Stone Bass - what is it?
On our first visit to Fishmekan in Hove earlier this year they had "Stone Bass" on the menu and Sylvi asked me if I knew what it was. I couldn't recall exactly but thought it was a fish similar to the Grouper. Regrettably we didn't try it and it wasn't on the menu when we visited again recently.
After our first visit, I checked to see if my memory was right - and it was (or was it?). Nothing is ever simple with fish names as my blog on fish names shows
Stone Bass is an English name for Wreckfish which we had seen in Spain as Cherna and also under its Catalan name rascas (not to be confused with rascacio which is Scorpion Fish). The Grouper family includes Grouper (Mero in Spain and Merou in France) and a variety of related species all called Grouper in English which include in Spain Cherne de Ley, Cherne Denton and Gitano.
The Grouper is highly esteemed in Spain and is also very popular in South East Asian cuisine. I had first been introduced to Grouper in the 80s by my Vietnamese work colleague, Troung Tran, but later found it widely available in restaurants and markets in Malaysia and Thailand often steamed whole.
Grouper appears from time to time on English restaurant menus but I was surprised to see Wreckfish and did some further research. Google Stone Bass and most sites will rightly describe it as Wreckfish but, intriguingly, not The Fish Society! Their website says it is Meagre, one of the Croaker or Drum Fish. I contacted them to find out more and they said that you would be unlikely to find Wreck Fish on menus in the UK as there was no market for it. Alan Davison confirms this in Mediterranean Seafood saying that it is "not found in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean, and is not common in the market, as it has to be fished with a line and hook at a depth of 150 metres or so"
The Fish Society told me that it was not easy to find large sea bass that could be cooked as steaks but that Meagre were much larger and similar in texture and flavour to sea bass and could yield good steaks. They informed me that if I saw Stone Bass on a menu in the UK it would almost certainly be Meagre.
The Fish Society is not what it's name might suggest, however. It is a wholesale fish merchant supplying many restaurants in the U.K. And on their website they say
So what is stone bass?
Dare we say it? Stone bass is, in fact, a ‘marketing’ name for a fish species called meagre from the Sciaenide family. You can understand why they didn’t think it’s normal name was that sexy can’t you? If you would like to learn more about meagre it’s latin name is Argyrosomus regius. Depending on where you are in the world you may see it described as salmon bass, shade-fish or even corvina.
Now Corvina is a fish that I am familiar with as we often have it in Spain when we have a large gathering and cook it whole as you might sea bass. I posted a recipe for Corvina in November 2016