Saturday, August 09, 2008

Smoked Turbot - The Poor Man's Sable

I discovered smoked turbot in Brighton Beach yesterday. I was in M&I International Foods, the Russian gourmet megastore. I went up to the smoked fish counter. "Pazhalsta," the woman behind the counter said. Because my pure Russian-Jewish ancestry is reflected in my looks, it's always assumed I'm a Russian speaker when I go into shops and restaurants in Brighton Beach. I usually get a surprised look when I start to speak in unaccented English. "Do you have sable?" I asked. I hadn't seen any in the case. "No," the woman replied. So I looked at the other wares. I considered picking up some sturgeon, at $16 a pound, but then I noticed some oily, rich-looking white fish slices and a sign that said "Turbot, $10 lb." The flesh looked a lot like sable (black cod), but it was much cheaper, probably half as much as sable would cost, as it has now become more expensive than sturgeon, due largely to demand in Japan. So I decided to go for it. I asked her for four slices, which worked out to a quarter of a pound.

I made a sandwich this morning. It was indeed very similar to sable, with a buttery consistency. I was happy to have found a relatively inexpensive substitute.

Turbot is known as paltus in Russian. I've never seen smoked turbot elsewhere, and a web search shows that it's mainly available from Russian food purveyors. Turbot is a flatfish from deep, cold waters, and is also known as Greenland halibut or Atlantic halibut. Turbot is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. If you don't live near a Russian neighborhood, smoked paltus can be ordered online.


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