Found In The Russian Store: Hot Smoked Fish

If I was ever to create an air freshener or an aromatic candle or, dare I say, a fragrance, it would have a smell of smoked fish. It’s the smell that combines the sea air, fresh caught fish, a smoldering fire on the beach, sounds of seagulls in the sky, a small boat on the horizon lit up by the setting sun. It’s the smell that makes you want to take a deep breath and  fill your lungs with fragrant smoky air. It’s also the smell that would keep everyone you know away from your place, which is good if you don’t like to share.

Millions of Americans live their entire lives without ever trying smoked fish, and that’s a shame since this could be easily avoided by making a trip to the nearest Russian or Eastern European store. While the Russian store may not have the variety of a typical smoked fish vendor in Odessa, Ukraine you see on the photo below, it has enough to give you an idea what you are missing.

Smoked fish vendor in Odessa, Ukraine. ©Albir

Unlike the cold-smoked fish which is cured with the low temperature wood smoke and retains firm texture, the hot-smoked fish is actually cooked by smoke and has a soft and sometimes flaky feel. The most common type of smoked fish is mackerel, but many others may be available.

Hot-smoked mackerel in the Russian store looks like this…

…and is most likely made in New York.

After you unwrap the fish…

…peel the skin off.

Carefully break pieces of fish off, making sure with your fingers that it doesn’t have bones. Usually mackerel has no small bones along the spine and some large bones in the ribcage area. Just be careful and you won’t have any problems.

You can eat the hot-smoked fish on a sandwich with our without butter, or just by itself. It’ smoky and lightly salty, so it goes good with beer.

If you are not a fan of the Russian store, you may try your luck at Coscto, but it seems that only the stores with kosher food selection have the smoked fish. Locally it’s the Costco store on Metcalf in Overland Park.

Costco sells smoked whitefish.

Just like with mackerel, the skin peels right off.

Whitefish has whiter, flakier,almost translucent meat.

Whatever your preference, you should try the smoked fish at least once in your life. I know you will be hooked.

And now we dance – the song about boats, fish, love and Odessa.