Wed 29 Nov

Five Ugly Seafood Species You Have to Try

The phrase “eat with your eyes first” is very common among chefs, alluding to the fact that foods that look strange or unappetising are less often eaten. And this is also the case with certain types of seafood. Eels, cephalopods, urchin, and some whole fish (especially those from the deep sea) look so strange that you couldn’t imagine even considering putting them in your mouth.  

However, when treated right, some of the strangest looking Australian seafood species also happen to be some of the most delicious. Give some of the species on this list a try and get out of your comfort zone – you might even find a new favourite fish!  

Tip: If you’re particularly nervous or squeamish about the look of a fish, remember that you can always ask your fishmonger to prep it for you, whether that be cleaning, gutting, filleting, or removing tentacles, spikes, or scales. 



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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! But don’t be afraid – as mentioned above, the professionals at Sydney Fish Market can handle this fish for you.   

With a taste and texture extremely similar to Australian Rock Lobster, this fish’s slightly freaky look belies its absolutely delicious eating qualities. We recommend cooking Scorpionfish steaming or deep-fried is the way to go. One whole fish can easily feed 4 people if you’re looking to impress at your next dinner party! 



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Australia has around 5000 commercial marine species. Almost all of them are beautiful, sporting bright colours, metallic hues, or prismatic patches that play with light in incredible ways. Almost all. The Common Stargazer is a proud exception, with a big square head, perpetually frowning mouth covered with fleshy protrusions, and a scaleless, toad-like body. On top of that, they bury themselves in sand or mud and simply wait for prey to come within a few centimetres of their face before striking upwards in a terrifying burst, sucking their prey, along with all the water around them, through their flared gills. Prey is usually consumed alive as Stargazers lack the ability to chop or crush.   

But if you can get over all that, you’ll be rewarded with one of seafood’s tastiest fillets. In flavour and texture, this is a fish that has more in common with Rock Lobsters or Scampi than any fish. It has a pleasant sweetness and opaque white flesh when cooked which, when the flesh comes apart, resembles the ‘stringiness’ of crustaceans as opposed to the flakiness of fish flesh. Cook a Stargazer fillet correctly (pan-fried or roasted is ideal) and it’s like eating a big, butter-poached lobster tail, at about a sixth of the price. 



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(Note: the species in this video isn't exactly the same species we're talking about, but is in the same family and has the mouth we mention!)

All Oreodories have similar physical characteristics, such as large eyes, and compressed bodies. Although widely spread across southern ocean's deep seas, the fact that Ordoeories can live up to 2km deep means that there’s still a lot to learn about them. What we do know is that they have an extremely protrusible mouth which allows them to feed on a variety of deep-sea prey, such as crustaceans and small cephalopods. This diet, coupled with their extremely cold ambient temperature, make for a particularly fatty, rich fillet, while maintaining a mild flavour.   

Always sold as fillets (we freely admit that this fish, while adorable as a juvenile, is not classically handsome) of around 100 grams in weight, making them perfect as a single serve. Best enjoyed either deep-fried or grilled, and voila!  



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(Note: This video features the similar, but different species, Hairtail! We link it to give you an idea of the Ribbonfish's body shape.)

Perfectly at home over one kilometre deep in the south eastern half of Australia, the Ribbonfish is of the deepest-sea fish available in Australia. Similar to the better-known Hairtail, this fish is aptly named with a long, skinny, chrome body that can grow up to 2.2m in length and presents a range of opportunities for the home cook.   

Ribbonfish is great when marinaded and grilled, BBQ’d, and even thrown in at the end of making a light soup to poach in the residual heat of the liquid.     

When very fresh, the Ribbonfish also makes for excellent sashimi. Sydney Chef Raita Noda will take a small piece of shoulder fillet, score just through the skin as many times as possible, then blowtorch the skin, leaving the flesh mostly raw. Remarkable! 



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Flutemouths are excellent predators, in possession of one of the ocean’s most specialised body shapes. As narrow as an arrow, a unique sensory organ trailing their tail allows Flutemouths to live in a constant state of awareness. At the front, their elongated, webbed mouth ands with a grabbing pair of lips. The Flutemouth will hunt prey, typically baitfish, until they are able to get into their blind spot. A strike involves expanding the long cylinder of a mouth in order to create a vacuum that sucks the fish in. 

This efficiency has allowed them to spread to almost everywhere in Australia, with more showing up to market each season. The eating quality is excellent. The meat is uncommonly sweet and can be cooked in a variety of methods. Of note is Josh Niland’s approach: the only quality the Flutemouth lacks is fat, and Mr Niland balances this by removing the head of the fish, cleaning the gut cavity without damaging it, and stuffing this long section with a fatty pork mince. The fish is then grilled whole. Unquestionably brilliant, yet achievable by the home cook. 


P.S. If you like this kind of thing, check out this crazy fish we saw on the auction floor recently!