Ocean Perch and Giant Sea Perch

1306502589401When I was growing up in Michigan, a common dinner we had was Ocean Perch (Sebastes alutus), it was $1 per pound, and sold as fillets frozen in 1 pound blocks. It was always a good meal with some potato salad on the side, maybe even some beans. This was in the 70s and 80s, my did the prices go up after this! In 2008, the price per pound was at $10.

Ocean Perch goes by several names, Pacific Rockfish, Rose Fish, Red Bream, and Red Perch. This is a true ocean fish. A tasty fish, firm flesh, and is an excellent table fish just pan fried. The photo shows one fillet skin side up and the other skin side down, exactly how this was bought when I was a child, boneless as well and no pin bones, which is also a bonus.

In 2013 I started looking for Ocean Perch, could not find this anywhere, then one day in Tesco in Pak Phanang, I was looking at their very limited fish display, I noticed, Giant Sea Perch, however, they are a bluish grey, not red, so I bought one and gave it a try. I filleted it skin off. The taste was excellent, and very close to that of Ocean Perch. I was happy I tried a new type of fish and it was good.

DSCN1333Today, I did some research on Giant Sea Perch, and come to find out, there is no Giant Sea Perch, and for the most part, does not live in the sea! This fish goes by many names as I will explain. This photo is a Barramundi.

Giant Sea Perch is actually Barramundi (Lates calcarifer), which is Australian Aboriginal language meaning “large scaled river fish” The fish is very popular in Australia. Marketing drove the name to be changed for marketing to Asian Sea Bass, that sounds better than large scaled river fish. Barramundi is a river fish, can live in brackish waters, and there is ocean populations of them as well.

Then the marketing, and the fish, hit the Thai markets, Asian Sea Bass, not good enough, marketing name changed again to Giant Sea Perch, which works for me as the fish does not really look like a bass.

Now, keep in mind the article I wrote about the Shark Catfish, called Pangasius which sounds better than Shark Catfish, and Dory Fish. Thai marketing even labels Pangasius as Pangasius Dory, I think in hopes of people seeing Dory and thinking it is Dory Fish they are buying. Don’t get me wrong, Pangasius is a very good fish indeed.

The name changes again for marketing in Thailand! Most seafood restaurants on the coasts will have tanks with Barramundi in them, you can pick out a fish or just say yeah, one of those, they cook it and bring it to you, 9 times out 10, the fish in the tanks, and on the menus is listed as White Snapper, which is no where near the same in appearance. List the fish as White Snapper, charger a higher price, same as a high end place saying John Dory Fish for fish and chips, when it is in fact, Pangasius.

Lesson learned here: Barramundi = Asian Sea Bass = Giant Sea Perch, and in some instances, as White Snapper in tourist areas.

  1. Barramundi is heavily farmed in Thailand… loads of ponds dedicated to Barra in BKK.

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