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|March 26-April 1, 2009
• A taste of heaven
Heaven Star might be the most stellar Chinese restaurant around
by Clay Fong
Down on the fish farm
Aquaculture operations meet a globally growing demand
by Bill Daley
Friday night fish fries are a delicious staple of American life. Even the nation’s fat phobia hasn’t curbed the taste for crispy, golden fish and shellfish served right out of the fryer.
The basics of a fish fry have remained unchanged, thank goodness, but there’s fundamental change going on behind the scenes.
Where generations once relied on the bounty of local waters, we now consume seafood from around the world. And many of those fish and shellfish are being “farmed” rather than caught.
Eighty-four percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, and of that, half is farm-raised, said Michael Rubino, aquaculture program manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The shrimp in your local market may be from Thailand and the salmon from New Brunswick, Canada.
“Doctors and nutritionists are asking us to eat more seafood,” Rubino said. “Even if we do a better job of managing our wild fisheries, the bulk of any increase will have to come from aquaculture.”
He would like to see the aquaculture numbers change so more seafood is farmed in the U.S. He said it is important for farmed fish and shellfish to be grown here under American laws and regulations, by ecologically sensitive businesses for the benefit of local communities.
Advances in aquaculture, the process by which seafood is farmed from start to finish under controlled conditions like beef or poultry, means that shrimp can and are swimming in the Arizona desert, thanks to the Desert Sweet Shrimp company of Gila Bend. And perch are now being reared on what was once an Indiana farm field by Bell Aquaculture.
For some consumers, portraying any aquaculture program as green is surprising, noted Sheila Bowman, outreach manager for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch in California. The long-running, high-profile controversy over the environmental impact of farmed salmon is to blame.
“But just as there can be any kind of farm on the land there can be better farms in the oceans and worse farms,” Bowman said. “Done the right way, it is potentially a great solution.”
By the numbers
Top 10 farmed U.S. fish and shellfish, by harvested weight:
8. Striped bass
Source: National Marine Fisheries Service
Best seafood choices
Ecologically minded consumers need to ask questions when they step up to the fish counter to make sure they get the “greenest” seafood possible. Wallet-size guides listing the choices, distributed via the California-based Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch at aquariums and zoos across the country, are a valuable shopping tool. They list “best choices,” “good alternatives” and seafood to “avoid.”
Printable versions of the national and regional guides are available online at seafoodwatch.org. You also can sign up to receive Seafood Watch recommendations on your iPhone or other web-enabled mobile.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has its own seafood facts site called Fish Watch at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch.
When shopping for seafood, Seafood Watch advises asking these questions: Where is the seafood from? Is it farmed or wild-caught? How was it caught?
Here are Seafood Watch’s “best choices” for farmed seafood: abalone; arctic char; barramundi (U.S.); bay scallops; catfish (U.S.); clams, muscles and oysters; crayfish (U.S.); rainbow trout; striped bass; striped bass; Sturgeon caviar (U.S.); tilapia.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
—Paul Johnson, author of Fish Forever, recommends dredging the catfish in cornmeal and pan-frying until crisp. If you want to cut calories, braise the catfish instead in a little red chili salsa until cooked.
1⁄2 head cabbage, finely shredded
1⁄2 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
1⁄2 cup each: yellow cornmeal, flour
1 tablespoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1⁄2 pounds catfish fillets, cut into strips
24 corn tortillas
Sour cream or creme fraiche
Red chili salsa
1. Combine the cabbage, cilantro and lime juice together in a bowl; set aside. Stir together the cornmeal, flour, salt and ground red pepper in a small bowl. Roll the catfish strips in the cornmeal mixture until well coated.
2. Heat about 1 inch of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot (375 degrees). Fry the catfish in batches until brown and crispy, turning once, 3-4 minutes; transfer fish to a wire rack to drain.
3. Place the tortillas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover. Heat on high 1 minute. Place fish in the tortillas; top with cabbage mixture. Drizzle each with the sour cream and red salsa.
Nutrition information per serving: 414 calories, 21 percent of calories from fat, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 51 mg cholesterol, 58 g carbohydrates, 22 g protein, 1,021 mg sodium, 4 g fiber
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
French chef Joel Robuchon includes this recipe in his cookbook, The Complete Robuchon. This simple dish of whole trout is a classic. Any fish fillets, such as perch or tilapia also can be used.
4 whole rainbow trout or 8 fillets of any white fish
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1⁄4 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Season fish with salt and pepper inside and out. Dust with flour; tap to remove excess. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil in a skillet over medium heat until the butter foams. Add the fish; cook until browned, 5-6 minutes. Turn, brown the other side, 4-5 minutes, spooning fat over the fish. Transfer to a platter.
2. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of the butter in the skillet. Stir in the lemon juice; pour the sauce over the trout.
Nutrition information per serving: 400 calories, 51 percent of calories from fat, 22 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 143 mg cholesterol, 7 g carbohydrates, 41 g protein, 390 mg sodium, 0 g fiber
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