Can’t cook fish? No problem – Fiona Smith rounds up some of the world’s best marinated fish recipes.
Marinating and curing (pickling, salting etc) are methods used to ‘cook’ fresh, raw fish in cultures around the world. Pacific raw fish salads such as kokoda and ika mata and South American ceviche are the most well-known marinated dishes, but there are many more such as Filipino kilawin with coconut or palm vinegar and kalamansi lime, and the Catalan tomato-based esqueixada. Perfect summer dishes, they require minimal cooking and are fresh and vibrant tasting. The following recipes, which could loosely be described as fish salads, make a great alternative to summer favourites such as prawn cocktail or gravlax. Don’t forget to drink all the delicious juices that remain after you finish eating; in Peru this is known as leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) and is widely considered a hangover cure.
All of these recipes will suit whatever fish is the freshest available. When it comes to choosing fish, after freshness the main factors to look for are flavour and texture. I am partial to trevally, kingfish and kahawai in salads as they have a good medium firmness and a bold flavour. They are especially suitable to match with strong punchy ingredients such as spices and spice pastes, fermented sauces (such as soy or fish sauce) and olives.
More delicately flavoured fish such as gurnard or snapper are perfect with the bright, zingy flavours of herbs and citrus. Rich, oily fish such as salmon or tuna can work well in many dishes but I would avoid something too strong and spicy as it will overpower the flavour of the fish. The fish can be sliced into cubes or strips (whichever you prefer) and the thinner you cut, the quicker the fish will ‘cook’; for instance if you are leaving it overnight you may want a chunkier cut. How long to marinate the fish for is also an individual choice. I prefer a quick marinade of about 30 minutes at room temperature, just taking the edge off the rawness, but I also enjoy the results of a long marinate, such as leaving overnight in the fridge, which completely changes the texture, almost ‘cooking’ the fish completely.