When you think about Japan, what comes to mind? Sushi? kimono? or perhaps Japanese sake? As you may know, Japanese people love eating fish and fish is part of the daily diet of many Japanese individuals. When you go to the supermarket, you will find many fresh fish are on sale. In addition, people in Japan eat fish not only because it is a Japanese thing, but they eat fish to keep themselves healthy or even healthier.
If you’re also a big fan of eating fish or are open to the idea of trying fish while you’re staying in Japan, knowing how to distinguish between fresh or stale fishes is a MUST!
In this article I will show you how to find some of the freshest fish for your dinner.
1. Think “Beautiful”
First of all, follow your intuition and look for the fish that looks “beautiful” at first sight. The fresh fish doesn’t have any milky cloudy mucus, but looks clean and sparkle. Also, if you look carefully at the fish, see if the fish hasn’t peel off their scales.
Most fresh fish have little to no damage on their body.
2. Clear Eyes
Checking fishes’ eyes is one of the famous method that Japanese people use to check the freshness of a fish. This method is so widely known that even who don’t really know about fishes, know about this method. If you look at the fishes’ eyes and they have very clear, sparkle and beautiful eyes, this means they have most likely just arrived from the ocean and it hasn’t been too long.
In addition, Stale fish have their eyes “red” and it looks very cloudy.
3. Clear Red Gills
It may be difficult to check the gills of a fish if it is cold already and wrapped in plastic at the supermarket (I will tell you how to check at the supermarket below), however if you’re going to buy fish at the fish market or fish store, try to check the gills of the fish.
Try to turn over the fishes’ gills with clean fingers or ask a store assistant to help you out, by doing this you can vividly see red colored flesh if the fish is really fresh. However, if fish are no longer fresh, their flesh looks dark red, or close to black.
If you are allowed, try to hold the fish by the tails in your hands and see if the fish will hold still without bending or looking slumped. If the fish is straight, then it is fresh. An alternative, if you cannot hold the fish well from the tails, is to try to touch the stomach of the fish instead. If you feel it’s hard, this means the fish is fresh enough.
If the stomach is soft, the fish has probably began to go bad.
5. The Smell
Did you know that fresh fish don’t smell that much? If you move your face closer to the fish (try to be discreet) and smell it, fresh fish does not have a strong fishy smell, however, if the fish is no longer fresh, you would smell the usual fishy smell right from the entrance; also you would smell the blood.
6. How to Find Fresh Fish at the Supermarket?
If you’re in Japan, you may know it’s quite common to buy the fish at the supermarket. However, at the supermarket EVERY fish looks fresh right??
Don’t worry, there is a small trick to find out the freshness of a fish here as well. In addition to my advice above, follow these as well:
・ Take the wrapped fish with plastic wrap out from the area it was place, and give it a close look. Normally at the fish area of the supermarket there are lots of light, use this to try to look at the fish’s sparkle and freshness.
・ Try to see if there are no drip from the fish on the plastic package. This drip is original good taste of fish so if there is, this means the fish no longer has good taste.
Hopefully now you know more about how to find fresh fish.
Hope you’ll like the fishes here in Japan!