How to Tell if Your Fish is Fresh: 5 Tips to Remember

NDTV Food Desk  |  Updated: November 04, 2017 23:16 IST

How to Tell if Your Fish is Fresh: 5 Tips to Remember
  • The flesh of the fish should bounce back on touching
  • The eyes should be bulging, shiny and clear
  • Fresh fish should not smell but should have a mild scent
Fish is delicate and lovely and can be easily transformed into so many dishes. Be it a fragrant fish curry or crisp fried fish fry, it is a wonderful ingredient to experiment with. But a lot of people shy away from cooking it considering it to be challenging. While it’s true that cooking fish does require some amount of skill, it is easy to attain it. The first step in cracking any recipe or dish is getting the best ingredients. There are some thumb rules that you need to follow while buying fish and making sure that it is fresh. Once you know them, you’re on your way to making the best fish curry. Here are five tips to always keep handy while buying fish as suggested by Chef Sukesh Kanchan from Sanadige. 

1. Look for firm, shiny flesh: The flesh of the fish should bounce back on touching it. The skin has a natural metallic glow and should not look dull. The surface of the skin must be tight and the scales might be tightly attached. Cracked skin or loose scales could be signs of rotting fish. 

2. Sniff the fish: Fresh fish should not smell but should have a mild scent. It is best to avoid fish that has a strong, fishy odour or a sour smell. The smell of the fish is specific to the sea or river from where it has been caught. It is natural and pleasant. Fish that is old or spoiled has a pungent and sharp smell of trimethylamine – an organic compound released from rotting fish. 
(Also read: 5 Health Benefits of Eating Fish)
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Fresh fish should not smell but should have a mild scent. ​

3. See the eyes: This is perhaps one of the best ways to check if your fish is fresh or not. The eyes of the fish can tell you a lot about its freshness. The eyes should be bulging, shiny and clear. They should be no cloudiness present. Even if the eyes are sunken into the head it could suggest that the fish is old. 

4. Check the gills: If it is a whole fish, the gills should be bright pink or reddish in colour. They should also be slightly wet and not slimy or dry.

5. Other signs: Check for any kind of discoloration of skin, brown or yellow sliminess around the edges, or a spongy texture, these are all signs of old fish. 

Now that you known how to buy the best quality fish, here is a great recipe to try. Chef Kanchan tells us how to make restaurant-style coastal fish curry at home. 

Meen Manga Curry
Recipe by Chef Sukesh Kanchan, Sanadige, New Delhi

Cooking Time: 30 to 35 minutes
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 3 to 4

(Also read: 10 Best Indian Fish Curries)
fish curry

Delicious meen curry. Photo Credit: Sanadige


Fish, medium size pieces -  400 grams
Garlic, finely chopped - 1/2 tsp
Ginger , finely chopped - 1 tsp
Shallots, sliced - 2 tbsp
Curry leaves - few
Raw mango, sliced - 1 medium (depending on the sourness you many need more or less)
Green chilies, cut vertically - 2  (or according to taste)
Water - as required 
Salt - to taste
Coconut oil - as required

For Coconut Paste:
Grated coconut- 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Kashmiri chili powder - 1 to 1.5 tsp( according top taste)
Water - as required

For Tempering:
Coconut oil- as required
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves - Few
Shallots, sliced - 2


1. In a blender, combine together all the ingredients for the coconut paste and grind to form a smooth paste. Keep aside.

2. Heat oil a manchatti or clay pot. Add garlic, ginger, shallots, curry leaves, raw mango and green chilies. Saute for about 30 seconds.

3. Next, add the prepared coconut paste and some water. Add salt to taste at this stage. 

3. Bring this to a boil. Add the fish and mix gently. Cover and cook over medium flame, until the fish is done and the gravy turns thick. Let it simmer on low flame.

4. Heat oil in another pan and add the mustard seeds.Let them splutter.

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5. Add curry leaves and shallots and saute them until they turns golden brown. Add this to the curry.

6. Switch off the flame, cover and let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

CommentsUnless you stay in a coastal town, fish is transported to various cities and the way it is done plays an important role in maintaining its freshness. Fresh fish is easily perishable and it needs to be kept on ice or in coolers where the temperature is under 0 degrees. This way it may last for about 10-15 days in transportation. Therefore, it is recommended to use the fish you buy as soon as possible and not store it for too long. Get some fish home and try this simple recipe to impress your friends and family. 

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