Branzino Grigliato by IASA: Tinned Fish with Fresh-Grilled Flavor

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I've gotten into the habit of looking for canned seafood when I'm out running errands. This time I found a can of grilled Italian sea bass on a recent trip to local organic grocery store. So far I haven't tried enough Italian brands of canned fish. The bright yellow box was familiar to me from some online stores, but on the shelf it stood out from other canned fish due to its larger size. It usually sells for even a few dollars more than the $9.99 I've seen at the market. I impulsively picked up a can, assuming I won't see IASA sea bass at this price again.

Information about IASA

IASA stands for Fish Food Salerno, a family-run business founded by Francesco di Mauro and today based in Pellezzano, Italy. They employ around 50 locals during the fishing season to produce traditional Italian seafood such as jarred anchovies and yellowfin tuna loins. Although I've seen them listed for wholesale, so far I have not seen any of these products sold at retail. Most online stores I know are specialized preserves they only bring their own canned sea bass.

For this particular product, IASA uses farmed Italian sea bass, which is lightly grilled before being hand-packed in olive oil. Their American importer says everything is made according to the fishermen's tradition of grilling sea bass with olive oil and a little lemon juice. This was a standard way of grilling fish in my Sicilian-American household with mackerel, sea bass, and swordfish. I also had the opportunity to experience it with fresh swordfish in Sicily. When the fish is good, that's really all it needs.

Information on IASA canned sea bass

canned sea basscanned sea bass

Upon opening I saw some nice looking sea bass, lightly grilled and coated in a light olive oil. IASA doesn't skimp on the oil because I made a big mess when I broke the seal. I was too busy cleaning the fish-scented oil off my counter – before my wife or cat discovered it – to take good photos.

Mess aside, my first impression was good. As soon as he took it out of the box he tasted like freshly grilled fish. It was probably the closest thing to fresh fish I've ever tasted in a can. The delicate fillets were moist and delicately flavored with the look and texture of grilled sea bass. If I had had time to heat the pan before serving it would have been even better. It tasted so fresh and nice and was a much better quality sea bass than the frozen farmed fillets I got from Trader Joe's.

I served the canned sea bass over a piece of Heidelberg branded sourdough toast with a sprinkling of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Definitely made for a tasty snack and would be a welcome addition to my next one Seacuterie edge.

The verdict

Canned sea bass tapasCanned sea bass tapas

Ten or twelve dollars is an average amount preserves these days, but I still expected something of good quality for that price. I was not disappointed in any way. It's truly amazing how fresh the IASA sea bass seemed to me. There were no offensive, fishy odors or unpleasant tastes. The only real benefit to it being canned and not freshly grilled was the extra delicate texture due to the canning process.

I will definitely buy this box again. Next time I get a baking tray I want to make a mini-appetizer by first heating the tray in hot water and placing some sautéed vegetables and rice on top of the sea bass. It's a must for seafood appetizers or tapas and also works great as a substitute for tuna in summer salads. If canned fish intrigues you, but sardines and mackerel scare you a little, then try IASA for a pleasant introduction with a delicate flavour.

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