Mackerel = Hake = Orange Roughy = Marlin = Snoek?
September 14, 2010 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find information about local substitutes for fish varieties from other countries?

I like cooking fish, but many of my cookbooks and recipes come from other countries. I'd like to be able to substitute local fish for those listed in the recipes, either because the variety listed isn't available here; or because it's air-freighted from the other side of the world, which I'd rather avoid.

Is there an easy source of information which will tell me what fish to substitute? Failing that, is there a single source that lists characteristics of many fish (oily, firm, flaky etc) so that I can work it out myself?

(Posisbly relevant: I'm in Australia. Most of my recipe books are from the UK, and I use online recipes from the USA, Europe and South Africa)
posted by girlgenius to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Australian Marine Conservancy Society is probably about as close as you're going to get. Which is not especially close.

Or you could try this.

More generally, if the fish in the recipe is

Boiled or cooked for a long time, or in a soup you want firm fleshed fish.

Fried, grilled, deep fried, etc: something described as "delicate", "fine", or "flaky".

These are the only two types of fish you need worry about.

For your delectation, australian firm fleshed fish include:

Mackerel (we catch them here, too!)
Flake (shark)
Nile Perch
Skate or Sole
John Dory

soft-fleshed fish include:

Flathead (my favourite!)
Coral trout
Ocean Trout
Yellow Jacket
Silver Perch
Sweetlip (actually firm, but gets very tough when overcooked)

For the sake of sustainability, go for:

Hake and Mackerel
Whiting and Flathead

The AMCS has lots more info about eating sustainably. Avoid aquacultured stuff from Asia if you can (most barramundi, basa, and nile perch).
posted by smoke at 8:00 PM on September 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seafood Watch has alternatives to over-fished seafood. It may be of help.
posted by JABof72 at 9:22 PM on September 14, 2010

hear hear, smoke. Except you stuffed up your AMCS link.

Another issue is that names vary even between States in Australia.

Avoid swordfish, most unsustainable.
posted by wilful at 11:38 PM on September 14, 2010

(oh so I stuffed the link up as well. .pdf here.)
posted by wilful at 11:39 PM on September 14, 2010

An issue with the AMCS guide is that it's too general. For example, shark, sold as flake, is definitely known to be in healthy condition in Victoria.
posted by wilful at 11:42 PM on September 14, 2010

For an excellent reference on the characteristics of fish, and what to do them, try the Alan Davidson books:

North Atlantic
South East Asia
posted by zamboni at 8:22 AM on September 15, 2010

Thanks everyone who responded. It looks like there are no easy answers but these are a start.

(Hmmm, any MeFites looking for a project who want to build a fish-o-matic recipe substitutorator?)
posted by girlgenius at 5:01 PM on September 16, 2010

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