Squid have two long tentacles which are used to catch prey plus eight shorter arms. On a male Squid the tips of one or both of the two longest arms (not the tentacles) have a toothbrush, or picket fence, like appearance in place of the normal round suckers. Female Squid however have normal round suckers right to the end of all eight arms. The same applies to Octopus and Cuttlefish, which are also members of the cephalopod family.


Mussels taste creamier just before they spawn as they’re full of spat (roe). Just after they’ve spawned, they may taste stronger (some people say slightly bitter) due to the absence of the sweet creamy roe. Mussels tend to spawn in warmer weather, though the actual time varies from region to region and year to year. A Mussel that hasn’t spawned will look plumper and feel heavier than one that has, though that’s not much use when they’re closed tight in their shells. So, as with most seafood questions, it’s best to buy from a fishmonger you trust and to ask them!


Sashimi is a Japanese dish of slices of raw seafood, usually served with soy sauce and wasabi. It’s not served with rice and therefore is considered an entrée rather than a meal by the Japanese. Sushi is raw seafood (and sometimes other ingredients) served with rice, and therefore considered a main course or complete meal. As the seafood is eaten raw, it must be very fresh and of exceptional quality, such seafood is called ‘sashimi-grade’. Sashimi-grade seafood is caught, handled and prepared in a special way to keep it as fresh as possible so that it looks, tastes and smells as if it’s just come out of the water.


Very fresh seafood suitable for eating raw is called ‘sashimi-grade’. It’s caught and handled in such a way that peak freshness and quality are maintained. Sashimi-grade Tuna, and other large wild-caught fish, are line-caught, landed onto a mattress (to minimise bruising) and killed instantly by brain-spiking (ike jime). This prevents the fish from struggling and releasing stress hormones and helps keep the body temperature low. The fish is then bled immediately, removing heat and waste products, and put into an ice slurry to drop the body temperature as close to 0ºC as quickly as possible. Ideally sashimi-grade fish should be purchased on the day of consumption; after more than 24 hours in a domestic fridge, while it will still be premium quality, it won’t be at peak freshness and should be cooked rather than served raw.


Rays and Skates are very similar fish, both have cartilage instead of bones and their pectoral (side) fins are greatly enlarged and attached to their heads forming a large disc-shaped ‘body’, to which a much smaller tail is attached. Rays usually have long whip-like tails (often with stinging barbs on them). Skates have shorter, slightly thicker, more developed tails without a stinger. It’s generally the pectoral fins (usually called ‘flaps’ or ‘wings’) that are eaten and there’s little, if any, differentiation between species in the market. For more information on this family of fish see the Rays species feature.


Also known as Pacific dory, freshwater fillet or shark catfish, Basa are catfish farmed (and occasionally wild caught) in South East Asia. Frozen whole fish, fillets and cutlets (primarily Pangasius hypophthalmus) are imported, mainly from Vietnam and Thailand.


Common deep-sea fish include: Orange Roughy, Shark, Billfish (Swordfish and Marlin).


Whole fish can be cut in several different ways. A fillet is the whole side of a fish cut away from the central back bone and rib cage. You may need several fillets from a very small fish, such as Sand Whiting, to serve 1 person, while those from a larger fish, such as an 800g Snapper, may be an ideal portion size for 1 person. Fillets from very large fish, such as Swordfish or Tuna, are usually sliced vertically into steaks that are a suitable portion size for 1 person. Cutlets are a section sliced horizontally through the whole fish, leaving the bones in; Salmon and Blue-eye Trevalla are often seen as cutlets.


True Lobsters, common in Europe and North America, have large edible front nippers and are only found in the Atlantic Ocean. Their Australian relations, with much smaller front claws, are Rocklobsters, though they’re often mistakenly called ‘lobsters’ or ’crayfish, and are known as spiny lobsters in other parts of the world. Crayfish, the freshwater relatives of Lobsters and Rocklobsters (called crawfish in the USA), are much smaller and found in rivers, dams and lakes. Yabby, Marron and Redclaw are the most common varieties. Slipper Lobster is another name for Balmain or Moreton Bay Bugs.


Named for the popular Kumamoto Oysters of Japan (Crassostrea sikamea), these small Pacific Oyster’s are grown in conditions that simulate the rough oceans off Kumamoto, forcing them to grow deep in their shell as the new fragile layers of shell are constantly broken off. They’re popular for their good meat to shell ratio and rich flavour. Being in the rough water at the front of the Oyster leases means they get first pick of the nutrients that are washed into the lease, so despite their small shell size they have an intense flavour. Also called ‘virgin Pacific Oysters’, as they’re harvested before they’ve spawned, they’re a plump, creamy, briny little mouthful of sweet Oyster meat.


Whitebait is the name given to tiny immature fish of various species, depending on the country. They’re generally 4-5cm long, translucent, so small that there are thousands per kilo, and eaten whole. Australian whitebait are either young native trouts (members of the Galaxiidae family), or adults of an unrelated species called Tasmanian whitebait; but there’s no commercial whitebait fishery in Australia. Frozen whitebait is imported into Australia from New Zealand and Asia. New Zealand whitebait is the young of native trout caught in the lower reaches of rivers during a short, strictly controlled, season. Most however is farmed in Asia. Whitebait is most commonly served as fritters and sometimes appears on menus under its Italian name nanatta or neonata (meaning ‘new born’).
A larger, thicker fish, Sandy Sprat, around 5-6cm long, is also sometimes incorrectly sold as whitebait in Australia.


Surimi (meaning ‘ground meat’ in Japanese) is the technical name for seafood extender. It’s made from inexpensive fish (typically pollock or hake) pounded into a thick paste then shaped and cooked. It’s been popular in Asia for hundreds of years, where its used to make products such as fish balls, a key ingredient in dishes like Laksa. It comes in various shapes and textures, is often coloured to resemble lobster or crab meat and is sometimes referred to as crab stick, though it can’t be labelled as such if it doesn’t contain any crab. In Australia it’s often used in inexpensive salads and sushi.


Australian aquaculture dates back to the 1870s, when Sydney rock oysters were first cultivated in NSW. Since the 1980s it has really started to grow with blue mussels (in all states except Qld) and Atlantic salmon (from Tasmania), two of the first species to be farmed locally. Other popular aquaculture species are: barramundi (Queensland, NT and WA), eels (mainly Victoria and Queensland), freshwater crayfish (yabby, redclaw and marron), Murray cod (Victoria and NSW), oysters (Sydney rock, Pacific and native), prawns (especially banana and black tiger), silver perch (mainly NSW and Queensland), trout (mainly rainbow trout grown in freshwater, or in sea cages and marketed as ocean trout), and yellowtail kingfish and mulloway (mostly from Port Lincoln, SA). Also available in Australia is chinook salmon (farmed in New Zealand and marketed as king salmon).


Kosher foods are those that conform to Jewish dietary laws. In terms of seafood, this means only fish with fins and scales. Some common Australian kosher fish are: albacore, anchovies, barramundi, blue-eye trevalla, blue grenadier, bream, flathead, flounder, garfish, gemfish, mulloway, John dory, mackerel, morwong, mullet, mulloway, Murray cod, orange roughy, pike, red emperor, redfish, salmon, sardines, snapper, sole, trevally, trout, tuna, warehou (blue and silver), whiting and yellowtail kingfish. Some common species that are NOT kosher are: catfish, eel, shark (sometimes sold as flake), leatherjackets, ling, rays and skate, and swordfish. Skinless fillets are prohibited unless it can be certain they’re from a kosher species prepared with knives and boards thoroughly cleaned before cutting.


Prawns, Crabs, Rocklobsters, and other shellfish turn red when they’re cooked because their shells contain a carotenoid pigment called astaxanthin. The best known carotenoid pigment is carotene, which gives carrots their bright orange colour. Astaxanthin’s colour isn’t obvious in live or raw shellfish because it’s bound with a protein that usually creates a blue-green colour. Astaxanthin is heat-stable and the protein isn’t, so when heat is applied the protein is destroyed, releasing the pigment and giving the typical red colour of cooked shellfish.


While overfishing has been a serious problem globally and continues to be an issue in some regions, since the turn of this century Australian fisheries have been internationally recognised as among the best-managed in the world. Both State and Commonwealth legislation requires that our fisheries be sustainable and that the environmental impacts of fishing activities be regularly assessed. Stocks of even previously overfished species continue to increase under careful supervision; recovery plans for such species are mandatory and have been proven to work. The best way to be sure you’re buying sustainable seafood is to buy Australian. Visit our Sustainability page > for more information on Sydney Fish Market and sustainability.


All oysters are one of two types: cupped or flat. There are only two main species of food oyster in Australia: Sydney rocks and Pacifics, both of which are cupped. Being filter feeders however, oysters gain a lot of taste from their environment, so flavours and textures vary greatly depending on where they’re grown and oysters are often sold by location rather than species. Sydney rocks are native to Australia and are grown right along the NSW coast, plus a few around Albany, WA. Pacifics are introduced and grow in the colder waters of Tasmania and SA as well as small pockets in Port Stephens and the Hawkesbury River. A third species, native (or angasi) oysters, a flat oyster native to the southern coast of NSW, is also occasionally seen, while meat from a fourth species, pearl oysters, is becoming more popular.

How can you tell the gender of a Squid?

Squid have two long tentacles which are used to catch prey plus eight shorter arms. On a male Squid the tips of one or both of the two longest arms (not the tentacles) have a toothbrush, or picket fence, like appearance in place of the normal round suckers. Female Squid however have normal round suckers right to the end of all eight arms. The same applies to Octopus and Cuttlefish, which are also members of the cephalopod family.