When working in the seafood business you get a lot of questions, random questions, with answers you take for granted. Sometimes I forget that not everyone, chefs included, is not a fish nerd like myself. That being said, here are some seafood related questions that I often get with short, easily remembered answers. Mom if you're reading, the first one's for you.
Q: What is calamari made out of?
A: If you see calamari on a restaurant menu it will most likely 10 times out of 10 be made from cut squid. Most restaurants use the tubes (body) and tentacles chopped into small pieces and most often it is served fried. And yes, squid and octopus are different creatures, related, but different.
Q: If a snapper is red, does it make it a red snapper?
A: Barring the philosophical difficulties that you could get into with this question, the seafood answer is no, it doesn't. There are many cases where similar looking snappers are traded out for the more expensive and highly prized true American Red Snapper. Though similar in looks and color, there is only one American Red. To avoid being duped by mislabeling I suggest you frequent seafood establishments who have whole fish on hand and do their own butchering in-house. It also helps if the staff can answer the tough questions about where the fish came from and who caught it.
Q: Is all farmed salmon bad to eat?
A: No, No, No. Not at all. I always say I wouldn't sell a salmon that I wouldn't feed to my family and I mean it. Though there are farms out there that I wouldn't eat fish from, the salmon we sell at BlackSalt is grown by some of the strictest methods possible. Farms like Skuna Bay and True North are making great strides in aquaculture methods. Every year the feed and containment measures are getting better.
Q: Is farmed fish bad to eat?
A: Again, the answer is no, with a but. There are some sustainable farms out there, doing the right thing by ensuring that their operations are environmentally safe and the fish produced are healthy to eat. These include tilapia, barramundi, pompano and black bass.
Q: Is tuna, swordfish, and wild fish safe to eat?
A: Yes. The benefits from eating more fish far outweigh the negatives. I would suggest mixing up your diet and seafood selections. Broadening your repertoire is essential here, the more seafood varieties you eat, the better off any one species will be.
Q: Can you eat oysters in summer?
Q: Is rockfish actually a striped bass?
A: Yes, what we call rockfish here on the East Coast is actually a striped bass. There is an actual rockfish species that is commercially fished on the West Coast which includes about 35 different varieties.
Q: What is the best shrimp to purchase and eat?
A: I always recommend wild, domestic shrimp over imported and farmed.
Q: Most U.S. wild fisheries are overfished, we shouldn't be eating wild fish should we?
A: Actually, all U.S. fisheries are either at a sustainable balance and are not being overfished or are on a management quota program that is currently rebuilding depleted stocks. The U.S.'s management of its wild stocks has come a long way since the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the future looks bright for our domestic wild fisheries. Check out more information at NOAA.