There are many different types of seafood dishes, because this type of food encompasses all dishes in which a primary ingredient comes from the sea. Fish and shellfish are the primary sources of seafood, but many people count sea mammals and sea plants as seafood dishes as well. While some areas limit those items counted as seafood to plants and animals found in the sea, it is also common for people to refer to river fish and shellfish as seafood. Many different cultural cuisines incorporate ingredients from the sea, and thus there are many different seafood dishes available.
Seafood is often a primary component of the culinary history of areas that are near the sea. For example, Japan is surrounded by sea, and therefore much of Japanese food involves seafood dishes. Sushi, sashimi, and many soups and noodle dishes focus on seafood. Other countries with long histories of fishing also often have many foods of this type. Italy, for example, has many seafood dishes that incorporate shellfish and tomato sauces.
Frying seafood is an extremely popular preparation, and nearly every sea creature can be fried. Fish and shellfish that have been fried are often served with potato sides. Making soups out of seafood is common, and many types of chowder involve seafood. Marinating and baking seafood is also popular, although many forms of shellfish are usually boiled.
There are a great number of foods involving canned fish, but these are often not immediately recognized as seafood items in the public consciousness. Tuna sandwiches and other foods made from canned fish are all technically seafood. Pickled fish is popular in some areas, and fish as a topping for bread is also a popular preparation.
The variety among seafood dishes has a lot to do with the other ingredients used in the dish. For example, ceviche is very different from teriyaki salmon, even though both dishes use fish. While individual fishes have distinct flavors, most of the character of any of these dishes comes from how they are prepared. Fish and other types of seafood are highly versatile ingredients even though there are many traditional preparations of different fish.
Some seafood dishes are the subject of significant controversy and are therefore served only in certain areas. Whale and dolphin meat, for example, are sometimes considered inappropriate food sources for ethical reasons, but there is much disagreement about this point. Shark dishes are less problematic but are rarely served due to concerns about extinction. Harvesting sea animals must be done carefully in order to preserve a desirable ecosystem, although there are many potential strategies that can be used.