Arctic / Alpine Char
Whole Arctic Char [Iwana (sushi); Salvelinus alpinus alpinus]

Circumpolar in both freshwater and saltwater, the Arctic Char can live farther north and in colder waters than any other fish. There is also a substantial population Alpine lakes in Switzerland and Italy, probably stranded there by some Ice Age.

This fish can grow to 33 pounds and 42 inches but is usually marketed at between 2 and 5 pounds. In color it can range from gray to gray above and red below. The photo specimen is from Südtirol, in Alpine Italy. This fish is now farmed in Canada, Iceland, Norway, Ireland and West Virginia. In the wild it is listed as "LC" (least concern) by the IUCN, and rated "Best Choice" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.   Photo by Saibling donated to the public domain.

More on Varieties of Fish


Char is an important fish in Switzerland, along with perch and trout, and in the northernmost parts of Europe.

Buying:   As you might expect from the name, Arctic Char is not common here in Sunny Southern California (or most of the rest of the world). Perhaps one of the markets around here serving a Russian community has it smoked or canned, but it would be labled in Russian, so how would I know?

Subst:   The photo in my Swiss cookbook shows Char, but the ingredient list, presuming you can't get char, calls for Perch. Species-wise, though, I'd think Rainbow Trout would be closer. In Europe "Perch" usually means Zander, which is perfectly interchangeable with American Walleye.

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