Low salinity of water and no more than 200 meters of habitable depths make the Black Sea relatively poor in variety of fish and seafood species. Large fish have nowhere to gain their weight, great depths of the sea are saturated with hydrogen sulfide, which is disastrous for organic matter. But small fish only benefits from it, there are less natural enemies for them. Although the Sea of Azov doesn't have a hydrogen sulphide substrate, it's not that deep to begin with. Therefore, the majority of Crimean fish delicacies are fish up to 15 centimeters in length.
The Black Sea sprat, a small fish that likes shallow salty estuaries, takes the first place in the miniature rating. It's usually sold in a smoked form and can be eaten entirely. But if you're lucky to be at the north-west coast of Crimea and catch the Black Sea sprat with a butterfly net, you can make a real delicacy, fish rissoles. The sprat is gutted and beheaded, then mixed with egg, flour and dill into fish mince. Next, you should put it on a hot frying pan with a spoon, pressing a bit to form a little rissole. You're unlikely to find this dish in a canteen or a café.
The red mullet is slightly larger than the Black Sea sprat. It has a pleasant pink color, sometimes purple. The brighter the color of the red mullet, the fresher the fish. They also call it the sultan fish here, because of the luxurious mustache. The red mullet is considered the most delicious Black Sea fish. It doesn't come to smoking since the fresh catch is sold instantly. Cafés and restaurants mainly serve fried red mullet.
Black Sea horse mackerel is the competitor of the red mullet in popularity. In spring and autumn, while the seawater has not warmed up yet, the shoals of the horse mackerel come to the shore, where dozens of fishermen are already waiting for them on the quays. The meat of the horse mackerel contains little fat, so they either fry it with a lot of oil, or make shkara, a fisherman dish from Greek cuisine. The principle is to put the fish densely packed into a dish, add salt and pepper, add plenty of onion and herbs and put it on the fire. This way, the fresh horse mackerel becomes very juicy.
They usually eat the anchovy not fresh, but soft-salted. The anchovy, that gains weight during the summer and gathers in schools when the water temperature drops, is commercial fish for Crimean fishermen. They call the end of autumn the anchovy season. The anchovy is served as a snack with food that traditionally goes together, black bread, potatoes and sweet Yalta onion.
The Kerch herring can compete with anchovy in fat content. It's smaller in size than the Atlantic and Pacific herring, but its taste is more gentle and rich. They add salt to the freshly caught fish and leave it for a day, so that it becomes the famous salted Kerch herring. The top of the culinary art is the salamur, the herring cooked in marinade.
The goby is a universal fish for cooking. It's easy to catch, easy to cook and dry. On the Azov coast, after removing the bones from the fish, they make goby cutlets and goby dumplings. And this is a very difficult task.
The sculpin can compete with the goby in the number of bones. Sharp spikes of the sculpin cause trouble when cutting, especially painful if you prick with spikes of the fin. But the fish broth from it is very fragrant.
The garfish with its acerated body is ideal for making sushi, and the smoked garsfish is a delicacy. Green color bones of the garfish make it look exotic, and even the broth, cooked from this fish, acquires a pistachio shade.
The croaker fish can make sounds, that's why it was given the nickname grumbler. People don't catch the croaker fish on an industrial scale, since it prefers to stay deep and doesn't like to flock. Steamed croaker fish meat is dietary and even curative for those suffering from gastritis.
The predatory bluefish is a commercial fish. White bluefish meat contains a lot of vitamins B12 and D, but even without these valuable qualities the fish is very popular due to its taste and ease of processing. The main thing is to beware of the sharp teeth of the bluefish, if it's still very fresh.
The gray mullet is the most popular Black Sea fish in the menu. It's because the alien from the Sea of Japan, the red-finned mullet, was added to the native Black Sea species of mullet. This large, easy-to-handle fish with few bones is good for frying, baking, grilling, as well as braising in dry wine, tomatoes or sour cream. The small Black Sea red-finned mullet is dried and smoked entirely, without gutting.
The Black Sea flatfish is one of the largest commercial fish. Its catch is fixed up with quotas, therefore it's not often found on the shelves or on the menu. The value of the flatfish is in low fat content and high saturation with microelements and vitamins A, B, C and E. The round diamond-shaped body of the flatfish has absolutely no scales, but there are many bone knots, which don't interfere with processing and cooking. The small Gloss flatfish, or the sea tongue, takes the second place in popularity in the fish menu.
Among sea mollusks, Black Sea mussels, oysters and rapana meat are used for food. The latter got in the Black Sea from the Pacific Ocean in the middle of the last century, traveling on the ship's cladding. Since there are no crabs and stars of oceanic size in the Black Sea, there is no one to hunt rapana, and it was forbidden to fish it industrially. In the course of several decades, the predatory mollusk has wiped out all scallops and oysters, so they are grown at oyster farms. Mussel colonies are still found in the Black Sea, but they are endangered too.
All the Black Sea food should be eaten fresh, with minimal additives and seasonings, after a slight heat treatment. It is extremely dangerous to buy seafood from beach vendors, because under the sun and in the heat, fish and shellfish meat protein becomes poisonous.