Local Alternatives to the Fish You Always Eat

Chef Jay Pierce of RockSalt suggests fish in season now


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Red porgy can be caught in the Carolinas and is a good alternative to tilapia.

SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory; Collection of Brandi Noble, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC.

Knowing where your seafood comes from is important. If you're unsure, you could be getting shrimp peeled by children in Thailand or farm-raised fish pumped with antibiotics. The easiest way to know where your catch is coming from is to buy local, but that can be intimidating. What fish even are local, and how do I know if I'll like them? Here, Jay Pierce, executive chef at RockSalt, suggests local alternatives to two of the most popular fish out there.

 

If you like: Tilapia

You should try: Red Porgy

Red porgy is a light, flaky fish, just like tilapia. If you're not familiar with the fish, you may know it by another name. "Porgy is one of those fish that, when they transition into the restaurant world, their name gets changed," Pierce says. "Most people don't put 'porgy' on a menu, they put 'pink snapper.' " People order the porgy because they like snapper, and both have a sweetness and light texture to them.

 

If you like: Salmon

You should try: Spanish Mackerel

If you're looking for a fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, you'll probably order salmon. But Spanish mackerel is high in the same fats, and can be caught off of our coast. Pierce says that the fish can often be misconstrued as unhealthy because people associate it with king mackerel. At the top of the food chain, king mackerel is higher in mercury and pollutants. Because Spanish mackerel is smaller, it doesn't have those problems. It does, however, spoil quickly because of its fat content—just like salmon. 

 

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