Seafood and Eat It

Can't tell your scampis from shrimps but love eating seafood? Refer to our definitive guide to crustaceans, molluscs and other produce of the sea.
Anushree Basu-Bhalla        Print Edition: May 12, 2013

PICTURE THIS: You're chairing A business lunch in a bustling Asian restaurant. The menu is a smorgasboard of seafood and fresh catch of the day but you find yourself at a loss as you wade through scampis, squids and clams. Seafood is confusing for most people but knowing one type from another can crack a deal. Well, at least in this situation. Here's our guide to seafood that will ensure that you not only place a restaurant order like a veteran but also whip up a fiery crab vindaloo the next time you host your business associates or colleagues at home.

It can be a daunting task, and if you don't know your scallops well, chances are you won't like what you're going to put in your mouth. Broadly, seafood is categorised into five verticals: fish (marine and freshwater), crustaceans (shellfish like crabs, lobsters and prawns), molluscs (clams, oysters, mussels,
scallops, squids and octopus), aquatic animals (whales, jellyfish and sea turtles), and aquatic plants (seaweed and

Like most produce, seafood is no longer seasonal foods, so the old adage that months with the letter R are seafood-friendly periods in a year no longer stands true in most cases. Technology and handling systems have improved immensely since early days, making produce available the year through. Fish and seafood are expertly processed and frozen at the height of their freshness (usually when still on the boat or shortly thereafter), sealing the nutritional goodness, flavour and texture. With worldwide food transportation, a majority of seafood is available in departmental stores and supermarkets the year through. However, weather conditions do affect pricing and availability. Seafood is perishable. When purchasing frozen seafood, pick solid frozen pieces with fewer ice crystals as this will ensure they have been through a proper cold chain and not thawed and re-frozen at some point. Keep the produce frozen by storing in the coldest section of your freezer and only remove when you're ready to use it. In case you're buying fresh and live seafood, make sure the crust or skin looks bright. Steer clear of discoloured patches or dark spots. Fresh seafood should smell like the ocean. If it has a fishy odour, it probably isn't fresh. In case of a whole fish, the gills should be pink and wet, and the eyes should be bright not cloudy.

A wok is your go-to kitchen accessory when cooking seafood. You also need a lightweight, flat spatula as fish and seafood need delicate handling. Seafood has natural salt hence adding marination and condiments only takeaway from natural, clean flavours. In case of Indian recipes like crab vindaloo, make sure you don't marinade with spices and salt for more than 15 minutes as this could dehydrate the crabs.


Keep in mind the general rule of thumb: Most seafood needs just eight to nine minutes on the hob. These creatures of the sea are excellent repositories of nutrients and minerals, including zinc, iodine, selenium, and magnesium, along with vitamin A and B vitamins (especially B12). Over-cooking seafood is almost unforgiving as it depletes the nutrient content. When cooking fish, put it skin down on the pan and let it sear. As the fish changes from translucent to opaque and begins to flake, remove it from the heat source and let it sit for a few minutes before serving. When fully cooked, shellfish, such as mussels or clams will pop open. The cooking time is just three to five minutes. Discard any that remain closed. Scallops are fully cooked when they turn opaque and their texture changes from mushy to slightly firm. Like all crustaceans, shrimps are ready when they turn orange on both sides-just about two to three minutes into cooking. Lobsters and crabs are cooked when their shells turn a deep red and their meat changes from translucent to opaque. Depending on the cooking method and size of the shellfish, they may take anywhere from five to 25 minutes of cooking time.

Stir-fried shrimp in oyster and fish sauce
Stir-fried shrimp in oyster and fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and broth; served on a bed of rice noodles
Poaching It is a moist heat method of cooking where food is submerged in water, curry or stock that's kept just below boiling point. Seafood cooked using this technique has a delicate flavour. Most Indian seafood and fish curries are prepared using this technique.

Stir-Frying Sauteng or stir-frying is the easiest way to prepare seafood. This technique goes best with freshwater lean fish cuts like fillets, strips, or whole dressed fish. It is also great for shucked shrimp, shellfish, scallops, and squid that are lightly coated with a batter of corn flour or with breadcrumbs.

Broiling Oven-broiling or grilling adds a nutty flavour and renders a crisp texture to the seafood. Fillets of finfish like cod, halibut or basa, shrimp, and lobster tails turn out delicious when broiled.

Pan-Searing This technique works well when cooking thicker fish steaks. If the fish has skin, score it on the skin side with a few vertical slashes and add a choice of dressing.

Steaming Unlike poaching, steaming keeps flavourful juices and nutrients inside the seafood, rather than letting them escape into the surrounding cooking liquid.

  • Print

A    A   A