Any outdoorsman worth his salt enjoys a good helping of fish from time to time. Nothing beats the experience of fighting with the fish, reeling it in, and filleting it yourself. The only rain on your parade is that damn fishy smell and taste — I mean, it’s a fish alright, but no one appreciates the odor or flavor.
In case you were wondering, why do fish smell the way they do? It has everything to do with a chemical called trimethylamine oxide, a compound found in fish that immediately starts to break down (and release that fishy stench) once the fish dies and gets exposed to air. The fresher the fish, the lesser the smell; hence the practice of bringing ice-filled coolers to chuck the fish in to keep them alive or prevent the start of decomposition.
When it comes to flavor, you also have to consider where the fish was caught. Fish caught from saltwater is more flavorful in part because of the salt, while fish from freshwater or brackish water tend to sometimes taste like mud. How do you work your way around that?
What if you don’t have your trusty Coleman with you (highly unlikely, but still)? What if the fish you caught is especially odorous? What if your catfish tastes more like muck than catfish?
Survivors, here are a few culinary tips you can practise to get that white, silky, flaky, fillet tasting like heaven instead of… well, not heavenly.
Soak the fish in milk for 10 to 20 minutes and rinse afterwards to get rid of the unpleasant odor. Milk bonds with the trimethylamine oxide and reduces the odor.
For good ol’ catfish fry, buttermilk would work wonders.
Another great way to remove the fishy odour from fish is to give it a good rub with powdered turmeric. Leave it on for 30 minutes or so and then you can choose to wash it off or fry the fish that’s coated with powdered turmeric.
Mix vinegar with fresh water and soak the cleaned fish in it for about five minutes. Then, rinse it and dry with paper towel before marinating or cooking it.
Lemon works just as well as vinegar. Drizzle some fresh lemon juice over the cleaned fish and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Then, dry the fish with a paper towel before cooking.
Salt works best with catfish. When you’re done cleaning the fish, rub salt over the fish and leave it aside for 5 minutes. Then, wash the salt away. This helps reduce the fishy smell in fish before cooking.
Besides adding flavour to a fish dish, ginger also rids of the unpleasant fishy smell in fish. Just crush the ginger and rub it over the fish and leave it on for about 30 minutes before cooking it. Also, if you plan on steaming the fish, you can julienne the ginger and steam the fish.