The name ‘Dory’ comes from old French ‘doree’, meaning ‘gilded’ referring to the Dories’ shiny skin. These large-eyed, silvery, fish with flat, disc-shaped bodies and spiny fins are generally found in deepwater on or near the ocean bed. The most common commercial dories in Australia belong to the Zeidae family, named for the powerful Greek god Zeus and known as the ‘true’ Dories. They are among Australia’s most popular fish.
Other Dories occasionally seen include members of the Cyttidae family (sometimes called ‘Australian Dories’ though some are found further afield than Australian waters). They’re mainly caught as by-catch and, unlike the ‘true’ dories, their scaled skin is rough to touch. Silver Dory
) is endemic to Australia, it has silvery-pink skin and a more elongated body than most other dories. King Dory
) is mainly caught as bycatch of Blue Grenadier trawling off the south-eastern coast of NSW and Victoria. New Zealand Dory
) is another member of this family.
Dories are sold whole (gilled and gutted) and in fillet form (usually skin on, as the most highly prized, John Dory, is identified by the dark spot on its side). In whole fish look for lustrous skin, firm flesh, and a pleasant, fresh sea smell. In fillets, look for firm, lustrous, moist flesh without any brown markings or oozing water and with a pleasant fresh sea smell. John Dory flesh is white, whereas Mirror Dory has a pink tinge and Silver and King Dories are slightly yellowish.
Make sure whole fish is gutted and cleaned thoroughly; King and Silver Dories also need to be scaled. Wrap whole fish and fillets in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze whole fish for up to 6 months, and fillets for up to 3 months, below -18ºC.
Cooking & Serving
Dories are versatile, suitable for steaming, poaching, deep-frying, pan-frying, baking, grilling, and barbecuing. They have a mild, flavour (John dory is slightly sweet), low oiliness and moist, medium-textured flesh with fine flakes and few bones, which are easily removed. The edible skin can be left on. Fillets are thin and best wrapped in foil or banana leaves to protect them if barbecuing or grilling.
When is a Dory not a Dory
, members of a closely related family, belong to the same order as Dories, Zeiformes. They have rougher, darker skin, larger eyes and more elongated bodies than Dories and are generally found in deeper water. They include Black
- also marketed as Black Oreodory
); and Oxeye
, though in North America Allocyttus folletti
is known as Oxeye Oreo. They are less expensive than Dories and generally considered inferior to them, though they are still good eating and can be substituted for dories in recipes. They have a thick skin, which is best removed, and a slightly firmer texture than dories.
A number of unrelated, inferior species are sometimes incorrectly labelled as dories by retailers hoping to trade on the strength of this species’ popularity. Basa (Pangasius bocourti
), a farmed catfish imported from South East Asia, is sometimes sold as Pacific Dory or Cream Dory. Butterfish, including Striped Scat (Selenotoca multifasciata
) and Spotted Scat (Scatophagus argus
) have sometimes been called Dory, John Dory or Johnny Dory and several species of Spinyfin (members of the Diretmidae
family) have also sometimes been incorrectly marketed as Dories.