Size Matters – Fish No.2: the Yellow Croaker

Scientific Name: Larimichtys crocea or rather polyactis!

Common Names: Yellow Croaker
Origin: China
Date: 2nd August 2012
Where: Fusion in Discovery Bay
Weight: 0.762 catty (460g) – 2 fish
Cost: $54.90 (72$ per catty)
Recipe: steamed in lemongrass, sesame seed oil, kaffir lime leaves, coriander and ginger
WWF Sustainable Seafood Guide: Think twice

Ah what a schoolboy marine biologist error! I thought I bought a Large Yellow Croaker Larimichthys crocea when really I bought a Small Yellow CroakerLarimichthys polyactis! You see the former occurs in Hong Kong waters and is on my list, but the latter is the occurs further north in the East China Sea, not in Hong Kong and is not even on my list! When it comes to Yellow Croakers size matters.
But I am not going to be academically pedantic about it and disqualify this meal. I can not imagine that the Large and Small Yellow Croaker taste very different, so this blog stands. Also I don’t want fish stocks to suffer an additional hit from my idiotic mistake…
I learned some valuable lessons from this: 1) read the label properly, 2) WWF’s Sustainable Seafood Guide is very inadequate as L. polyactis is not on there at all, and 3) ethically eating fish is very difficult!

This fish (Large Yellow Croaker) was on my list again marked ‘Think Twice’ – well, I thought twice, perhaps I should also have read the label twice!

What I was supposed to eat:
Larimichthys crocea, called the Croceine croaker, Large yellow croaker or just the Yellow croaker, is a species of croaker native to the western Pacific, generally in temperate waters such as the Taiwan Strait. Males can reach 80 cm. Once an abundant commercial fish off China, Korea and Japan, its population collapsed in the 1970s due to overfishing.Fishing boats landed 56,088 t of Larimichthys crocea in 2008. The species is aquafarmed in China, and farms have experienced outbreaks of infections. L. crocea is an important enough commercial species to have its genome mapped.
WWF says: Yellow croaker sold in HK is from fish farms (mariculture). Fish farms can only be set up in designated places in Hong Kong and China. The industry is beneficial to local communities. However, the management measures in place to address the environmental impact of yellow croaker farms are weak, and enforcement is poor. The high density of fish promotes disease spread, land-based pond systems discharge the untreated pond effluent (excess feed, faeces) into the sea directly, and the feed consists of smaller often overfished and trawled species.

Herklots & Lin about the Yellow Croaker
Herklots & Lin about the Yellow Croaker

What I actually ate:
Larimichthys polyactis, called the redlip croaker, small yellow croaker, little yellow croaker or yellow corvina, is a species of croaker native to the western Pacific, generally in temperate waters such as the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea. They stay in shallow waters above 120 m but avoid brackish conditions. Individual males can reach 42 cm.
Once an abundant commercial fish off China, Korea and Japan, its population collapsed in the 1970s due to overfishing. Global catch has since rebounded, with 388,018 t landed in 2008. Salted and dried, they are a food product known as gulbi (굴비) in Korean. Yeonggwang gulbi is a prized delicacy, selling for over $100 a bunch.

My little beauties
My little beauties

And here are my two beauties before I took them home.

Anyway…What a beautiful fish! Look at that yellow underside! I needed two as it’s quite a small fish ~ 10 inches long.

The meal: steamed Thai-style (ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, sesame seed oil) with stir-fry vegetables in garlic and soy sauce

Steamed (Wrong) Yellow Croaker
Steamed (Wrong) Yellow Croaker

My verdict: 6/10 – a decent fish. But it looks better than it tastes.
Fish was good, but had some more small bones in it and was quite small, so not as good as Pompano. A bit too soggy as it fell apart, but that’s more because I used a deeper steaming dish than last time so it cooked in its own juice more. Recipe was ok. Perhaps I should have had the salted or sun-dried version as it is very important as a salted or dried fish in China, and the Chinese must know best how to prepare their native fish.

The wife’s verdict: 6/10 (we agreed?)
Not as fleshy as the Pompano, more like other white fish. Recipe was better than last week.

And now the aftermath…

Thank you for feeding me wrong yellow croaker
Thank you for feeding me wrong yellow croaker

Stay tuned for an eventual sequel…

“Yellow Croaker – this time its the Big One”

Next week’s likely target: Gold-Thread (Nemipterus spp.) or Japanese Sea-bream (Lateolabrax japonicus)

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Fish No. 1: the Pompano

Scientific Name: Trachinotus blochii
Common Names: Pompano, Snubnose Pompano
Origin: China, Mariculture
Date: 28th July 2012
Where: Fusion in Discovery Bay
Weight: 0.678 catty (410 g)
Cost: $58.90
Recipe: Steamed with ginger and soy sauce
WWF Sustainable Seafood Guide: Think Twice … oh-oh

Supermarket wrapped pompano

As this is the first fish, I went the easy route and got it from the supermarket. Interestingly, only two fishes from my list are for sale there: Pompano and Yellow Croaker. Not sure whether that’s HK overfishing, seasonal availability or Discovery Bay residents taste buds…
Follow this link for more info on the Pompano from the WWF HK’s website. I think as I am only eating this variety this one time, its ok.
But back to the fish: it looks a really a beautiful fish to look at. Its a strong, super-streamlined predator with small but nasty teeth. Here is what Herklots and Lin said:

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I don’t have much to add to that, except the fact that its a predator and easy to keep is the reason its on the WWF’s questionable list. Its taken from hatcheries in Taiwan and China and then raised up on fish farms until big enough to sell, where it is fed smaller fish as feed…and that’s the bit thats bad as its quite wasteful and smaller fish are often juveniles which shouldn’t be caught at all.

So here is a quick rundown of the meal:

    Steamed Pompano stuffed with chopped ginger and garlic (20 min), then covered in soy sauce
    Organic baby Shanghai greens lightly fried then cooked in sauce of soy, veg stock, sugar, sesame seed oil and cornstarch
    Plain steamed white rice

And now, the meal:

Cooked Pompano

My verdict on the fish:
Fantastic fish, but the recipe not that great. The fish was child’s play to take apart with big nice fleshy white chunks coming off clean with one stroke. Not very strong flavoured though and not very oily either. What a shame its on the WWF questionable list, because otherwise I would buy it more often. Score: 8/10

The wife’s verdict: fleshy, meaty fish, very subtle flavour. Thumbs up. 7/10

Eaten up remainders of a Pompano

Next week’s planned fish: Yellow croaker.

What fish does your market coolie buy?

Culinary time travel to 1962
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“[…] foreign residents in HongKong usually confine their purchases of fish to a very few kinds. In the main the choice is restricted to groupers, ‘white salmon’, pomfret and Macao-sole. We believe that this limited selection is due to various causes of which ignorance on the part of house-wife and market coolie is one. In European fish markets far fewer varieties are offered for sale and the house-wife quickly learns to recognise the different kinds and to know their respective merits and the best way to cook them. Here, with perhaps a hundred varieties to choose from many strange shape and of unfamiliar brilliant colours, it is not surprising that no attempt is made to try out more than a few varieties, perhaps only those recommended by the salesmen as being the best,- possibly because they command the highest prices amongst foreigners. We hope that this book will encourage people to try kinds of fish which they have previously ignored as being unfamiliar and unsuitable.”

G.A.C. Herklots & S.Y. Lin, 1962, “Common Marine Food Fishes of Hong Kong”

Well, it is now 50 years since that book was published and I think it is time to put expat fish-eating habits to the test.

Foreigners of Expats of HK: what local fish species have you tried?
Take part in the online survey

Regardless of the result of this anonymous poll, I have set myself a task to eat all 50 fish in this charming book and prove to the world that I am not a ‘fishist’. I also think this will be an interesting exercise in sustainable fish eating and tell me something about changes in Hong Kong’s marine life since 1962. The relative success or failure/hospitalisation of this project will be shared with the world in this blog every week.
Having figured out what a ‘catty’ is (604 grams) and having selected my first three victims (Golden Sardine, White Herring or Hilsa Herring), I will try the first of 50 fish tomorrow. Wish me luck!

WWF: Sustainable Seafood Sourcing & Ocean-Friendly Menu

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© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon
The public understands that the future of our seas is at risk and people are becoming more aware of how their tastes can affect this. They want to know how their seafood is caught and the impact it will have on the sustainability of the oceans. There is substantial demand for sustainable alternatives – now it is up to you to respond to this call.
The Seafood Choice Initiative – Business Engagement Programme is designed to provide assistance in advising on procurement policy and sourcing sustainable seafood

In addition, through the “Ocean-Friendly Menu” programme, WWF works with the hotel/restaurant to develop and roll out a menu featuring WWF’s sustainable seafood. On top of their current menus, the participating hotel/restaurant has to introduce an additional menu that contains only sustainable seafood.

Participating in the sustainable seafood movement allows your restaurant to catch the wave of sustainable seafood. It is an important step for the whole catering industry in responding to the public’s demand.

DOWNLOAD Business Engagement Programme
PDF 1.88 MB
Procedure for sourcing sustainable seafood and developing an “Ocean-Friendly Menu”

Step 1

The hotel/restaurant and WWF will discuss the approach and scope of sustainable seafood sourcing. This helps WWF in providing a tailor-made advice, while relevant staff of both parties will understand the work direction and time frame.

Step 2

The hotel/restaurant has to prepare and submit the information of an agreed number of seafood items to WWF, which includes:
The name and species of the seafood
The country of origin (where is the seafood from?)
The harvesting method (wild-caught or farmed?)
The supplier’s name and contact details

Step 3

WWF will assess the seafood sustainability categories and recommend alternatives for seafood listed under “Red – Avoid”. You can choose the alternatives recommended by us or simply pick another sustainable seafood dish. In case you have difficulty in finding suppliers for seafood items listed under “Green – Recommended” and “Yellow – Think Twice”, WWF will provide seafood suppliers from our assessed database.

Step 4
The restaurant can further work with WWF to roll-out Ocean-Friendly Menu(s) which contains only seafood items listed under “Green – Recommended” and “Yellow – Think Twice”.

For interested parties, please contact us via email.

Thank you for joining us in saving the future of our oceans.
Who is already sourcing sustainable seafood and providing an “Ocean-Friendly Menu”?

The following hotels/restaurants are now sourcing sustainable seafood and offering an “Ocean-Friendly Menu” according to the WWF Seafood Guide:
Aberdeen Boat Club
AsiaWorld-Expo
Eaton Smart, Hong Kong
FINDS
InterContinental Hong Kong
Jumbo Kingdom
Lil’ Siam
Super Star Seafood Restaurant – 14 restaurants
The Banqueting House – 2 restaurants
The China House – 2 restaurants
The Helena May
The Hong Kong Jockey Club – 3 clubhouses
The Penthouse (Hang Seng Bank Headquarters)
Pacific Club – 5 outlets

Restaurants that also have the experience of sourcing and promoting sustainable seafood with WWF:
Choi Fook Royal Banquet
Coast Bistro and Bar
Conrad Hong Kong
Entourage
Federal Palace
Gloucester Luk Kwok Hong Kong
Grand Central Bar & Grill
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
iCaramba!
Kowloonbay International Trade & Exhibition Centre
Ladies’ Recreation Club
La Perouse Restaurant Bar & Lounge
Linguini Fini
Marriott Hotels – 4 hotels
Maxim’s Chinese Restaurant
Maxim’s Palace
McSorley’s Ale House
Posto Pubblico
Shangri-la Hotels – 2 hotels
Shore Steak
Taku Japanese Cuisine
The Aberdeen Marina Club
The Mira Hong Kong
The Peninsula Hong Kong

(Numbers of outlets shown as reported by the catering group)

Original article from WWF