Top 10 lesser-loved fish
Try these value for money, lesser-loved local varieties. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
1. Eastern Australian salmon
$3-$5 a kilogram
A delicious, slightly oily fish, very high in omega-3. It is not a true salmon, with pale pink to brown flesh, and is more like our local herring. Look for smaller fish and cook the same day. Season whole fish or fillets, skin on, with salt and grill on the barbecue. Also good for poaching, smoking and pickling. Goes well with strong-flavoured herbs and spices. For a milder flavour remove the strip of darker flesh just beneath the skin.
2. Sea mullet
$6-$9 a kilogram
Favoured by many who appreciate its true flavour of the waterway in which it was caught, it has slightly oily flesh and is best eaten very fresh. Again, very high in omega-3. If whole, remove the fatty lining around the stomach. Chef Griff Pamment from Luxe Kitchen in Woollahra recommends cooking them on a very hot grill with a touch of olive oil and salt and pepper, skin-side down only and remove just before cooked through. Also barbecue, grill, bake or smoke. The roe is good poached in salty stock and sliced through a tomato, cucumber and green capsicum salad.
3. Ocean jacket
$7-$9 a kilogram
With a face like a shoe and a nasty great spike this is a delicious little fish with sandpaper-like skin and pretty yellow fins. It's often sold as ''trunks'' with the head and spike chopped off. Matt Wilkinson from Melbourne's Pope Joan says: ''I love 'em. One of my favourites at 'ome." He says to look for fat fish and to bake or fry them whole, skin on, then when done, remove the skin, sprinkle with a little salt and eat hot. Thinner pieces or fillets should be baked in foil to them avoid drying out.
4. Blue mackerel
$6-$8 a kilogram
This is sometimes still referred to as slimy mackerel. It's slightly oily, best eaten fresh and is high in omega-3. Chef Matt Germanchis from Pei Modern in Melbourne recommends covering fillets in a 60/40 blend of salt and sugar - with a little lemon rind - for 20 minutes then char-grilling for two to three minutes skin-side down. He says it's perfect served with horseradish and beetroot and even some poached rhubarb.
5. Eastern school whiting
$6-$13 a kilogram
Found around the southern, west and east coast of Australia, these little sandy-coloured fish are generally exported to Asia. Some make their way back as fillets and sold in pubs and clubs. Take whole scaled and gutted fish and cook in the way Frank Camorra does at MoVida Next Door - dust them well in seasoned semolina, deep fry and eat whole by holding them in your hands. "Don't wash the fish," Camorra says. "The natural juices are part of the flavour."
6. Butterfly gurnard
With an ugly, spiky head it's generally not seen whole in fish shops. Only a decade or so back this was by-catch that was thrown away. It is prized by some chefs in NSW for its firm, sweet flesh but still under-appreciated in Victoria. Chef Erik Monteith from The Boathouse in Lakes Entrance recommends cooking gurnard gently, like flathead, cooking it skin on, but scoring the skin to stop it from curling.
7. Mirror dory and silver dory
$19 to $24 filleted
We all know John Dory, one of our most highly prized fish. Well try these fish for about one-quarter of the price - they are mostly found filleted. They are two different species but land in east coast markets where they go for a song. Dust fillets with flour and gently cook in butter and sprinkle with a little salt and lemon juice.
$10-$10.50 a kilogram
Known as ''duckfish'' in Victoria this is a silver and black striped fish (below left) with long snout that it uses to pry about in crevices for crabs and worms and as a result has the most delicious flesh. Take fillets and dip them in flour then thin beer batter and deep fry. Stir fry or grill with a little butter and salt and then squeeze with lemon.
$3-$5 a kilogram
This is a delicious fish but must be processed when fresh. They are plant-eaters, something you can taste in their flesh. Completely remove the black stomach lining before cooking otherwise it will taint the flesh. Moist and soft they are good for grilling, barbecuing, or baked whole. Good for fish stews and curries.
$9-$11 a kilogram
Cuttlefish are like squat squid but with thicker, more flavoursome flesh and are sometimes a by-catch of prawn fishing. Take whole cuttlefish, twist and pull out the legs, head and guts. Clean out the guts and remove the cuttle. Peel off the skin, rub with salt if necessary. Chef Martin Benn from Sepia in Sydney says: "For me, I like to poach cuttlefish in butter at around 72 degrees for 3 to 4 minutes. I find you also get a great texture if you score the cuttlefish flesh first by cutting into the flesh but not all the way through." Also, slow braise cuttlefish or cut into pieces, dust with semolina and deep fry.
Prices thanks to Sydney Fish Market.