Fish and Seafood vocabulary in German

During a trip to North Germany, it’s common to find many Seafood dishes on the menu, especially fish. After all, we have the North Sea on one side and the Baltic on the other. Although we are in the sausage land, which are present here even in finger food tents, the Seafood culture is very strong.

I confess that even I sometimes got confused with some of the fish names, even after living here for a few years, since there are species that don’t exist or are little consumed by people in other places in the world.

The hard choice when buying: different names and species

Because of that, here goes a list of the most common fish and Seafood on the tables in North Germany. Around here, fish is usually served with Bratkartoffeln (potato chips salted with bacon) and/or vegetables (carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts).

  • Dorade (Sparus aurata): sea bream
  • Forelle (Salmo trutta): trout
  • Garnele: generical denomination for shrimp
  • Heilbutt (Hippoglossus hippoglossus): halibut. Very common at the North Atlantic Waters. It has clear meat and soft taste (one of my favorite).
  • Hering: the same in English. It’s everywhere here in Hamburg. In restaurants, at stores down by the shore and sometimes even in bakeries. The most popular delicacies on the region are the Matjes (open Hering with no bones, kept for a few days in barrel with salt) and the Matjesbrötchen (Matjes fillet served in bread with raw onions).
  • Jakobsmuschel: scallop. The literal translation from Germain is ‘James’ shell’, as a reference to Saint James, whose symbol is the shell. Interesting point: Saint James path is marked by shell drawings. If you see any, now you know why.
  • Kabeljau: codfish
  • Lachs: that’s easy! It’s the dear salmon.
  • Languste: lobster. It’s most found in restaurants specialized in Seafood, and the most sophisticated ones. It’s very similar to Hummer.
  • Miesmuschel: mussel.
  • (Nordsee)krabben: It’s a kind of a tiny shrimp, gray, typical from the North waters. Its meat is very small, and looking at a distance is similar to ground beef. Is it good? I don’t know, I’ve never tried it. But what about the (Nordsee)garnele? Yeah, krabben in Germain, it’s krab, and the Nordseekrabben became famous with the wrong name, since it’s a kind of shrimp (Garnele). At the market, they are vulgarly sold as small shrimp (krabben) and big shrimp (Garnelen). But there are, obviously, biological differences, related to the legs and the shell.
  • Rotbarsch (Sebastes marinus, or Sebastes norwegicus): redfish.
  • Sardelle (Engraulidae): aliche
  • Sardine: same name in English. Around here, I see it more in cans. For people to find it fresh, only in big fishmongers, and even so it’s not very frequent to find it. In Iberian restaurants, as the ones in the Portuguese neighborhood in Hamburg, it’s possible to find some dishes with baked sardine.
  • Scampo (in plural, Scampi): crawfish or, more specifically, Norwegian lobster.
  • Scholle: flat fish, very similar to halibut.
  • Seebarsch: sea bass.
  • Seelachs: here comes the trick, where many people think it’s a kind of salmon because of the name. Seelachs is the saithe, with a rosy meat, from the codfish family, and it has nothing to do with salmon. It’s commonly used as a base to fish nuggets, as in the Pannfisch recipe (fish cut into pieces and sautéed with onions, spices and potato, served with mustard sauce).
  • Thunfisch: tuna
  • Zander: luce


Thank you, dear Livia Monteiro, from the blog ‘Cozinha de Casa’, for revising some names and species that don’t exist in Brazil 😊

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