‘A chub is the worst fish that swims’

My immediate response to Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler is ‘I don’t agree’! However he of course is talking of the freshwater chub, which is a member of the carp family, whereas I as a result of many visits to the Algarve am thinking of Chub Mackerel which is quite different and quite delicious grilled.

Grilled Fish Portugeuse Style
Grilled Fish Portuguese Style

Fish Market (5)This is my third post, of what I now realise looking at my ‘Fish Market’ album will be at least five Fish Tale chapters on Olhão’s fish market.  I thought in today’s post I would focus on the mackerel. As you may recall from my second Fish Tale the mackerel is of the same family as the tuna – Scombridae – and whilst as delicious as tuna it generally does not seem to be held in the same regard. Perhaps it is because of the bones, must admit they do put me off sometimes, but once filleted I cannot eat enough of this fish!  It is incredibly cheap so if you have lots of friends visiting buy it in large quantities and after rubbing it down with salt throw it on the grill like the Portuguese. Perfect yet simple lunch.

Chub Mackerel
Cavala – Chub Mackerel

Apparently you can tell the difference between Chub Mackerel and Mackerel by the pattern on its upper sides.  On the Chub Mackerel the lines seem more curvy, almost whorls. On the Mackerel they are simpler, better described as dark blue wavy lines running down. That all makes sense to me but when I compare these descriptions with my pictures I am struggling to tell the difference. Not sure if that is because of me, my photographs, the descriptions or the fishmongers labelling fish as what they understand it to be not necessarily being what a biologist says it is.

Sarda - Mackerel (with bream and more!)
Sarda – Mackerel (with bream and more!)
Horse Mackerel - with another name and slightly cheaper!
Horse Mackerel – with another name and slightly cheaper!

Now just to confuse you the Horse Mackerel is not a member of the same family.  The Horse Mackerel – which you will spot is called Carapau, Chicharro and Xixarro in Portugal  – is from the Carangidae family. Alan Davidson in his excellent fish book suggests that Horse Mackerel have only a modest attraction for the table.  However we have thoroughly enjoyed it and we are not the only ones to appreciate it check out Salt of Portugal . You may also have spotted the prices in my pictures. Not much more for the Horse Mackerel but enough to suggest it is also more highly regarded than either the mackerel or chub mackerel by the Portuguese.

Horse Mackerel - note the price, more expensive although many say not as delicious
Horse Mackerel top left, am wondering if some in the bottom right are Chub Mackerel!

Having extolled the mackerel, I am going to finish with tuna. We have not had much from the market, simply because there are so many other fishes to try. However what we have had has been divine, and unlike the majority of markets in the UK, in Olhão you have a huge choice of cuts and type.


Apparently most of the tuna brought in at Olhão is flown straight out to Japan. There are factories in the harbour area who only process the tuna, and some of it is flown out alive in tanks. Tuna is highly regarded in Japan, it is though also delicious when grilled at Vai e Volta where you will get the added bonus of mackerel too!

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

6 thoughts

  1. Lots of new words for me. I thought ‘chub’ simply meant it was fatty. Fattier than regular Mackerel. Then you described the wavy patterns. Thanks.

    I am vegetarian. Can’t help that as I was born into a veggie family and then meditation made me even more sensitive to eating anything. 🙂

    Best Wishes,

    Anand 🙂

      1. It’s alright. In India, many Bengali Bramhins are vegetarians but eat fish. It all is part of our cultural package. Though Leonardo Da Vinci was a vegetarian in Europe during renaissance. A very inspiring artist and human being. 🙂 Thanks Becky!

Comments are closed.