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red mullet (usually)

Rougets - Ile de Ré

A rouget can be Mullus barbatus or Mullus surmuletus (red or striped mullet in English), fished in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. In spite of the English name, these delicate and very tasty little bottom feeders are not mullets, but members of the goatfish family.

Sometimes they are called surmullets from the Old French word for red, sor. Sometimes a rouge grondin is sold as a rouget, but the one you want is a rouget barbet.

Mosaic with maritime scenes, from the Via Panisperna in Rome, late 2nd - early Ist century BC, it once decorated the pool of a Roman bath, Centrale Montemartini, Rome

In Imperial Rome, there was a fad for red mullet, comparable to the 17th-century tulip mania that gripped Europe. Patricians raised them in special fish ponds and hand-fed them, and it was essential to present the living mullets in glass jars at banquets to prove their freshness and to enable guests to watch them turn red as they died.

Fish and seafood

Text © Dana Facaros

Images by Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany, Giancarlo Foto4U