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7 Ways to Know How to Buy the Freshest Fish at the Market


Growing up in Kerala, I have always been surrounded by fish curries and prawn fries and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. Most people turn their noses up at it, but for me going to the fish market was an adventure and I loved the sight and smell of it. 

Years later, while discussing our recipe repertoires with my friends, I noticed that they don’t have a lot of fish recipes. When questioned, they talk of buying fish as a mystical art whose secrets are yet to be revealed. Hence, we have compiled for you a list of ‘secrets’ to the art of fish buying. 

1. Firmness 

The first thing you do when you see a prospective fish is you check the firmness of it. If the fish is rigid and almost stands up alone, this means it is fresh and not of the thawed out variety. 

2. Shine 

If your fish is freshly caught there is certain shine on its outer surface. If your fish is looking a little dull, its probably not the freshest fish in the market. Move on. 

3. Red Gills, but not always 

This one is bit tricky. If your fish has red or pink gills it isn’t a guarantee that the fish is fresher than the ones with dark gills. It is often said that brownish gills are a sign of ageing, but the colour also depends a lot on the natural habitat of the fish. So don’t rely on this factor alone, without observing the overall condition of the fish.

4. Clear eyes

Another sign you are getting a good deal is the appearance of the eyes. If they are slightly bulging with a black pupil, go for it! That’s as fresh as it gets. 

5. Blood 

If you are cleaning your fish or having it cleaned and there’s a lot of blood involved, it’s an extremely good sign. This means two things – one the blood has not coagulated inside a freezer and two, the fish has been caught recently.

6. The Skin 

If you are finding it extremely hard to remove the skin of the fish, then the fish you are about to consume is fresh and you can be happy with your buy for the day. 

7. The Backbone 

If the backbone comes off too easily from the fish, then you might not have the freshest fish in the market. If it comes off to easily then it may be due to a natural chemical process that tenderizes the flesh of the fish once dead. You need to struggle a bit to get the backbone off a fresh fish. No pain, no gain, right?