive price, is more likely to be escolar than not. My guts feel crampy just thinking about it! To be safe, I think my husband and I will just eat half the slice of fish and chuck the rest. I feel very tempted to chuck the whole thing but don't feel good about wasting the food. This'll teach me to buy more familiar fish in the future, or at least do my research carefully before buying "new" fish to try.

        1 Reply
        1. re: minchy

          I have found that escolar cooked on the grill outside gives us no gastric problems. The escolar I sauté inside on top of the stove does. Go figure! Fat draining off when cooked outside? I don't know. Such a delicious fish, but I am wary.

        2. Escolar is very white, like a sheet of paper. And it's got a wonderful, unique texture, I love it. I've never had gastro distress from it, but would recommend keeping the serving size at 6 oz or less to be safe. When I had it, it was a pretty generous serving.

          1. The chain restaurant Roy's specialty is butterfish, which is actually black cod. Nobu has a signature black cod dish as well. Not dissimilar to what you seem to have.


            3 Replies
              1. re: GH1618

                Check the photo in my link above.

                1. re: ferret

                  Hi ferret, thanks for the link. The 2 do look very similar! I think the black cod looks a little pinker though, and given that I bought the fish at AU$8/kg or approx US$3.70/lb, I thought the likelihood of it being black cod was quite low.

            1. Indeed I prepared it Nobu-style, with a miso marinade, and it was delicious! If not for the nagging fear of experiencing the escolar horror stories first hand, we would have polished the fish off within 10 seconds. We ended up eating about 3/4 of this piece, and up until now (more than 24 hours later) have not experienced anything out of the ordinary. Thank goodness!

              1 Reply
              1. re: minchy

                So, did you come to a conclusion as to whether or not you think it IS escolar?

              2. Here in Melbourne, Florida, USA (named after your fair city) we call that, filet of fish.

                Was it domestic or imported? And given the vast ocean reaches of Australia, what area? You might want to take a chunk, including skin, to the local university for identification. Give the ichthyologists a run for their money.

                1. Looks like what is called butterfish or black cod in North America. Up here, it is a very rich, oily white fish, flaverful and delicious. It's a popular smoked item in Jewish delicatessens, under the name sable fish.

                  Ours comes from Alaskan waters. Maybe there is a Southern Hemisphere equivalent. Yours could be Alaskan, too, given that it was frozen.

                  My favorite way to eat it is a Japanese style popular in Hawaii, where I used to live: Marinate it (under refrigeration) for at least a day in a mixture of miso paste, minced ginger and minced garlic, plus a splash of mirin, sake, wine or spirits. A white or at least light-colored miso is best, though red miso can work too ... you might want to add a dash of sugar, but taste the marinade and see. Pan-fry, oven bake, or grill. Some like to wipe off most of the marinade before cooking, some don't.

                  Whoa ... I just googled up some escolar images. Know what? Escolar and black cod look very similar. Both have off-white, slightly pinkish flesh ... and blackish, slightly knobby-looking scales. They are, in fact, two completely different species. The old advice is the right advice: only buy fish from people you trust.

                  PS: If you're visiting Hawaii, you can pay big bucks for miso butterfish at Roy's or Nobu. But if you can do without the white-tablecloth setting, every Hawaii Costco sells local pre-marinated miso butterfish for around $12 a pound. Just get some, and a bag of charcoal, and head for the nearest beach park that has barbecue grills. Miso butterfish is hugely popular in the Islands and enjoyed by practically everybody.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: emu48

                    The marinade i used was very similar, just without the minced garlic and ginger. Great tip about the Costco butterfish, thanks!