International Boston Seafood Show 2007: Frozen Sushi from Polar Seas – Delicious!

March 16, 2007 in Fish, Growers & Grocers Blog, International Boston Seafood Show, Japanese, review, seafood, Well Fed Network

When my daughter and I went to the [tag]2007 International Boston Seafood Show[/tag] this last Monday, we got to meet [tag]Kathy Maister[/tag] and Stephen from [tag]startcooking.com[/tag] and [tag]stephencooks.com[/tag] respectively. Wow, what a couple of awesome foodies and food bloggers. We were chatting (after various mishaps in trying to find one another in that huge place) and getting to know each other while surrounded by a huge array of awesome smelling [tag]food[/tag], calling our names. We did not get to talk long enough by any measure. We will be planning more [tag]New England[/tag] [tag]food blogger[/tag] get togethers for a bit later this year. If you are in this orbit drop a note with an email so I can keep you in the loop. I live in central MA so it takes me 1.5 hours to get in but I consider [tag]Boston[/tag] part of my neighborhood.

[This post will appear on the [tag]Growers and Grocers[/tag] blog, a member of the [tag]Well Fed Network[/tag]]

This last Monday when I attended the 2007 International Boston Seafood Show, I got to sample quite a few products. Let me assure you, I had to pace myself because there were so many tempting foods.

One product that I sampled toward the end of the day was the [tag]frozen[/tag] [tag]sushi[/tag] by [tag]Polar Seas[/tag] (a PDF of their products), a collaborative product of [tag]Brooklyn[/tag], NY, based [tag]True World foods[/tag] and [tag]Kyokuyo Co[/tag]. in [tag]Japan[/tag].

I tried it with some trepidation because I have had some fantastically bad chilled (frozen?) sushi at grocery stores and I am still scarred. I have never bought sushi frozen in a box for that reason.

But I had to give it a try, mostly because I felt like I would be able to tell whether it was at least edible. Most of the other samples I had that day were fried, lots of masking.

Good sushi is based on fresh fish but perhaps more importantly, in terms of where it can go horribly wrong, good sushi MUST have GOOD RICE, period.

Frozen or chilled sushi [tag]rice[/tag] can be vile and nauseating: mushy, watery, and revolting on the tongue. Can you tell I feel pretty strongly about the sushi rice? Just a bit.

We taste tested three different types of Polar Seas frozen sushi (images below from product PDF):

[tag]Spicy Tuna roll[/tag]:

[tag]Tuna Nigiri[/tag]:

[tag]Shrimp Nigiri[/tag]:

The [tag]shrimp[/tag] didn’t taste like eggs like a lot of frozen shrimp does, thank goodness. It tasted like a natural non-preserved shrimp.

The samples were flying off the trays (the crowd was a couple people deep around the display) so when we asked for [tag]Tuna[/tag] [tag]Nigiri[/tag] they said there was none thawed but some that was frozen. They gave us a frozen piece and we walked away with it on a plate. It thawed rapidly and before we expected it, we were enjoying a delicious tuna nigiri. Additionally, the tuna tasted fresher than what we have had in sushi restaurants.

Makes you wonder about the possibility of using this frozen product in an ice-packed lunch box. Put the pieces in frozen, put in your ice packs, and then allow them to thaw right before eating. I would have to test that concept out a bit before recommending it.

The [tag]spicy[/tag] tuna roll was flavorful and quite satisfying. We also tried several [tag]unagi nigiri[/tag] (BBQed eel) but do not have photos to share. We could not get enough of it, so delish.

But the rice..

Oh, the rice was spot on. It wasn’t gummy, it was tasty, it was good sushi rice, and it was a pleasant surprise.

International Boston Seafood Show 2007

February 16, 2007 in contest, cooking, Fish, Food Porn, Growers & Grocers Blog, International Boston Seafood Show, Local Food, Molecular Gastronomy, product, review, seafood

King Crab at the International Boston Seafood Show

Last year the kind people at the [tag]International Boston Seafood Show[/tag] gave me a press pass so that I could cover this event for the [tag]Well Fed Network[/tag]. I wrote an article for the Growers & Grocer’s blog (article link) and a few for this blog (Auto-design that has gone to the fishes, Ducktrap orgy, Ichthyological super models, King of Crabs, Cornucopia del Mar).

I am going to be covering this amazing [tag]event[/tag] again this year and will hopefully be meeting a few other [tag]Boston[/tag] area [tag]food blogger[/tag]s (4 at last count). This should be a lot more fun because its always better to share fantastic experiences than to go it alone. I learned that lesson when I lived in [tag]Alaska[/tag] by myself. I climbed mountains and sat alone at the top, with strangers, wishing I could have shared it with a friend or loved one. Same with just about any part of Alaska really. This show wasn’t quite such a transcendent experience, no comparison, but it will be great to share it!

This time I going to fast for like a week before (kidding) just to get ready for the experience of hundreds of people practically forcing you to eat prime quality [tag]seafood[/tag]. I am not kidding.

So, last year, I took many photos (many didn’t come out with excellent quality but they serve to give a sense for the experience). I am going to post them here today in no special order so that I can get them out there and then wow you with this year’s photos (with a better camera no less) when the time comes.

Some of the things you will see is [tag]Tom Douglas[/tag] cooking for me (OK, making [tag]samples[/tag] for everyone but he handed them to me!), a [tag]cooking[/tag] [tag]competition[/tag] with [tag]salmon[/tag] and [tag]mussel[/tag]s and other delectable treats, crazy blow up and furry displays, [tag]molecular gastronomy[/tag] [tag]ingredient[/tag]s (reagents to be more specific), and acres of gobsmacking [tag]beautiful seafood[/tag].

The show this year is March 11-13 so check after then for coverage of [tag]2007[/tag].

Photo montage of the [tag]2006[/tag] International Boston Seafood Show:

The [tag]Chef[/tag]:

Read the rest of this entry →

Fishing for some clarity – Well Fed Network article

April 4, 2006 in Fish, Food Science, Growers & Grocers Blog, International Boston Seafood Show, issues, Local Food, seafood, Well Fed Network

You can find my latest article at The Well Fed Network and below.

Fishing for some clarity

Leaping Salmon
One debate about the modern seafood industry focuses on heavy metals and other toxins in the fish we eat, especially large predators such as tuna. The press’s alarmist coverage suggests that we should all stop eating tuna salad sandwiches and toro sushi.

After much hue and cry, the public has been left with a murky understanding of the key facts in this discussion. Environmental toxins such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are mainly relevant to women in their childbearing years, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, babies, and young children. Why? Because these compounds affect fertility, gestation, embryogenesis, and early childhood development.

In these at-risk groups, exposure to high concentrations of mercury or methylmercury (MeHg), both potent neurotoxins, can result in mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and seizures.

But outside of the demographic I mention above, these compounds do not significantly affect our population.

In the end, it’s about running the calculus of risk assessment. Pregnant women should avoid tuna and other fish from the top of the food chain. They should avoid wild fish native to the polluted fresh waters of the US and other countries. They should eat fish that are harvested at a young age, such as salmon. Fish such as tuna and swordfish are taken from the sea after years of exposure to and accumulation of toxins from the fish they eat.

Even following these guidelines (more can be found at the links below), pregnant women should eat these fish in measured doses, eat a wide variety of protein and omega-3 containing foods, and pay close attention to the source of their food.

If you want “cleaner” seafood, farmed fish can be a healthy option if you find a fishery that buys certified toxin-free fish feed, which is very expensive. Farmed fish that eat ground-up and toxin-rich fish-based feed, the majority of farmed fish aquaculture, become toxin sponges. Wild fish might potentially have fewer heavy metals but there is never a 100% guarantee that your particular fish didn’t grow up on the wrong side of the tracks. Fish-by-fish testing is just not available to the retail-level consumer.

If you are not a female of childbearing age, pregnant, or breastfeeding, eat that tuna without much guilt, but don’t feed tuna, swordfish, tilefish, shark, and other large fish to your kids. (See this link for a listing of fish and their mercury content)

Please wait until their little brains have had a good chance to develop properly. While it is not clear when neural development is no longer susceptible to injury due to mercury exposure, it is clear that critical development continues well into the teen years.

Do what you can to help young women, pregnant mommas, and children in your life move away from these food sources.

Resources for Learning:

Got Mercury?

FDA: Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish Updated February 2006

FDA: What You Need to Know About Mercury in Fish and Shellfish – 2004 EPA and FDA Advice For: Women Who Might Become Pregnant, Women Who are Pregnant, Nursing Mothers, Young Children

EPA: Fish Advisories

EPA: Mercury information site

Without getting too political about the effect that the current administration has had on the integrity of certain government agencies, remember to never rely on a single source of information.

Note that organic definitions don’t exist for fish. The USDA has not advocated for organic standards in the past, but policy makers have co-opted the term to ease the way for non-organic food producers to capitalize on this market niche.

A source for Organically fed Farm Fish:

Black Pearl Natural Choice brand (at some Whole Foods Markets)

Odd Fruits: Kiwano (Well Fed Network Article)

January 14, 2006 in Food Porn, fruit, Growers & Grocers Blog, Well Fed Network

kiwano dissected

If you have not visited the Well Fed Network yet, drop that saucier, drop that piping bag, drop that microplaner grater for goodness sakes and go visit!

There, you will find a lot of very fresh material, writing, recipes, reviews, cocktail mixological magic and several articles by me, including the following. Enjoy.

Visit the Well Fed Network!

Odd Fruit: Kiwano Fruit – Horned Melon

These days big supermarket chains are selling small numbers of “odd fruits” in the produce section. Maybe the store is trying to compete with the large variety of fruits at upscale grocers or perhaps they think that these fruits are in demand by the “ethnic” shoppers in the area. Maybe they figured out that some people will inevitably become jaded with the MacIntosh and Clemintines they push every day. Some days when I’m shopping, I’m so repulsed by the hot house tomatoes and drab green asparagus bundles soaking in murky water, I check out the odd fruit. Usually, I stare at the display a while, pick up a few fruits, try to imagine what lies inside the rind, and consider buying one to get some spice into the supermarket cart.

That’s how I found myself with a Kiwano (Cucumis tuliferus). This fruit is also known as a Horned Melon, African horned cucumber or melon, jelly melon, hedged gourd, or English tomato. (Kiwano Wikipedia entry)

The rind is a stunning orange-yellow color with spikes. When you cut into it you find the most improbable of evolution’s gifts: little seeds surrounded by livid green gelatinous material. When I was taking the photo I was entranced by the clarity of the gel, the vivid colors, and the spikes on the rind. It looks like it should taste like a green apple Jolly Rancher, but in fact it has a muted, cucumber-like flavor.

Should a kiwano find its way into your cart, the following recipes may give you some ideas for using this unusual fruit.

Recipes:

Even the USDA says this fruit is rather more like a cucumber in taste and perhaps should be considered in cucumber recipes, such as raita.

I found the following recipe for a Kiwano Raita by Chef Norman Van Aken in his book The Great Exotic Fruit Book: A Handbook of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits with Recipes.

Kiwano Melon (Horned Melon) with Chile de Arbol Raita


Ingredients:

1 Kiwano/Horned Melon – cut in half, flesh scooped out and roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup red onion finely chopped
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon garam masala
1/8 teaspoon chile de arbol
Salt to taste
1/2 tablespoon cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Directions:

Squeeze the kiwano flesh over a bowl and collect the juice and seeds.

Discard the fibrous pulp. Add the onion, yogurt, and sour cream to the kiwano and mix together.

Combine the mustard, cumin and corander seeds with the peppercorns in a dry skillet. Toast until fragrant and transfer to a spice grinder. coarsely grind and add the yogurt mixture. Add the garam marsala, chile powder, salt, and cilantro, and thoroughly combine. Keep covered in the refrigerator.

Another recipe from Chef Van Aken’s book is –

Secret of Paradise Ice Cream Dessert

You’ll need one large kiwano, one small tub of banana yogurt, honey to taste, and vanilla ice cream. Cut fruit in half and remove pulp. Mix honey, yogurt, and pulp. Pour into kiwano half-shell. Add ice cream, whipped cream, and a cherry.

Books and Resources of Interest:

Other Kiwano recipes: