By Susan Burke March
Isn’t it great that one of the healthiest foods to eat is also so delicious? Fish are packed full of nutrients and are an excellent source of protein and vitamin D. Fish are the richest food source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, linked to prevention or even mitigation of common chronic diseases. Omega-3s enhance heart, brain, and whole-body health.
Health experts recommend eating more seafood, at least twice a week. This recommendation applies to adults and children — and to pregnant and breastfeeding women — they’re encouraged to consume fish that are rich in DHA, because of the association with improved infant health outcomes (avoid large, ocean-faring predator-type fish since they may contain high levels of mercury – read more here).
According to Seafish.org, omega-3 oils in seafood helps reduce blood viscosity, and lowers risk for blood clots and inflammation. They cite research that shows omega-3s help lower risk for rheumatoid arthritis, and diets high in fatty fish are linked to lower risk of age-related macular degeneration. And in light of the inconclusive research and lack of consensus about efficacy of fish oil supplements, most doctors recommend getting these healthy fats from eating a variety of fish, unless you avoid fish altogether.
Seafish and shellfish are both good sources of iodine, selenium, zinc, and potassium. Natural iodine helps keep our thyroid healthy, and selenium is a necessary component of enzymes that are protective against free radicals. Both seafish and shellfish are good sources of retino, a form of vitamin A, which boosts night vision. Diets rich in fish are linked to lower risk for asthma in children — research points to seafood-rich diets and a lower risk for many cancers. Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are shown to improve by eating fish, and skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are helped when the sufferer switches from a fatty beefy diet to one that’s rich in seafood.
Your grandmother was right — fish is “brain food”. The human brain is 60% fat (most of it omega-3 fat), and research shows that people who eat diets rich in seafood have a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Omega-3 fatty acid DHA is also linked to improvements in kids’ concentration, reading skills, behavior, and a lower incidence of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
And fish is fantastic for your waistline. Since protein is the most satiating of nutrients, and fish is a rich source, it’s a perfect ingredient to help you stay fuller, longer. The way the fish is prepared is important — a la plancha (grilled) is delicious, and lower in calories compared to battered and deep-fried. Enjoying a bowl of sopa de mariscos, a rich soup full of shellfish and seafish is a smart weight-loss strategy, filling you up and frugal in calories. Steamed fish (al vapor) with vegetables and potatoes, or poached in salads, or skewered with vegetables and grilled…yummm…healthfully prepared, fish keeps your body healthy, and your soul satisfied.
In 2014 Ecuador exported $2.9 billion of fish products, the second largest exporting country in Latin America after Chile. Accounting for 11% of all Ecuadorian exports, export of fresh and frozen seafood have increased significantly over the past 10 years. Ecuador mainly exports corvina, flounder, redclaw (a crayfish…I had to look this up!), sardines, seabass, shrimp, squid, swordfish, tilapia and tuna. Ecuador is the world’s second-largest exporter of cultivated shrimp, and although most shrimp sold in Ecuador’s supermarkets and mercados are sourced from shrimp farms, selective consumers may want to eat freshly caught shrimp, but that could be an iffy process. If you’ve been to the mercados you know you have to know your vendors, because fresh seafood is highly perishable: there’s nothing less appetizing than a piece of seafood past its prime.
Which is why I’m happy to be writing about one of my very favorite Cuenca El Centro restaurants. Capitán & Co. is not a large place, but what it lacks in space is made up in quality of ingredients and preparation.
Owner Orly Baque is an expert in seafood. Starting as a teen, Orly trained in the restaurant industry, working his way up to head chef in an upscale Cuenca seafood restaurant. After a dozen years as the “captain” of the kitchen, Orly and his wife Julia decided to strike out on their own. Knowing how difficult it is to find fresh fish consistently, he has developed and sustained relationships with suppliers on the coast to distribute the highest quality fresh fish to top restaurateurs in Quito, Cuenca, and Loja.
And although his seafood distribution business was going well, and Orly didn’t plan to open a restaurant, life works in funny ways. Like so many little kids, Orly and Julia’s small daughter was not a seafood fan, until Orly decided to adapt her favorite food, a hamburger, into something that she’d like…a shrimp burger! Each afternoon after school, he’d fire up some delectable shrimp burgers, on fresh buns with lettuce and home-made sauce. Pretty soon the enticing smells had neighbors and passers-by peeking into the fish shop to investigate…as word spread, demand increased, and Capitán & Co. was born. Although the menu has greatly expanded, those shrimp burgers are still a best seller. And at only $2, the hamburguesa de camarón is a bargain (he also serves a flavorful corvina burger too…same price!).
Capitán & Co. offers a full menu of soups, salads, ceviche, corvina, risottos (including vegetarian), and drinks including fresh-squeezed juices. Non-seafood lovers will enjoy chicken or filet mignon creations. The new chicken cordon bleu is made with fresh mushrooms, and the beef lomo with shrimp sauce is decadent. Thick-cut papas fritas are made to order. I don’t know how they come out so utterly non-greasy.
My favorite dish is corvina, a thick-cut filet, grilled a la plancha, served with salad, fries, and a lemon sauce…irresistible. Priced at $7, it’s enough for two, but I always finish it.
Before coming to Ecuador, corvina was not familiar to me. According to ChefsResources.com, corvina, a mild, sweet-tasting fish with firm, flaked flesh, is a generic name for a large variety of fish around the world. In South America, it’s regarded as prime table fish and it’s very popular for ceviche. And although in Cuenca the freshest fish on the menu is typically delicate trucha, or trout, I’m more a fan of meaty corvina.
My friends Janie Noble and Frank Amon have made Capitán & Co. their go-to place for fresh seafood. They visit at least once a week for lunch, and once for dinner…and when I asked them to describe Capitán in one word, Janie said, “Fresh”.
Janie continued, “ Orly and Julia are just delightful people. The food is prepared and presented with the highest standards of excellence in a deceptively simple and unassuming restaurant.”
What are your favorites?
“The hamburguesa de camarón, and the corvina al ajillo, in a wonderful garlic sauce. Really, any way Orly makes corvina is fantastic. I need my corvina “fix” weekly!”
What makes Capitán different?
“The consistently high quality of fresh seafood and fish are definitely outstanding at Capitán & Co. Orly and Julia make the difference, though. Diners are made to feel as though they are part of the family, made to feel truly valued and welcomed.”
Capitán & Co. will cater your next party, and they are also your best source for fresh seafood. Shrimp, corvina, langostinos and more are delivered daily, and Orly retails at fair prices. For example, a kilo of fresh camarones (beautiful, white shrimp), either head-on or cleaned, is only $12.50. Orly emphasizes that quality is all-important and trains his vendors to deliver to his specifications — the fish must be of top grade always, and he passes on the excellence to his customers.
Orly and Julia are grateful for their loyal customers, and are looking forward to meeting new ones. As Orly said to me, his goal is to “keep it real, keep it healthy, and keep it affordable”. As Janie says, “We tell all our friends that if they try Capitán once, they’ll be hooked!”
Capitán & Co. Restaurant and Café, Quality Seafood
TheAtlantic.org. Study: People Who Eat More Fish Live Longer. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/study-people-who-eat-more-fish-live-longer/274551/
ChefsResources.com. Corvina Flavor Profile.
MedicalDaily.com. Eating Fish Linked to Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease http://www.medicaldaily.com/eating-fish-linked-lower-risk-alzheimers-disease-238820
New York Times: Well. Fish Oil Claims Not Supported by Research. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/30/fish-oil-claims-not-supported-by-research/?_r=0
Seafood Nutrition Partnership. 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Announced. http://www.seafoodnutrition.org/blog/2015-dietary-guidelines-for-americans-announced
Seafish.org. Health Benefits. http://www.seafish.org/eating-seafood/seafood-for-health/health-benefits
WhatToExpect.com. The Facts on Fish and Pregnancy. http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/eating-well/fish