Ways of eating fish

Spain is among the foremost countries in the international ranking of fish consumption per capita, after Japan, Portugal, Iceland and Norway.

According to data issued by MAPA in the Basque Country, the per capita consumption of fish products in 2005 was approximately 31 kilos. The fish species most often consumed in our community are hake, sea trout, sardines and anchovies, tuna and white tuna, trout, salmon, sole and cod. Sea produce is sold in many differentways in our markets;fresh, frozen, salted, smoked, canned, pickled, pre-cooked, ready prepared, etc.

In the kitchen, fish can be prepared in many different ways: grilled, baked, fried, microwaved, in salads… In most restaurants, fish can beeaten prepared in the following ways:

  • Grilled. This way, the freshness of the fish only absorbs the aroma of the grille, oil, garlic and salt, and its own flavour is enhanced.
  • Baked. In this case, the fish is cooked together with elements such as potatoes and onions and in some cases, it is stuffed with contrasting foods such as ham.One method of preparation is “pescado a la sal” in which the fish is baked whole covered in a crust of salt.
  • Boiled. This method is used mainly for shellfish, which are generally prepared with a little salt, oil and a few drops of lemon juice.
  • Fried. This is the quickest method.After cleaning the fish, it is coated with flour and beaten egg, and then fried in olive oil. Hake or anchovies are usually prepared in this manner.
  • In sauce. Here, the preparation is more elaborate, as apart from the fish, the sauce accompanying the fish must also be prepared. Basque cuisine has developed a large number of sauces, based largely on vegetables (tomato, onion, peppers and potatoes) using elements of the fish itself (broth, ink,etc.).
  • Pickled. This is a type of semi-preserve characterised by being subjected to acid by adding vinegar, lemon or an authorised organic acid. It can also be seasoned with aromatic herbs, spices, salt, etc.. It is conserved in the refrigerator and can then be consumed without having to be submitted to any additional culinary process.
  • Smoked. The fish is salted, submitted to more or less intensive desiccation and then smoked using non-resinous wood smoke, which can also be mixed with aromatic plants.This gives the product its peculiar sensory characteristics that are highly appreciated by consumers.

Some examples of great tradition in our gastronomy using the above methods of preparation are: grilled angler, baked hake or hake in green sauce, “bacalao al pil-pil”, “bacalao a la vizcaína”, “marmitako de bonito”, squid in its ink or anchovies in batter.

Each country has its own specialties, both with respect to the fish most widely consumed and the method used to prepare it:

  • In Spain andItaly fresh fish and shellfish are usually grilled, baked or prepared in a sauce.A considerable amount of canned fish is also consumed especially tuna, for preparing salads.
  • In Portugal cod is eaten quite often, and prepared in many different ways.
  • In France, fresh fish is prepared without marinating, and in the form of spreads and fish cakes. A considerable quantity of refrigerated pre-cooked dishes is also consumed.
  • In Germany, processed fish is consumed more often.
  • In nortern Europe smoked fish is consumed to a considerable extent (salmon, herring), and fish fillets, frozen fish and pre-cooked fish seasoned with strong flavours and natural herbs.
  • In the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scotland the most important fish dish is Fish & Chips which consists of fish fried in batter accompanied by chipped potatoes.Fish is usually sold processed and not fresh, as in the countries of southern Europe.
  • In the United States, fish is not consumed in large quantities per capita but is used in salads, fish snacks, pre-cooked food and canned food (tuna).
  • Japan deserves a special mention, as it is the country that consumes the mostfish per capita (71 kg) and has made fish the basic element of its diet, which is one of the reasons why the Japanese live longer.Battered, fried shellfish (tempura) is an important dish and also raw fish (sushi). The two best known forms are sushi norimaki (several different types of raw fish cut into thin slices and rolled in nori algae with rice with a small quantity of wasabi and nigiri sushi which is presented in the form of a rice ball on the top of which is a piece of fish, adhered to the rice with a little wasabi.


Europe an increase in fish consumption has been observed, due to its beneficial effects on health. Consumers are now asking for fish products that:

  • Are quick and easy to prepare (fish salads, pre-cooked dishes based on fish…).
  • Are less severely processed (maintaining all their vitamins, etc..).
  • Are fresh.
  • Are natural: with no preservatives or other artificial additives.
  • Are healthy (functional, fortified, low in fat and carbohydrates, with less salt, etc.)
  • Can be conserved longer.
  • Are safe to eat
    • The consumption of whole fresh fish is in decline, as compared to more elaborate presentations (fish fillets, rounds, pre-cooked dishes, etc.), that are on the increase.


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