What are these Fish?

We went to Pedregal to buy fish (read about it HERE) I also wanted to include some information about the various fish, so I’ve put it in this separate post here. If any of you have further information, opinions, corrections, or anything else to add to what I’ve written, please let me know!

Pargo is snapper. That’s one of them at the top of this post. Right now they are in the freezer so I can’t report on how good they are, but I know I’ve liked snapper in the past.

Robalo is snook. There are snook in Florida but people catch them mainly for sport. They are not sold in stores for food. Our research told us that they are also called “soap fish” because of the taste if you do not remove the skin. I was very glad we did a bit of research! So, after I had carefully removed the scales, we got busy removing the skin. By this time we were left with a large, skinless fish so we figured it wasn’t much more to just fillet the fish. We fried the fillets in a bit of oil. I thought it was a good fish, white, tender, very mild flavor. My husband didn’t care for it as much, I think because the texture is softer than he prefers. So, given all the work it took to prepare this fish and the lukewarm reviews by my husband, we will cross this one off the list. But, for anyone else reading this I’d say try it before you decide. Many people like snook very much. If you are experienced with skinning and filleting fish, you will probably do better than we did.

Camaron is shrimp. These shrimp were excellent!! They came straight from the water so I had to clean and de-vein them. This took a little time but wasn’t at all difficult. Then I sauteed them in butter and garlic, and put them on a plate! My previous experience is frozen shrimp in the US. These shrimp had a milder flavor, much more tender texture, and I thought they were far better than any I had before.

Sierra is mackerel, specifically Spanish mackerel, I believe, judging by the pictures I found on line. This fish is a big winner with us! It has no scales so is easy to prepare. We had such a big fish that even after removing the head and tail it was more than we needed at once, so I cut it in two. Now, we had a large plump piece of fish. The easiest seemed to be to microwave it so I put it on a plate, covered it with a bit of plastic, and nuked it for about 8 minutes until it was done through in the thickest parts. I served it with some limon from the tree in the back yard, and some salt and pepper. It was delicious!! We were both totally happy and put this fish on the top of our list. It has a good flavor, meaty texture, and my husband said it’s as good as a steak (very high praise from a steak loving guy).

Lisa is mullet. My research quickly turned up an article from Sarasota, where I lived before here. (It’s HERE) I remember mullet wasn’t highly thought of back there, but apparently restaurants in the northeast think it’s very good. Sarasota is trying to make mullet more popular since there is a lot of it in the area, and often it is only caught for the roe and the male fish are just dumped overboard and wasted. We have 4 small fish in the freezer, and I’ll be interested to see what we think of them.

One more to add – the first time we went shopping we bought durado, which is mahi mahi. I think it was $2.50/lb. It was also excellent! After a bit of research and a couple tries, my favorite way to cook it is fried. It’s a big meaty fish and I like it a bit rare in the middle as that is more tender. I minced a fair amount of garlic, got the pan very hot, put in some oil and the garlic, and then the fish. I cooked the fish a few minutes on either side until it was seared on the outside but still tender in the middle. This one definitely stays on the list for both of us.

As we buy and try other fish, I will add to our fish information. So far, what I have learned – if the seller asks if you want the fish cleaned, say yes. My fish still had scales and while they aren’t hard to remove, it takes some time, and then it takes more time to clean up the scales that flew all over the kitchen.

Otherwise we are totally happy with the fish available here. If you all have some favorite recipes or cooking methods, please share! I am not experienced with cooking much fish so I’m happy to learn more.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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9 Responses to What are these Fish?

  1. how great that you have access to so many kinds of fish! i’venever cooked robalo, but i’ve had it in restaurants, and it’s always been good. a friend in costa rica keeps the skin on it while it backes then he puts a creole tomato/capers sauce over that and serves it over rice. it’s so good!

    pargo has a lateral line that’s very dark.. if you take the time to remove that lateral line, there won’t be any strong flavor from that dark fatty area.

    i’ve never heard of microwaving fish, and it sounds simple with good results! how great that the lemons are in your back yard!!!



    • kristc99 says:

      I know, we are so lucky, and it’s so fresh and inexpensive. I know we will go shopping regularly. Thanks for the tip about the pargo. I’ve microwaved salmon in the past and that works out great. My first fish was in the Florida keys a few years ago and I had no idea what to do with it (I was vegetarian for most of my adult life) I put the whole thing in the microwave and it worked out great. The skin and scales were very easy to peel off, the guts came out in a clump, and the meat just fell off the bones.
      The fruit in the yard here is limon, not lemon like we have in the US. It’s dark green with tan patches, and inside it’s orange, very juicy and tart. It may be limón, since they stress the last syllable. It’s really good.


      • yes, that is ‘limon mandarina’ and is my favorite limon! it’s the limon of choice for ceviche, and wow, it makes a killer margarita!!!

        they’re not valued here, and i can buy just as many of those big juicy limon mandarinas as i can the little key-lime type limons here. go figure! give me the mandarinas.

        presently the grapefruit are the best buy. though they have tons of seeds, they are so good and i can buy them from 8 for a dollar to 16 for a dollar, depending on if the truck of grapefruits is making its rounds or not!



      • kristc99 says:

        I have two limon trees in the yard covered with fruit, so I think I’m set for life! Thanks for the heads up on the grapefruit. They have them at the produce markets and I have a juicer, so maybe I should give them a try.


  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    Smoked mullet is quite popular in the panhandle of Florida. And thanks for the list. I didn’t know sierra was Spanish mackerel. It’s one of my favorites. Way, way back in the old days in Florida when Morrison’s Cafeterias were popular they used to serve Spanish mackerel, and some restaurants, too, but you never see it any more. What a shame.

    En mi barrio (neighborhood. And isn’t it interesting how we gringos had come to think of a “barrio” as being some kind of Hispanic ghetto?) there is a truck that comes through two or three times a week selling fresh fish (and another truck selling veggies) and I’ve bought some wonderful, large shrimp from them.


    • kristc99 says:

      Smoked mullet was served at a few places in Sarasota also, but I never tried it. I think our neighborhood is too small for the salesmen to visit, but I remember that when I was staying with friends my first week here. Pedregal isn’t that far though, and I have good relationships with a couple local produce vendors so I’m well taken care of.


  3. Pingback: Fish Soup? | The Panama Adventure

  4. Sunni Morris says:

    Wow! Your fish sounds wonderful! I’ve never cooked it in the microwave either. I usually cook over a high flame with garlic and olive oil. Then lemon and salt and pepepr for serving. Sometimes I use some dill as well.


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