While Sydney Fish Market provides some of the best value and quality seafood in Australia, people often still view seafood as one of the more expensive proteins out there.
Studies show that most Australians are not eating the recommended amount of seafood each week, and often cost can be a barrier to Aussies getting their fishy fix!
So, this week, we’re bringing you our top 10 cheaper seafood swaps at Sydney Fish Market. We’ve got expert tips on which cut to buy for the best value, as well as a tonne of similar species to substitute into recipes so that they don’t break the bank.
Rocklobster → Swap for: Scorpion Fish
Everyone should try lobster at least once in their lives, but for most this decadent crustacean is a touch on the pricey side for everyday dinners. If you’ve got a craving for the white, firm, sweet meat of a Lobster, we recommend trying Red Scorpion Fish!
With about a dozen commonly-used names (including Red Rock Cod, Billy Bogan and… Poor Man’s Lobster!), this fish can be a bit intimidating due to its numerous venomous spikes – eek! But don’t be afraid – the professionals at Sydney Fish Market will handle this fish for you, and even cook it for you on-site (we recommend it either steamed or deep-fried). One whole fish can easily feed 4-6 people if you’re looking to impress at your next dinner party.
Flathead → Swap for: Gurnard/Latchet
The Latchet, also known as a Gurnard or Butterfly Gurnard due to its beautifully-coloured pectoral fins, is a lovely swap for the Australian favourite, Flathead.
You’ll find Flathead listed in many Australian recipes due to their finely textured flesh, which the Latchet replicates perfectly… for a fraction of the cost!
The diverse diet of this little fish also means that it has a more neutral flavour, making it super versatile to use in cooking and suitable for a variety of sauces and accompaniments.
Abalone → Swap for: Periwinkle/Turban Shell
Although tasty when cooked, Periwinkles are one of the most unfamiliar and neglected seafoods. Found in the tidal zones of most coastal areas in the world, these edible sea snails are packed with even more flavour and texture than their more familiar (and more expensive) sibling, abalone.
While snails might seem intimidating to cook at home, the simplest way is often the best! Boil or steam the shells for about 10 minutes, until the meat can be extracted using a fork. Then you can serve them with a dressing, in salads or even pickle them! The firm flesh holds together well in soups, curries and casseroles, and they are occasionally baked, pan-fried or eaten raw.
Southern Calamari → Gould’s Squid
Everyone loves calamari, but often squid is placed in the ‘too decadent’ basket by home-cooks. Squid doesn’t have to be expensive, however, and Gould’s Squid is a perfect example of a tasty and cheap alternative. Available year-round, this thick, tasty cephalopod can be stir-fried, deep-fried, grilled or braised, and suits endless flavour combinations. Our favourite recipe comes from Sydney Seafood School: Stir-fried squid with black beans, bok choy and noodles.
King prawns → Swap for: School prawns
While King prawns are Australia’s most popular prawns, their large size can also mean they are on the pricier side. However, a rule of thumb that you might not know is: the smaller the prawn, the sweeter the taste. Little School prawns are often deemed the sweetest of them all, and an added bonus of their petite size is that they are able to be used in a huge variety of ways.
Try popping them on the edge of a cocktail for a fancy touch, or – our favourite trick – ordering them deep-fried whole from one of the Sydney Fish Market retailers for an exciting new foodie experience.
John Dory → Swap for: Mirror, Silver or King Dory
One of Australia’s most highly prized finfish, John Dory is a staple on many five-star restaurant menus. Their thin, mild, flaky flesh suits butter or white wine sauces and fresh herbs, and is highly valued for a reason. Many may not know, however, that there are multiple other species of Dory that come at a much cheaper price.
Mirror, Silver and King Dory all have slightly different appearances, but can all serve as a tasty substitute to the more expensive John.
Yellowfin/Bluefin Tuna → Swap for: Mackerel/Longtail Tuna
One of the most expensive and prized fish in the sea is, of course, tuna. A delicacy throughout the world, they are caught using only the most specific methods to ensure their flesh is nothing less than perfect. The two most expensive and revered types of tuna are Yellowfin and Bluefin, both of which are often served raw as sashimi.
One of the tuna’s very close relatives, the Mackerel, is exceedingly good value in comparison and extremely underutilised in Australia. Mackerel’s dominant taste and firm flesh make it the perfect accompaniment for other strong flavours such as curries, red wine, tomatoes and vinegar.
In a similar swap, Spanish Mackerel are one of the tastiest fish in the Mackerel family, hence their slightly larger price tag. However, other types of Mackerel have a very similar, distinctly ‘fishy’ taste, and work beautifully being grilled, pan-fried, baked or smoked.
Alternatively, the Longtail tuna is a much more affordable member of the tuna family, and, while it is rarely available as sashimi grade, works perfectly when served as a steak, or in soups, curries or casseroles.
King George/Sand Whiting → Eastern School Whiting
Whiting are an excellent plate-sized fish to roast or BBQ whole, and are well-regarded for their delicate, sweet white flesh. The largest and most popular of the whiting family is the King George Whiting, which is not overly expensive, but does have cheaper alternatives!
Eastern School Whiting has a delicate, sweet flavour, low oiliness and moist, medium-textured, flaky flesh with fine bones, which are easily removed. The edible skin can be left on and the bones make excellent stock.
Our favourite way to cook this delicious fish is steamed, paired with asparagus and sauce gribiche.
Snapper → Swap for: Bigeye Ocean perch
Snapper is another highly prized fish, and a favourite on Australian plates. A similar tasting fish, but much more underappreciated, is the Bigeye Ocean Perch. This fish looks just as it sounds - big eyes, large mouth and a luscious reddish skin. It has an extremely white flesh with a delicate flavour and moist texture, which poaching or baking can enhance.