Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

INFO: Tilapia 101


Tilapia is an herbivorous fish that is native to Africa. It's a hardy fish and can live in fresh or brackish water. Several different species and hybrids are sold under the name tilapia. Although they are freshwater fish, tilapia produce TMAO, a substance generally only produced by saltwater fish, which breaks down to produce the "fishy" smell, so this type of fish will be more "fishy" than freshwater fish normally are.

Be careful when cooking this fish because it is one of the fish that's prone to "mushiness." This means that if it's slow cooked to a lower temperature, protein digesting enzymes in the muscle cells will become increasingly active during the cooking process until 130-140 degrees F is reached, at which point they inactivate, and the texture of the fish will be rendered unpleasantly mushy. It is best to either cook quickly to 160-170 degrees F or cook quickly to a lower temperature and serve immediately.

Tilapia is one of the types of fish least likely to accumulate mercury and other toxins because of its small size and short life, so it's a good purchase if you like fish but are worried about mercury. Just try to make sure the fish you are purchasing are from the open ocean (but not near a large coastal city) or from a farm with a controlled water supply. I buy fish from Whole Foods and at least at the one I go to, they will tell you where the fish is from and they also have a little sign telling you what country it comes from.

I have already experimented with breading and frying the fish for fish and chips and it worked out really well because the fillet is so small. It came out nice and crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

Next I am making a spicy version and will post up the recipe afterwards.

5 comments:

GREAT right up on Tilapia. Very educational and I love that.

said by Gabriella True at 10:36 PM Delete

My father-in-law, who as you may know comes from Hawaii, refers to Tilapia as "garbage fish." He won't eat it and thinks it's pretty funny that it's so "all the rage" right now.

said by Jeremy at 11:58 AM Delete

i love that you wrote up tilapia cus i eat that "garbage" all the time and it's tasty cus it'll assume the flavor of anything else you are cooking with it, its flavor is so mild.

i generally put my fillet over a green salad to keep it healthy. i'll saute red onions, mushrooms, cut up a tomato and maybe a sprinkling of corn, olives and goat cheese and mix with a homemade dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. tasty indeed, though i'll try your recipe above. i think Cha-Cha-Cha sells a similar version to yours.

said by Milla at 4:53 PM Delete

That's what my mom used to say about catfish, because it was a bottom feeder. I still can't quite bring myself to eat it, even though some of those fried catfish dishes look pretty delicious. I just can't stop myself from imagining the fish sliming along eating all the goop and sludge off of the riverbed. Ick!

I love tilapia though, because it's so light and manageable. That corn, goat cheese, olive thing sounds YUM. Anything with goat cheese and olives is all right by me, although I will skip the tomatoes.

said by KT at 4:59 PM Delete

Try tilapia for fish tacos. You need 1 box of tempura batter, tilapia fillets, and some panko bread crumbs. Put half of the tempura on a plate, the other half in a bowl. To the tempura in the bowl, add ice water ( very important that the water actually be ICED ) until the batter gets the consistancy of pancake batter ( not too runny, not too thick ). Then, run the fillets through the dry tempura, then the wet, and finish with the panko. Deep fry, and viola!! I like to top mine with Crema and pico de gallo.

said by mrbreeze_68 at 9:04 AM Delete

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