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Frozen vs Fresh: Know the difference


Should seafood meals be served fresh or from the freezer? Read what some industry sources say

Fresh food is quite often perceived to be better than frozen food.

To a certain extent, that’s true. But is there really any discernible difference between the two? Weekender taps market knowledge on the issue from a few sources.

An article on the National Geographic website states that having frozen fish for meal preparation no longer seems to be a cruel and unjust punishment.

Thanks to advanced technology, frozen fish now is often more delicious, nutritious, more economical and better for the environment – and the fishermen – than fresh catch from the sea.


From Sea to Table

A spokesperson from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) explains the advantages in frozen food: “Freezing is an efficient method of preservation as chemical and microbial changes are slowed down, and freshness of the seafood can be better maintained. There are various ways seafood can be frozen. Examples include freezing the food product using the Individually Quick Frozen technology or tunnel/contact freezers.”

He adds that the frozen seafood must be maintained at a temperature of 18 degrees C or below during storage. The stored seafood must also be properly packed, to prevent freezer burn and to maintain the quality. If the seafood is stored properly, you could even preserve it for up to a year.

How is it possible to maintain the freshness when seafood is transported all the way from the West to Singapore, where it is served, for instance, as steamed fish at a Singapore restaurant?

Nothing Fishy About It

Chef Emmanuel Stroobant, who owns Blue Lotus Chinese Eating House on Quayside Isle, says, “Of course, the freezing process changes the texture of most products. While it is irrelevant when it comes to liquids such as soups and stocks, the difference is more evident when it comes to seafood such as crabs, prawns and scallops.”

You know that overly mushy texture you get from frozen scallops?

Chef Emmanuel explains that the crystallisation of water inside the proteins will alter the texture of seafood. There might not be a difference in terms of taste, but if the product is frozen for a long period, the change in texture will be more pronounced.

He adds, “For instance, a fresh scallop is crunchy, sweet and naturally smooth. A frozen scallop will be soft, watery and even fibrous. There is also usually a large amount of water oozing out of frozen seafood.”


The Chinese View

What about the Chinese restaurants that display live fish and crabs in tanks? How does that impact the food cooked and served at the table?

Miss Chang Yeeling, Director of Red House Seafood Restaurant, says, “We generally do not keep the fishes in the tanks for too long – maximum two to three days – as they will lose their mass/weight the longer we keep them there. With crabs, we move them to tanks to liven them up after they are unpacked (they get somewhat sleepy dormant while being transported).”

Miss Chang does concede that although the taste and texture of frozen seafood will deteriorate over time, “frozen seafood such as prawns and fish can taste great if they are cooked well”.

Chef Emmanuel still maintains that “fresh is always better” as good products do not require as much work. For instance, a sashimi that isn’t fresh would require technique to mask the lack of freshness with heavy sauce.

The general consensus is that fresh seafood has its benefits with the brine zing and natural sweetness but certain cooking methods can make it tricky for the consumer to actually differentiate between food fresh and frozen.