Tips for making tasty, healthy fish

LOS ANGELES Mohan Ismail, Executive Chef of RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen in Century City, offers tips for buying fresh fish for those new to the process.

"If it smells a little bit strange, then you should just walk out," Ismail said.

"The fish should look shiny. It should look bright, especially the eyes," he said.

If you get to touch it, fish should feel firm and bounce back, and inside, the gills should be bright red.

Home chefs can also feel good about buying frozen, as most have been flash frozen at sea, as long as the thawing is done in the refrigerator to keep the integrity of the fish intact.

"Pick a white flesh fish. Pick something that is more like a swordfish, more like a halibut, more like a cod," Ismail said.

Those fish rarely have bones, and the meat is thick, firm and easy to work with.

Ismail created three easy dishes each with just a few ingredients, perfect for the novice, starting with a halibut curry. He simply places a piece of halibut in a pot with homemade or store-bought curry sauce, adding fresh okra, sliced zucchini and cherry tomatoes.

For Salmon lovers, try searing a filet in a pan, adding only chili paste, known as Sambal, and peas. Or try wrapping sea bass in parchment or banana leaves after blending the same chili paste with some oil.

"It's completely moist. All the vitamins, and the flavor and the sauce are all on it, really easy," Ismail said.

To ensure the fish is done, Ismail does a toothpick test.

"By inserting a toothpick in, and if it goes all the way in without any form of tension and it comes out, and you put your toothpick against your lower lip again and its warm, the fish is cooked," Ismail said.

Eating a variety of fish is helpful to your health, but some types are actually being over fished and over consumed.

Due to a big surge in sushi consumption, many experts are worried that tuna, salmon and eel are being over fished. Some sushi chefs are making sablefish a stand in for eel. Try arctic char instead salmon and amberjack in lieu of yellowtail.

Whole Foods Market and Wal-Mart have good selections of sustainable seafood, but remember to buy fish in season, such as halibut.

Choosing Western fisheries is smart, as they meet ecological standards considered highest in the world.

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