Fresh Fish is part of the Mediterranean diet that is so popular in Malta. Surrounded by sea, there is an abundance of fresh Fish you can buy at the market or eat in a restaurant. The question arises, how can you recognise fresh Fish? There are a few definite signs that will tell you if the Fish is fresh. It should have a mild sea scent, moist flesh, and appear freshly cut. If the fishy odour is too strong, however, that is a sign it is not fresh. The eyes should be bulging and clear, with bright red or pink gills. Fresh Fish is best used right away; however, you can also store it for up to 2 days in the coldest part of your fridge.
How to Recognise Fresh Fish?
The smell is the first thing you can check. Fresh Fish should smell of the ocean whiteout being too overpowering. It should smell like an ocean fresh breeze rather than have a strong fishy odour. After smelling the Fish and approving of its freshness, you can move on to the next test.
The next thing you can do, which is the most straightforward test of all is to check the eyes of the Fish. Are they clear, bright and slightly bulging with no cloudiness present? Those are signs of a fresh fish. The pupil will likely be black and clearly distinguishable within the eyeball. If the Fish displays these signs, you are on the right track. Of course, you need to see the head of the Fish, so if you are checking out a fish without a head, you will need to use an alternate method such as…
The firmness of the Fish allows you to distinguish between fresh Fish and thawed out Fish. If the Fish is firm, rigid and can almost stand up alone, then it is likely to be fresh. When the skin and flesh are too soft, that means it has probably been thawed out.
Shine and Colour
The skin and outer surface of the Fish should be bright and shiny if it is fresh and has been caught recently. If the skin looks dull and colourless, the likelihood is that it has been thawed out. Any discolouration of the outer skin, brown and yellow at the edges, or a spongy feel and consistency are all signs of an ageing fish.
Red Gills, or Not?
The gills on fresh Fish should be bright pink, or red, wet, and not slimy or dry. However, as far as the gills are concerned, it cannot be taken for granted that a fish which has red, or pink gills are fresher than others with darker gills. Although it is often said brownish gills are a sign of ageing, sometimes it depends on the natural habitat of the fish species, so don’t bank on that factor alone, without observing the other signs of ageing and overall condition of the Fish.
Check the Blood
If the Fish loses a lot of blood while you are cleaning it, that indicates the Fish is indeed fresh. Copious amounts of blood point to two factors, namely, the blood has not coagulated in a freezer, and it has been caught recently.
Tricky Backbone and Stripping off the Skin
If it is difficult to remove the backbone when filleting, your Fish is fresh. If it comes away too quickly, that indicates it isn’t fresh, possibly due to a unique natural chemical process which tenderises the Fish’s flesh once it is dead. You can also assess the freshness of your Fish by stripping off the skin. If it is hard to remove, that indicates it is fresh. If it easily breaks away without much effort, that points to an ageing fish.