Can You Eat Fish Eyes

Can You Eat Fish Eyes? What Does It Taste Like?

Have you ever looked at a whole fish and wondered if you could eat the eyes? I definitely have! As someone who loves trying unique foods, I was curious about the taste, texture, and edibility of fish eyes. What are fish eyes made of? Would they be gross and squishy? Or perhaps they might have an amazing flavor I was missing out on!

I decided to do some research on this intriguing ingredient and was surprised to learn just how common and delicious fish eyes can be in various cuisines around the world. Keep reading for a deep dive into the world of cooking and eating fish eyes. I’ll cover everything from safety tips to popular dishes to make at home. You may never look at that fish head the same way again!

An Introduction to the Concept of Eating Fish Eyes

For many home cooks and restaurant goers, eating fish eyes may seem like a very strange concept. The idea of popping the intact eyeball of a fish into your mouth can seem rather unappealing at first glance. However, an open mind can lead to amazing new culinary experiences that might become a favorite dish.

While eating fish eyes may not be commonplace in Western cuisine, they are enjoyed as a delicacy and nutritional bonus in many Asian and Eastern European food cultures. Fish eyes provide an abundance of nutrients including protein, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids and more.

Cooking and consuming the entire fish from head to tail is a philosophy in countries like China, Japan, Korea, Russia and Sri Lanka among others. This nose-to-tail approach prevents food waste while making the most of each fish catch. If you can get past the initial hesitation, fish eyes offer a unique texture and mouthfeel in addition to impressive health bonuses.

What Exactly Are Fish Eyes Made Of?

To understand what eating fish eyes is like, it helps to know what they’re made of. Fish eyes have a similar composition to human eyes in some ways.

The visible part of a fish eye is the cornea and lens. This provides a protective outer layer and assists in focusing light underwater. Underneath is a fluid-filled chamber and a retina which contains photoreceptor cells. The eye is framed by connective tissue, muscles, blood vessels and nerves.

Of course, fish eyes lack eyelids, eyebrows and other features present in human eyes. Their composition is simplified compared to mammals. When served cooked and properly cleaned, fish eyes become harmless for consumption.

The main edible part of fish eyes is the lens. This has a firm yet tender jelly-like texture when cooked. The eyeball shape helps the lens hold its form, allowing for interesting textures like a subtle crunch when eaten. Fish eye lenses have a mild, seafood-like flavor that pairs well with other ingredients.

Are Fish Eyes Safe to Eat? Tips For Proper Preparation

It’s understandable to have concerns around the safety and sanitation of eating fish eyes. However, you can take steps to make fish eyes perfectly safe for consumption and delicious:

  • Remove the skin/outer membrane – Peel off the thin skin or membrane covering the eye before cooking or eating. This removes impurities.
  • Wash thoroughly – Give fish eyes a good rinse under cold water before prepping to wash away dirt or debris.
  • Soak in lemon/lime juice or vinegar – For extra sanitation, soak whole eyes in citrus juice or vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Acidity helps kill bacteria.
  • Remove blood vessels/nerves – Trim away any visible veins or neural tissue with a knife or kitchen shears.
  • Cook thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145°F. High heat from boiling, sautéing or baking helps make fish eyes safe to eat.

Following basic kitchen hygiene like washing hands and prep surfaces is important too. Take these precautions and fish eyes can be a perfectly sanitary ingredient!

Fish Eyes Around the World: A Delicacy in Many Global Cuisines

While eating fish eyes may seem obscure to many Westerners, they have a place in culinary traditions across the globe. Here are some cultures and dishes where fish eyes are relished:

  • Russia – Fish head broth called ukha often contains the eyes and is eaten with a spoon.
  • China – Chinese fish head soup highlights the eyes and fish heads are treasured.
  • Japan – Tuna eyeballs are enjoyed raw as a delicacy at sushi restaurants.
  • Korea – Eyes are featured in spicy fish head stew.
  • Philippines – Milkfish head soup called monamon is flavored with the gelatinous eyes.
  • Sri Lanka – Whole fish curry is served from head to tail with eyes included.

From street food stalls to fine dining restaurants, fish eyes are appreciated worldwide! The recipes and preparations highlights their unique textures.

Taste and Texture – What Do Fish Eyes Themselves Taste Like?

Okay, but what do these exotic fish eyeballs actually taste like? Do they burst in your mouth or have an overpowering fishiness?

The lenses of fish eyes offer a fairly mild, slightly sweet seafood flavor. They don’t have a strong fishy or overtly fish eye taste on their own. When cooked, the lens becomes gel-like with a firm yet jelly-like consistency.

The eye shape gives a subtle pop of texture when consumed, but it’s not an explosion of juices. Think of it more like the firmness of cooked mushrooms or squid. Overall, fish eyes offer more textural contribution than a dramatically different new taste.

Cooking and seasonings modify the delicate seafood essence. Braising, marinating or preparing with aromatics brings out more flavor. The eclectic addition of fish eyes enhances dishes instead of overpowering them. Give them a try before passing judgement!

Impressive Health Benefits of Eating Fish Eyes

Beyond taste and global cuisine, fish eyes offer stellar nutritional value. Here are some of the top health benefits this unique ingredient provides:

  • High protein – Fish eyes offer a sizable protein punch, especially important for diets without a lot of meat.
  • Rich in vitamin A – Fish eyes contain vitamin A which is great for vision, skin and immune health.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – The DHA and EPA in fish eyes provide anti-inflammatory benefits for brain and heart health.
  • Collagen – Fish eyes contain collagen which assists with skin elasticity and joint mobility.

The nutrients in fish eyes may help lower risks for heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. The omega-3s found in fish eyes even offer mental health advantages related to decreasing anxiety and depression.

For such a small ingredient, fish eyes pack a seriously healthy nutritional profile! It’s great way to make the most of eating fish.

Step-By-Step Preparation: How to Clean Fish Eyes for Cooking

Ready to give fish eyes a chance in your kitchen? Here are some easy steps for getting them prepped:

  • Rinse – Give the uncooked eyes a thorough wash under cold water to remove any debris or drippings on the surface.
  • Soak (optional) – Consider soaking for 5-10 minutes in lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar to sanitize.
  • Remove membranes – Peel off any skin or outer membranes covering the eyes.
  • Trim out veins – Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to clip out visible blood vessels or neural tissue.
  • Remove tails – For fish like sea bream, snip off any tails still attached to the eyes.
  • Slice or chop – Cut fish eye lenses as desired for the recipe like dicing for soup or leaving whole as a garnish.

That’s all it takes to prep fish eyes for cooking! Then they’re ready to boil, sauté, bake or use in your favorite recipes.

5 Popular Dishes That Feature Fish Eyes

Once you get past the idea of eating eyes plucked from a fish’s head, it opens up an entirely new world of global cuisine to enjoy! Here are 5 popular dishes from around the world that highlight fish eyes:

1. Ukha (Russia)

This Russian fish soup contains the head and eyes of fish like carp, perch or pike. The eyes add collagen and jiggle nicely in the broth.

2. Fish Head Curry (Singapore)

A spicy coconut milk curry made with fried fish heads and all the parts like cheeks, eyes and brains.

3. Fish Head Soup (China)

Chinese fish head soup celebrates the head and eyes which are considered a delicacy. Eyes add bounce to the broth.

4. Monamon (Philippines)

A Filipino fish head soup starring milkfish heads. Tapioca starch thickens the broth accented by popping fish eyes.

5. Mangú Con Los Dos Extremos (Dominican Republic)

This dish includes fried fish heads with eyes as well as the tail. It’s served with vegetables over rice & beans.

As you can see, Asian cuisines especially highlight fish heads and use the eyes to amplify soups and stews. The eyes provide texture and collagen for full flavored broth.

Fish Eye Chips – A Recipe To Try Fish Eyes

Here’s an easy recipe to experiment with cooking fish eyes at home:

Fish Eye Chips Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 12 assorted fish eyes (trout, rockfish, snapper, etc) washed and membranes removed
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Lemon wedges

Instructions:

  1. Rinse fish eyes, remove membranes and pat dry.
  2. Pour buttermilk into a bowl. Add fish eyes and let soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix flour, cornmeal and spices in a separate bowl.
  4. Remove fish eyes from buttermilk and dredge in flour mixture until fully coated.
  5. Pour oil into pan to a depth of 1 inch. Heat oil to 350°F.
  6. Working in batches, add coated eyes to oil and fry for 2-3 minutes until crispy and floating.
  7. Remove eyes with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate.
  8. Serve hot with lemon wedges and enjoy your fish eye chips!

The crispy cornmeal coating and quick fry makes fish eyes irresistible. Enjoy this adventurous appetizer on your next seafood night!

Cooking Tips and Tricks for Preparing Fish Eyes

Now that you’ve got the basics, here are some handy tips for cooking fish eyes successfully:

  • Try poaching, braising or steaming eyes first to tenderize the texture before finishing with other cooking methods.
  • Season fish eyes with aromatics like ginger, garlic and green onion to bring out more flavor.
  • Add acidity from lime, lemon or vinegars to balance and brighten the flavor of fish eyes.
  • Sauté eyes in olive oil briefly for a crispy texture contrast to the gelatinous lenses.
  • For extra oomph, marinate eyes before cooking in a blend of soy sauce, honey, chili and spices.
  • Garnish completed dishes with whole fish eyes for dramatic flair and textural pop.

With the right prep and cooking techniques, fish eyes can be an exciting new edible to embrace.

Alternative Uses for Fish Eyes Beyond Eating Them

If eating fish eyes still doesn’t appeal to you, don’t let them go to waste! Here are some clever ways to make use of fish eyes instead of consuming them:

  • Add to seafood stock for extra collagen and nutrients extracted from the eyes. Strain out the eyes before using stock.
  • Use as a natural thickener for sauces, stews or gravies instead of gluten or starch thickeners. The collagen acts as a great binder.
  • Make an eclectic fish eye dip! Blend cooked eyes with herbs, spices, lemon and olive oil for a zesty spread.
  • Use as a supplement in home made pet food. Cooked fish eyes provide animal companions with natural sources of protein and collagen.
  • Compost fish eyes if all else fails! The small eye lenses will break down well and provide marine nutrition to gardens.

So don’t let those fish eyes miss out on being a handy kitchen helper. Look beyond direct consumption for ways to put them to good use.

Final Thoughts on the Joys of Trying Fish Eyes

My curiosity about eating fish eyes led me on quite the culinary adventure! I never expected such a small ingredient to open up a world of unique flavors, textures and global cuisine.

While eating fish eyes may not become an everyday meal for me, I’m thrilled to break down barriers around food and embrace new kitchen challenges. With an open perspective and a few quick preparations, fish eyes deliver a pleasant experience beyond expectations.

From Russia to the Philippines to your own kitchen, don’t be afraid to give fish eyes a chance. Approach them with courage, use proper handling techniques, and enjoy cuisine in ways you never imagined. We can all broaden our horizons through the joy and connection found around the dinner table.

To recap, fish eyes offer impressive health bonuses, a mild sweetness, and textural excitement to dishes across many cultures. With an open mindset and a little preparation, don’t be afraid to try cooking with fish eyes in your own kitchen!

FAQ About Fish Eyes

If you’re still hesitant about the idea of eating fish eyes, here are answers to some common questions:

What is the white part of fish eyes?

The white circular part of fish eyes is the lens. This provides focusing power in the water and becomes gelatinous when cooked.

Do fish eyes burst when you eat them?

Fish eyes remain intact when cooked and don’t burst with juices when consumed. The eye shape gives a satisfying subtle crunch but they don’t explode.

Do fish eyes see like human eyes do?

Fish don’t see exactly the same way humans do but they do use their eyes to detect light, motion and form images. The anatomy is different but the eyes still serve a similar visual function.

Can you eat all types of fish eyes?

Most common edible fish have safe to eat eyes, but some very large species may have tough or toxic parts. Stick to smaller eyes from white fish, trout, snapper, tuna etc.

Are fish eyeballs hard or squishy?

Fish lenses have a firm yet tender texture when cooked, somewhat like a soft boiled egg. The eye shape keeps the lens from getting completely squishy. Overall, they maintain a pleasant, subtle bite.

Trying new foods can feel daunting, but fish eyes may surprise you! Satisfy your foodie curiosity by giving this unique ingredient a chance.

Can You Eat Fish Eyes? (+ Fish Eye Chips Recipe)

Ingredients

  • 12 assorted fish eyes (trout, rockfish, snapper, etc) washed and membranes removed

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

  • Vegetable oil for frying

  • Lemon wedges

Directions

  • Rinse fish eyes, remove membranes and pat dry.
  • Pour buttermilk into a bowl. Add fish eyes and let soak for 10 minutes.
  • Mix flour, cornmeal and spices in a separate bowl.
  • Remove fish eyes from buttermilk and dredge in flour mixture until fully coated.
  • Pour oil into pan to a depth of 1 inch. Heat oil to 350°F.
  • Working in batches, add coated eyes to oil and fry for 2-3 minutes until crispy and floating.
  • Remove eyes with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate.
  • Serve hot with lemon wedges and enjoy your fish eye chips!

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