Apr 062011

We have been eating a lot of fish lately for dinner and it is very yummy.  Bake, steam, stir fry, etc.   What I’ve noticed (well, I noticed a long time ago but never really put much thought into it) is that you can’t buy whole fish in American supermarkets.  They are all filets.  We normally buy whole fish at 99 Ranch or some other Chinese market and then cook it whole.  Yes I admit that I hate pulling out bones while eating fish, but I just deal.  Is this just an Asian thing?  Do Americans think its gross to see a fish head?  If so, you probably don’t want to step into a Chinese market as often times they sell only fish heads for things like soup.  Or they have tons of live fish, and when a customer picks one, I’ve seen the workers pound the fish dead outside the water then “clean” it.  I guess if I didn’t grow up going to places like 99, it could freak me out.  Is that why they don’t sell whole, let alone live, fish in American grocery stores?  Or is it just because fish is just a much larger part of the Asian diet than for Americans in general?

That being said, if you have been to both an Asian market as well as an American one, have you noticed the huge difference in price between the two?  I completely understand that it takes work to filet a fish, and that there are no bones.  But 3 to 4 times the price?  I guess you pay for convenience.  But, when steamed with soy sauce, whole fish seems to taste better than filets do.  Maybe its just psychological for me since I know that the latter cost tons more and so I’m expecting it to taste proportionately better.  But, I don’t really think so.  Being careful with my money, I normally only buy fish at a supermarket if it is on sale, and really cheap on sale.  Otherwise, I’ll just pay the normal price at 99 Ranch or some other Chinese place.  Just this last weekend, got a whole tilapia fish for $1.99/pound.  I’ve seen tilapia at Ralphs before (filet of course) for $6.99.  I’ve never gotten it before, but that just seems like so much more money.  Tastes better?  I’m not totally sure about that.  I think a good cook can cook both tastily.  I think its more cultural than anything else.  Something about seeing the whole fish might seem barbaric, I suppose.  I know that if I had to kill cows to eat burgers, not sure I could do that.  Maybe there is the same sentiment for others when cooking fish?

Either way, I will probably continue buying fish at Asian markets, not because of my culture or because they necessarily taste better, but mostly because it is just so much cheaper.

  One Response to “Buying whole fish vs filets”

  1. Some of the price difference is including the bones and parts of the fish that is not edible that goes into the pricing when purchased. Also I started looking at the packages of frozen fillets of fish and noticed other ingredients other than the fish. I did some research and found out that manufacturers are adding unorganic salt into these fillets, shrimp, and scallops to name a few to make them firmer. That also adds to the weight when you purchase them. Whole fish usually has none of these added ingredient and tend to actually taste better.

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