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Tasting Sensitivities


squidsdc
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I've always bought my seafood at Cannon's in Georgetown (I work right down the street), and I've always been happy with the quality. They are closed indefinitely for renovations. I have bought seafood at Whole Foods on P Street (near my home) and frankly it was just bad. I bought shrimp, brought it home and unwrapped it and the smell of amonia was overpowering. I rinsed it well, brined it in salt water and it was at least palatible. I bought some tuna, same thing. Third times the charm, but he wahoo was just bad. I've heard good and bad things about Maine Avenue. Has anyone had experience there? I've only driven by there and it looked a little intimidating.

Thanks for any help!

Cathy

What makes seafood taste like ammonia? I had a meal recently that I couldn't even eat--the flavor of ammonia was so strong with each bite that I cringed. I asked my husband to taste my dish to see if he could detect the flavor, and he said it tasted fine to him. This made me hesitant to bring it to the restaurant's attention. Could it have been something I had eaten just prior that left a flavor in my mouth that caused the fish (Sea Bass) to taste like ammonia? I've seen several posts where others have tasted ammonia in cheese, and shrimp, but this post above is the first one I found that mentioned ammonia with fish (albeit smell, and not taste.) Was it just me? Or can fish taste like ammonia without having an off-smell, that some are more sensitive to than others?

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What makes seafood taste like ammonia? I had a meal recently that I couldn't even eat--the flavor of ammonia was so strong with each bite that I cringed. I asked my husband to taste my dish to see if he could detect the flavor, and he said it tasted fine to him. This made me hesitant to bring it to the restaurant's attention. Could it have been something I had eaten just prior that left a flavor in my mouth that caused the fish (Sea Bass) to taste like ammonia? I've seen several posts where others have tasted ammonia in cheese, and shrimp, but this post above is the first one I found that mentioned ammonia with fish (albeit smell, and not taste.) Was it just me? Or can fish taste like ammonia without having an off-smell, that some are more sensitive to than others?

I've had ammonia in cheese more times than I care to remember, but I can't remember a bass dish having that particular flavor.

But you know what? If you walk into a doctor's office, and say "Doc, I have a headache that's not going away," and she tells you "it's all in your mind," then it's time to find another doctor... I believe you. What was the prep? What did you eat before?

I once peed red and immediately called my brother, a physician. His first question: "Did you have beets?"

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It was called "roasted sea bass" but it appeared as if it had been pan fried, served over Cous Cous with tomatoes. It was a special preparation as it was requested to be prepared sans garlic; and there were no sauces to hide the flavor of the fish.

The manager overheard our conversation and insisted I order something else, and I had Tilapia that tasted perfectly fine. So even though I had had an unusual taste 15-20 minutes prior to eating the bass, I truly don't think it had an effect on the flavor. (I'm really hesitant to fess up to what I had, 'cuz you're all gonna think that was the culprit, but I'm certain I had enough bread, water and coke to cleanse my palate before I got to my meal) :angry:

eta: FWIW--it was a sour apple sweet-tart type candy eaten to raise a very low blood sugar

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What makes seafood taste like ammonia?

Generally two things routinely cause this ammonia phenomena with seafood. The first is the seafood is past its prime and you are smelling or tasting the byproduct of decomposition. I've heard it explained as a result of the bacteria doing the decomposition. Some people register this as ammonia-like and others as garlic-like smell or taste. The second is due to seafood being soaked in a bicarbonate solution to impede growth of bacteria and help the seafood retain moisture. There are a variety of solutions and some use ammonium bicarbonate that can result in an ammonia-like smell or taste. People have very different levels of sensitivity to ammonia. To my mom, it smells like clean. To me, it feels like it is burning my nose and my eyes will sometimes start to tear. I've never understood people saying that fresh fish shouldn't smell fishy. I've cleaned just-caught fish and they all smell fishy to me!

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The second is due to seafood being soaked in a bicarbonate solution to impede growth of bacteria and help the seafood retain moisture. There are a variety of solutions and some use ammonium bicarbonate that can result in an ammonia-like smell or taste.

Are you referring to lutefisk and other examples of alkalai-based, piscatory harsh-winter conservation techniques? If so, I can't imagine this applying to a sea bass ordered in a restaurant, and I'd have to favor the decomposition theory. How did the fish look? Color? Texture? Maybe it was stored next to something that threw off an ammoniacal component, similar to sticking a truffle in a carton of eggs?

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Are you referring to lutefisk and other examples of alkalai-based, piscatory harsh-winter conservation techniques? If so, I can't imagine this applying to a sea bass ordered in a restaurant, and I'd have to favor the decomposition theory. How did the fish look? Color? Texture? Maybe it was stored next to something that threw off an ammoniacal component, similar to sticking a truffle in a carton of eggs?

No. This isn't that sort of hard core preservation method. It is a low-percentage (I can't remember the details) bicarb solution that inhibits the growth of bacteria and keeps the fish from drying. It won't stave off the bacteria forever, just gives you a little extra time. It is fairly widely used. Sometimes on the boat and sometimes at the fish house. If the solution levels are off and there is too much ammonium bicarb used, you can get the ammonia odor. It is unpleasant but not harmful. The trick is knowing if it is a solution thing or a decomposition thing. Either way, I wouldn't eat it because it just wouldn't taste good. I've passed on shrimp that had this kind of odor but were otherwise plump and not sign of decay. Life is too short to eat bad shrimp.

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I've always associated an ammoniated smell with spoilage. My personal rule: Smells bad? Don't eat!

As far as how individuals define a "fishy" smell: there is often a distinctive smell to a very fresh fish, especially while you are gutting/cleaning a freshly caught ocean fish. Once the fish is cleaned, scaled and rinsed, and especially after fish has been fileted and iced, the smell (probably associated with the innards) will have dissipated and the smell is sort of briny. What I call "fishy" is incipient spoilage--fish that is a bit over the hill, has been wrapped in plastic and/or not kept cold enough. Sometimes a rinse in clear water when removed from the package or in lemon water will be enough to clear off surface bacteria that is generating the smell. If it still smells "fishy" after a thorough rinse, it's on the way to ammonia, which is too far gone to safely eat.

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Not related to spoiling fish, but a tasting sensitivity none the less. Years ago when taking my first Gross Anatomy class, we were in the lab 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week. Toward the end of the 10 week class, the formaldehyde had permeated my olfactory system to the point that just about anything I put into my mouth got tagged with that smell/taste, especially bland food. It was such a relief when weeks later I could eat a piece of bread or chicken without that olfactory input.

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Funny thing is about this is that the fish did not smell "fishy" nor did it smell like ammonia. The ammonia was in the taste. I do recall that the fish was very moist. (For those that have the knee-jerk reaction to eating cilantro, it was one of those kind of things--an immediate cringe the nose, squint the eyes "ewww" reaction) The soaking in a bicarbonate solution certainly makes sense as an explanation. Thanks Laniloa!

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