Skip to comments.US Chefs' Solution for Invading Frankenfish? Eat 'Em
Posted on 12/01/2012 9:37:28 PM PST by nickcarraway
Snakeheads are hardy, fast-growing, voracious and prolific
The northern snakehead is known as "Frankenfish" and "rattlesnakes with fins," and some chefs say one way to stop the predatory, fast-spreading fish is obvious - with a fork.
With a reputation as fearsome as its name, the voracious snakehead fish has intruded throughout much of the Potomac River basin in Virginia and Maryland in the last decade, snapping up anything that gets in front of it.
Putting the torpedo-shaped snakehead on the menu is Washington-area restaurants' way of helping to control the Asian newcomer. Chefs said they have a key weapon on their side - humans' zest for eating up other species to the vanishing point.
"When man turns its attention to an animal, it's very difficult for the animal. He (the snakehead) is dangerous, but chefs are more dangerous," said David Stein, executive chef at Tony & Joe's Seafood Place in Washington.
He praised the snakehead for its dense, meaty, white flesh with a mild taste that is ideal for anything from grilling to sauteing. But given the name, snakehead ceviche might be going too far.
"The guy that orders that gets it for free," Stein said.
The northern snakehead, or Channa argus, has joined a tankful of invasive fish that US authorities are urging people to control by eating them.
Lionfish in the Caribbean, Asian carp in the Mississippi River basin and blue catfish in Virginia rivers are among other newcomers that environmentalists want to see on a dinner plate.
But the snakehead stands out among its invasive peers because its slab-like flesh and its minimal shrinkage is seemingly ideal for white-tablecloth restaurants.
Some four restaurants in the Baltimore and Washington area serve it regularly, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
At Tony & Joe's, snakehead appetizers cost $10 to $11, and entrees about $26. Maryland is the only state with a commercial market and the limited supply is keeping prices high.
"They're really amazing. Probably if it was called any other name than snakehead, people would be more willing to give them a try," Stein said, admiring a 7-pound (3-kg) fish that had been killed by bow and arrow.
Snakeheads are hardy, fast-growing, voracious and prolific. They got their start in the Potomac through releases from aquariums and the live fish trade, and have turned up in such places as California and Florida. The name comes from its coarse scales, boa constrictor-like coloring and a reptilian snout with a mouth featuring dog-like teeth.
The fish are air breathers that can last for days out of water. Even when gutted and with their throats cut, they gape for breath, said John Rorapaugh, director of sustainability and sales at ProFish, a Washington wholesaler.
"Once they get to mature size, they are on top of the food chain and are ravenous," he said.
Mice, birds, frogs, other fish, and even AA batteries have turned up inside snakeheads, Rorapaugh said. The fish weigh from about 8 to 15 pounds when mature.
He said he pays about $5 a pound ($12.50 a kg) for snakehead, and has shipped some outside the Washington area, including to New York's upscale Gramercy Tavern.
Josh Newhard, an expert on the snakehead with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said it was too early to say what the snakehead's long-term impact would be on its invaded environment.
Native species have shown no sign of decrease despite the fish's "remarkable" spread, he said.
"The potential is really high for them to impact other fish species. The fact that people want to remove them from the system is really good," he said.
That picture scares me.
Yeah, but my teeth are bigger.
Here, fishy fishy.
How about a new chain called Fich Fil-A, with cute little shrimp holding up signs, “Eat Mor Fich?”
We could go all upscale and market them as “tête de serpent”
Or they could call it Tete de Boa on the menu.
How about: Sashimi, with bite
Two words: No Limit.
Call it the “freshwater barracuda”. And yeah, no limit.
downside is that demand for snakehead will encourage supply.
Maybe Moochelle will declare the fish “healthy!” and make the government schools dish it out to the kids for lunch.
But it will be farm raised in China, like Talapia.
Moo will declare it endangered and post huge swaths of wetlands off limits.
Are there any chefs with a thought about Kenyan invaders?
Chinese chefs advise using plenty of ginger when preparing snakehead.
Are top-of-the-food-chain fish better tasting than other varieties? Real question.
Here's a scarier snakehead:
I wouldn't necessarily say that since here in S.E. Michigan the two top fish of choice are the walleye and perch.
The top of the chain fish in Lake St. Clair are the muskies that are reaching legendary size due mainly to fishermen catching and releasing them. Recently up in Bellaire, a fisherman caught a 59 inch, 59 lb. muskie on only 8 lb. test line which was a state record.
Some fishermen do eat them but most just release them.....
downside is that demand for snakehead will encourage supply.
That thought occurred to me, as well.
Looks like a northern pike.
In 2010 I took a Bass Unlimited charter to fish Peacock Bass in Fla. The second day was to the Everglades for largemouth. They put me up in a 4 star hotel. I got to talking to the barmaid, and she realized I was there to fish freshwater. Her eyes got big and she said “ Are you a fisherman? A fisherman?’ I said yes, I’ll be in the Everglades the second day. All of a sudden my drinks were half price (beer). She left and came back with a Chinese cook who said “ Who you fish with?” I said Tim and he said “ You tell Meester Tim Mr. Chen says ‘No throw back the snakehead. Bring to hotel!” The second morning I told the guide about what I was told and he said, “You met Mr. Chen, then.” I said yes so he brought a burlap bag along. We caught a LOT of bass and probably 15 bowfins that we fed to the alligators and 20 snakeheads or more. We put them in the bag with an inscicion between their eyes. At the end of the day, I was sunburnt, stinking and walking through the lobby of this hotel in my shorts, wifebeater shirt and dripping water with this bag of fish over my shoulder. The staff ran for Mr. Chen and he gleefully took my load from me. I had a few beers, said I’d be back for dinner after a shower and nap. I was handed a pitcher of beer and it was free. I showered and napped for about two hours and the door was knocked on. Room Service was there with covered plates. I said ‘I didn’t order anything’ The guy said “Compliments of Mr. Chen.” I had a fish dinner of the first magnitude and only realized what I was eating about 1/4 of the way through. When I went down to the bar, the staff were so happy, because we all ate the same dinner for free.
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