Fellow chefs: Flounder

I’m mostly aiming this at the other professional chefs here, some of whom may have more seafood experience than I have. Despite my nearly 32 years in the business, I simply haven’t done much with seafood, beyond the standard breaded/battered deep-fried stuff, and the occasional grilled or baked salmon or cod.

The corporate-dictated menu for lunch yesterday, at the retirement home where I cook, was “Krab-topped Flounder”. (“Krab” as in that fake crab meat.) Basically, a flounder filet topped with a mixture of krab, green onion, red bell pepper, mayo, egg, panko, and lemon pepper, and then finished with hollandaise sauce.

My residents/customers raved about it.

My facility’s general manager, however, decided to eat the flounder by itself, and found it … vile. At first she thought it was raw/badly undercooked (it wasn’t), because instead of being “flaky” like other fish, it was “rubbery” and “slimy”. She compared it to eel.

I really didn’t know what to tell her, beyond the fact that it was indeed fully cooked (I always check temperatures when I remove things from the oven), and that I suppose different kinds of fish are different. Aside from the two times I’ve now served this particular meal, I’m utterly unfamiliar with flounder. And if the fish itself is that bad, perhaps it’s the reason that corporate wanted it served with all those toppings. To cover it up.

So what’s the deal with flounder? If it helps, the specific species is Striped Pangasius.

Hmm. Looking on Wikipedia, pangasius isn’t even flounder. It’s SE Asian shark catfish. That could explain the texture.

I serve pangasius weekly in a similar environment. We have a fried version that everyone loves, and we also bake it a variety of ways, but always with some sort of herb blend or topping. I can’t imagine it would be good completely plain, but most things aren’t. And if she was expecting flounder and got catfish, well, that’s a whole 'nother kettle of fish, as it were.

I read your post aloud to my wife (who doesn’t cook professionally, but who might as well) and before I could even finish she said “betcha it’s not actually flounder”. Apparently this is a thing with fish, viz. substituting crappy inferior fish either in the recipe or at the supplier level, except for some reason you don’t have to call it “Flownder”.

There’s a reason you fry catfish heavily-breaded…

I also thought “that’s not flounder” as I read your post. Flounder is a very flaky fish. And for reasons I don’t understand, it seems to be common to lie about type-of-fish in commerce these days. Probably, your general manager is familiar with flounder and was put off by it not being what she expected.

By the way, fresh flounder, sauteed in a little bit of butter, and a touch of salt and pepper, is delicious.

I brought it up to my boss (the kitchen manager) today, since he was off yesterday. Apparently, when he did the ordering from Sysco, he had two options as to what to purchase. The pangasius, or the actual flounder. And … the flounder was “blocked”. As in, it wasn’t on the very specific list of items that corporate actually allows us to purchase. This fits a pattern I’ve seen with this company: there is a distinct lack of communication between the people who actually come up with the menus, and the “big” manager who is in charge of all the local kitchen managers. That “big” manager (I don’t know her actual title) is the one responsible for getting needed items “unblocked”.

I’ve been trying for a month to get the spice, coriander, unblocked, because it’s a necessary ingredient for the mole sauce I make for one of the menus. I’ve now made it twice, with no coriander, because we can’t buy the coriander. We had a similar problem with tarragon for the Tarragon Chicken, but we managed to get that unblocked prior to the second time I needed to cook that dish (the first time, the kitchen manager went to Safeway for it). We had to get that one from the store, because when the residents look at the menu and read “Tarragon Chicken”, it’s difficult to explain a distinct absence of tarragon. The menu for the Chicken Mole doesn’t specifically mention coriander, so the residents don’t know what they’re missing. My Mexican coworkers who tried my coriander-less mole sauce thought it tasted fine, but I wonder how much better it would be with the coriander.

Yup, that’s what my general manager said when I explained the situation to her this morning :smiley:

Thanks for the comments, everybody!

Here’s the specific fish (the box handily had the scientific name printed on it):


sort of like how some shady operations sell escolar as “butterfish” or “white tuna.” eating more than a little bit of that can give you the shits in a way you’ve never seen since Olestra.

I see this is commonly sold as swai. I’ve had swai before, and I don’t remember it being slimy. An overcooked piece, such as one that spent too much time under heat lamps (if that is possible where you are) or one that had been reheated improperly could become rubbery.

I was also surprised to find that when I kept freshwater fishtanks, I might have had a few of these in the tank.

I keep seeing ‘swai’ advertised at what passes for a discount grocery here and am interested in trying it, since there are so few fish left in the ocean. Might as well gobble that one up, too.

The Dollar Tree here has a freezer section and sells little fillets of ‘flounder’, enough for maybe four bites, for one 'murican dollar. It’s very delicate and bland, I buy a half dozen for the two of us for a meal. I don’t know if it’s flounder or what, but not fish or slimey or anything bad.

I’m wondering if you could get and substitute turbot for flounder. It’s supposed to be both similar in taste and texture and more sustainable.