Florida Guide > Dining
Eating Fish in Florida
It’s hardly surprising that, with over 1, 300 miles of coastline, fish figures prominently on many restaurant menus in Florida. Here you can sample some of the finest and freshest fish dishes in the numerous speciality fish restaurants which abound.
Of course there are all of the commonly available fish dishes such as catfish, Florida lobster and Stone Crab claws, but be prepared to try some of the more unusual seafood dishes such as conch, mahi-mahi, grouper, and yellowfin tuna.
Mahi-mahi is also known as dolphin, common dolphin-fish and dorado. However, do not confuse them with the delightful dolphins, which are mammals, and which provide us with such enjoyment wherever they are to be seen. Do not be shocked if you see dolphin on the menu, you will not be eating a friendly relation of ‘Flippper. ’ Mahi-mahi, which in Hawaiian means strong-strong, are ray finned fish which live for no more than 3 or 4 years, and weigh, on average between 7 and 13 kg (15-28lbs), although they can grow as big as 70lbs. Their long dorsal fins extend along almost the full length of their bodies, and they have dazzling colours – golden on their sides, and bright blues and greens on their sides and back. They are fast swimmers and can swim at up to 50 knots. They feed on mackerel, flying fish, crabs, squid, and are carnivorous. It has a firm white flesh and is delicious when cooked Cajun style, grilled, poached, pan fried or baked. It is often flavoured with tropical ingredients such as lime, coconut mil, pineapple, macadamia nuts as well as with ginger, soy sauce, teriyaki or garlic. Its skin is very tough and is usually removed before cooking.
The Florida Lobster, or Spiny Crawfish, is related to crab, shrimp and other lobster, and is caught off the Florida Keys around the southernmost tip of Florida. It has no claws, and numerous spines along its body. It is a mottled colour of yellow, brown, blue and orange. When cooked the shell turns a bright red-orange. The Florida lobster can be found as lobster tails or whole lobster, and the lobster tails can be grilled or deep fried, boiled, steamed or broiled. They are delicious when served with melted butter.
Grouper can grow to an enormous size, but only the smaller ones are fished commercially. They use their mouths to dig into the sand, which they then jet out from their gills. They can live for up to 25 years, and are one of the mildest fishes you can get. Gropuer is a very versatile fish and is usually served grilled, baked, deep fried, sauted, pan fried, poached, or blackened. It has a mild flavour and a very firm meaty texture.
If you go to the Keys you will undoubtedly see restaurants which offer conch. It is actually a large marine snail, and is the second best known edible snail after escargot. Pronounced ‘konk, ’ this chewy clam has to be tenderised with lime juice, and can be served raw in a salad. Conch fritters are made by tossing pieces in breadcrumbs, and then fried. Another speciality is conch chowder, which is usually red and spicy.
Yellowfin tuna has a firm and fairly dark meat which is usually grilled broiled or blackened. Unlike the tuna which we are used to, it is not endangered by overfishing. It can grow to a huge size, the largest reported being 440lbs and 94 inches in length. Quite a monster, it is often found swimming with dolphins.
Catfish, despite its name, is nothing like a cat, nor is it a fish served to cats. However, it does have whiskery barbels around its mouth which could be compared to cat’s whiskers. It is a very popular fish and will be found everywhere, much like our cod. Typically it is covered in breadcrumbs (made of cornmeal) and deep fried until it is golden and crispy. The flesh is soft, white and quite mild, but it can be cooked in a variety of ways, such as baked, grilled or pan fried.
So if you enjoy fish you are in for a treat. From sushi to ‘all you can eat lobster’ you are bound to find something you like.
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Page added on: 8 July 2007
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