FAQs

 
 
 
 
 
 
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We have two main species of scallops in Australia: commercial and saucer. Commercial scallops (previously called king or sea scallops), mainly from Tasmania, have creamy-coloured flesh and are generally sold with their tasty orange roe attached; their ridged, oval shells are pale pinky-red. Saucer scallops (previously called white or mud scallops), mainly from Queensland and WA, have firmer, whiter flesh; their thin, grey roe is removed when they are opened as it is not very appetising. They’re often sold still attached to their almost-round, smooth, reddish-brown shells.

 

 
With such a wide variety of fresh Australian seafood available, it’s always best to be open to substitution in recipes. A particular species may be out of season, making it unavailable, not at its best, or expensive, whereas a similar species, in season, may be a much better (and more economical) choice. If in doubt, tell your fishmonger how you’re planning on cooking the fish, or what species the recipe calls for, and ask his advice. He works with seafood all year round and probably eats more of it than most people, so he’s in a good position to advise.
 
All the recipes on our Recipes page list alternative species; type ‘Snapper’ into the search box and recipes for Snapper, Blue-eye Trevalla, Bream and several other species will be listed, as Snapper can be substituted for those species in those recipes.
 

Australian substitutes for some of the most common European fish are: 
Brill – John Dory 
Clam – Vongole, Pipi 
Cod – Murray Cod, Blue-eye Trevalla 
Grouper – Barramundi 
Halibut – Atlantic Salmon 
Langoustine – Prawn, Yabby 
Lobster – Rocklobsters 
Monkfish – Stargazer 
Plaice – Whiting, Flounder 
Sea Bass – Murray Cod, Hapuku 
Sole – Flounder 
Squat Lobster – Bugs 
Turbot – Flounder 
Europe has many large flat fish such as Halibut and Turbot for which there is really no equivalent in Australia, it’s best to consider the other ingredients and cookery method when choosing a substitute for such fish.

 

When it comes to cooking barramundi, some people claim farmed fish are very different from wild-caught ones. A difference in flavour and texture can be due to the environment in which the fish live, but is mostly a result of the size at which they’re harvested. Farmed barramundi harvested at plate-size (around 400-600g and 30-35cm) have a soft, delicate flesh, while larger fish (harvested at around 3kg) have a flakier, firmer flesh. In the wild barramundi can grow up to 50kg and 1.5m long, though generally they’re caught at less than 6kg; the larger the fish, the firmer and flakier the flesh. Barramundi occasionally have a slightly muddy flavour due to natural algae in the water. This algae is less common in salt water, where a lot of wild-caught barramundi is harvested, and so is not really an issue in salt water farms. Fresh water farms take care to ensure that fish are harvested from water that is algae free.

 

There are two things to consider when determining how to cook a particular type of fish: texture and flavour. For curries it’s best to select a fish with firm flesh that will hold together well when it’s stirred through the sauce. While some mild flavoured fish could be used, the strong flavours in the sauce will tend to overpower them. Curries are an excellent opportunity to use some of the oilier fish that are often overlooked because of their stronger flavour. Good choices include albacore, mackerel, salmon, swordfish, tuna, yellowtail kingfish or, if you prefer a milder flavoured fish, blue-eye trevalla, ling or ray/skate.

 

Ling, Blue-eye Trevalla, Coral Trout, Emperors and Mahi Mahi are just some fish with firm, white flesh. Firm, white-fleshed fish are a popular choice for many recipes as their flavour isn’t as distinctive as pink or red-fleshed fish, like Salmon and Tuna, and their firm texture means they hold together well in all sorts of  preparations. With so many species of fish in the ocean, many can be substituted for one another, which is good news for the cook. If a recipe calls for a particular species which is unavailable, or too expensive, on the day you’re shopping, tell your fishmonger how you plan to cook it and ask them to suggest a suitable substitute.

 
 
 
 

Here’s a rough guide to main course serving sizes for some of the most popular seafoods:
Whole fish 350-550g
Fish fillets 150-220g
Fish cutlets 175-300g
Blue Swimmer Crabs 1 
Oysters 12 
Smoked Salmon 100g 
Octopus, Squid, Cuttlefish 250g 
Prawns 300-400g (there are 40-50 small Prawns/kg, 20-30 medium Prawns/kg, 10-20 large Prawns/kg)

 

Click here for our Seasonality Calendar >

Or purchase the ‘Seafood By Season’ calendar, from Seafood Services Australia (SSA). Contact them on 1300 130 321, email ssa@seafoodservices.com.au or visitwww.seafoodbookshop.com.au.

 

Ask your fishmonger if what you are buying is the same as the label. If you see or purchase any seafood that you think is mislabelled, report it to your state food authority - in NSW www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au.

There are also a number of publications available to assist you with identification of species, such as Fil-O-Fish (Candlelight Publishing), available from Seafood Services Australia. Visit www.seafoodbookshop.com.au for more information.

 
Some seafood, such as Oysters and Atlantic Salmon, are only farmed; while others, such as Prawns, are both farmed and wild caught. Fishmongers often label farmed seafood, but if in doubt, ask. It’s worth finding a fishmonger you can build a rapport with, they’re always the best source of information as they live and breathe seafood, buying from Sydney Fish Market’s auction daily, or at least several times a week.
 
As to which is best, both farmed and wild caught seafood have their place. Farmed seafood guarantees a constant supply, whereas wild caught seafood can be subject to seasonal variations. With some species, such as Barramundi, there’s such a difference between the wild caught (large and meaty with a more pronounced flavour) and farmed (usually plate-sized, with softer, milder-tasting flesh), that you should think of them as two different fish with different uses.
 
At least one of Sydney Fish Market’s 6 seafood retailers carries (or can order in) all of the above. The seafood retailers at Sydney Fish Market are open from 7am-4pm 7 days a week every day of the year except Christmas Day, and between them carry all of the above as well as Australia’s most extensive range of fresh seafood, including whole fish, fillets, cutlets, live shellfish and more. With off-street parking, a well-stocked deli, fruit and vegetable shop, liquor shop, bakery and butcher shop, Sydney Fish Market really is the one-stop answer to all your food shopping questions.
 

Fresh Australian seafood is largely a product of wild harvest, its supply affected by seasons and weather, so its price is driven by supply and demand, much more so than prices of shelf-stable commodity foods. Most fresh Australian seafood consumed in Sydney is bought through Sydney Fish Market’s daily auction where buyers bid for the fishermen’s catch. If there’s an abundance of a particular species, the price will be lower as there’s enough to go around. But if a species is scarce, the buyers will drive the price higher in an attempt to outbid one another for the little that’s available. Increased demand over Christmas, Easter and other public holidays also therefore drives prices higher.

 

The supply of seafood is affected by many factors, including weather (boats often don’t go out if the seas are too rough), season (some species are more abundant at certain times of year), and demand (certain species are very popular for particular holidays, such as Mud Crabs for Chinese New Year). When supply is limited or demand is high prices will be higher. So the price of seafood can vary on a daily or weekly basis and it’s best to check with your local retailer if you want to confirm current prices. Sydney Fish Market’s website www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au lists contact details for all 6 seafood retailers on site under the ‘At The Market’ tab, as well as weekly specials and seasonal best buys.

 

Monkfish (Lophius piscatorius), also called angler-fish, goosefish, sea devil, rape (Spanish), and lotte (French), is a fish found in the northern hemisphere. It’s rather unattractive, with a little ‘rod’ protruding from the top of its head which it uses to attract small prey while it lays in wait on the bottom of the sea (thus the name angler-fish). The thick, meaty white-fleshed tail is highly prized however, as the texture resembles Lobster, for which it’s occasionally been substituted by dishonest chefs. Monkfish is not available in the southern hemisphere. The best substitutes in recipes calling for it are Rocklobster or members of the Stargazer family (Uranoscopidae), which have a similar texture though not quite as firm.

 

Buying species that are in season and asking your fishmonger for recommendations are two great ways to get a bargain while still eating fresh Australian seafood. Whole fish are always better value than fillets or cutlets, as you aren’t paying for the fishmongers’ time to fillet and prepare them – the bonus is that fish on the bone has more flavour. Some whole fish that offer particularly good value are: Australian salmon, mullet, luderick, bight redfish, gemfish, silver warehou, eastern school whiting and garfish. If you do want to buy fillets, look out for species such as mirror dory, redfish, gemfish, oreodory, morwong, leatherjacket, Australian sardines and albacore. For great value shellfish, consider cuttlefish (almost identical to squid often at half the price), pipis, vongole and blue mussels. Recipes for all these species are available on our recipes pages.

 

White-fleshed fish generally have a milder flavour than dark-fleshed fish. Ling is a good option for kids as it has a mild flavour and very few bones. Other mild-flavoured fish include leatherjacket, flathead, whiting, flounder, sole and dory. Prawns are also popular with children, as is squid. Children who like red meat often enjoy tuna steaks as they have quite a meaty texture and flavour and again, no bones. Some ingredients help to mask fishy flavours, such as ginger in Asian dishes or Mediterranean ingredients such as tomatoes and capsicum.

 

Seafood will stay fresh longer if it’s kept cold. When shopping for seafood use a chiller bag or esky and ask your fishmonger to pack some ice with your purchase.

 
Why do some scallops have roe and others don’t?

We have two main species of scallops in Australia: commercial and saucer. Commercial scallops (previously called king or sea scallops), mainly from Tasmania, have creamy-coloured flesh and are generally sold with their tasty orange roe attached; their ridged, oval shells are pale pinky-red. Saucer scallops (previously called white or mud scallops), mainly from Queensland and WA, have firmer, whiter flesh; their thin, grey roe is removed when they are opened as it is not very appetising. They’re often sold still attached to their almost-round, smooth, reddish-brown shells.