Here, Fishy Fishy

This past weekend, I really wanted to steam a fish dish, but I couldn't find Chilean sea bass at the local market. I could only find some frozen filets, but I wanted fresh. And I didn't know if this was because (a) they didn't have any, (b) I was looking in the wrong supermarket, or (c) I had no idea how to say/read "Chilean sea bass" in Chinese. (I have since learned that it's "智利鱸魚" in Chinese.)

A little research turned up that the Chilean sea bass' proper name is "patagonian toothfish" (dissostichus eleginoides) and in fact isn't really a sea bass at all. And because it's a deep sea fish, there's pretty much no way to get this fish fresh; they're frozen upon catching them.

"There’s a 90 percent chance that the fish was frozen first. Most of the Chilean sea bass that is caught these days is landed in some of the most remote waters of the planet and frozen aboard the boats. The quality of most of this fish is excellent, as is the quality of most of the refreshed fillets that are sold to buyers who think they are getting fresh."

I'm one of the people who was buying "refreshed" fish from Ranch 99, thinking it was fresh. I couldn't tell, and I have to agree that the quality of fish was quite good. Anyway, I learned that the WWF and other organizations are warning about severe overfishing making the species quickly threatened: illegal catch is ten times the legal catch! It almost makes me not want to have any. Yeah, almost.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium -- I love that place -- has a long "Seafood Watch" paper about this, and says, "Striped bass, Pacific halibut and white seabass are your best choices." The National Environmental Trust (NET) also has this PDF report called "Black Market for White Gold", and offers that "The closest alternatives to Chilean Sea Bass in terms of taste and texture are cod and Alaskan halibut."

Maybe I'll give those a try sometime, but -- believe it or not -- I couldn't find black bean sauce anywhere around here. Means I'll have to figure out a new sauce to make, like a red and yellow pepper coulis or something. Huh.


James said...

Ooh, I love KT's steamed sea bass dish. It's one of my absolute favorites she makes. But recently it's gone up to almost $12 / lb here in the bay area. We used to get it for about $4-$7 / lb before. Thanks for the substitution tip. I'll have to try it out to see if it is indeed similiar in taste and texture

KT said...

Recepie: lot's of green onions, salt, pepper, ginger slices. Top with Chinese cooking wine, light soy sauce. steaam until done, top with sesame oil and fresh green onions.

ceaz said...

I just broiled chilean sea bass (chinese style) this past weekend. It was really yummy.

Ben said...

James/KT: Ouch, it's $12/lb now? I remember when it was still $7.99 or $8.99 a pound at Ranch.

Ceaz: Recipe?

I like to make mine similar to KT's. I start off with a tinfoil pouch with ...

- a small dollop of black bean garlic sauce (sparingly)
- green onions
- julienned (young) ginger
- splash of Chinese cooking wine

... and seal it, then throw it in the toaster oven to steam this way (there's an actual term for it, called papillote). Then when done ...

- more (fresh) green onions
- a few drops of sesame oil

I think that's it, pretty simple. So if you were to substitute for the other types of fish, what would you change to your csb recipes?

KT said...

halibut DOES NOT work as a sub.

Ben said...

Oh, what happened?

I'm thinking rock cod (石斑) would work as a substitute for the Chilean sea bass, but I'm not sure how much cheaper it is.

Ce said...

Inside joke: "Ill tempered sea-bass"