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Northern Snakehead


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There may be some other restaurants offering this dish right now, but it's significant that the first time I've ever seen one was yesterday at Dino (it will also be there today and possibly tomorrow).

I know Scott Drewno has been making them from time to time, but I'm not sure if it's only at special events, or if it was actually offered at The Source.

Dean told me he found it once at New Big Wong in Chinatown.

If ever there were a fish not to feel guilty about eating, it's this pit bull. Have at 'em, fishermen!

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(Let's please keep this thread limited to restaurants offering the fish; for other threads (including one of mine from 2004(!)), click here.)

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We should name it here! Surely we can come up with a few better descriptors and then have a poll.

If Patagonian Toothfish can become Chilean Sea Bass, and Sablefish can become Black Cod, then Snakehead can become Sino-American River Trout

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It's often translated as 'Mud fish", but that doesn't sound much more appetizing than "snakehead". Here's my post from one of the other three threads on this subject;

This fish is super popular in Thailand. It's called pla chon ปลาช่อน. Here's one way to cook it. You can also get it pickled. I have a jar in my fridge.

Pla chon (plah chawn) doesn't really roll of the tongue either. Here's some photos from the Snakehead festival in Singburi province, Thailand! It happens around Christmas. If your good, Santa will bring you a grilled snakehead.

Edit: It's actually a fish eating festival, not just snakehead, but snakehead is featured prominently. The pictures make me hungry.

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We should name it here! Surely we can come up with a few better descriptors and then have a poll.

If Patagonian Toothfish can become Chilean Sea Bass, and Sablefish can become Black Cod, then Snakehead can become Sino-American River Trout

How about Potomac Trout?

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There's an NPR article on commercial selling of the northern snakehead for consumption here.

This one quote from a wholesaler caught my eye:

"We got a couple hundred pounds yesterday, and all this fish will be gone this weekend," says John Rorapaugh of Profish, a wholesaler in Northeast Washington, D.C.

He's standing over crates of iced, giant snakeheads. The ravenous appetites of the fish are legendary. Rorapaugh and others have found batteries, mice, birds' feet and baby turtles in the bellies of the fish.

"Anything that swims past them that's living, they'll eat," he says.

And the fish are delicious. "When you bite into it, it almost feels like it falls apart because it's so tender," Rorapaugh says.

My (admittedly limited) experience is that they're tough, muscular fish, almost like a swordfish steak in texture. "Tender" is not the one word I'd use to describe them. Any other thoughts?

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Regarding the texture of the flesh, it seems that cooking for only a few minutes results in a tender dish. There are probably the same cooking issues as with any low-fat muscular fish, & tricks that might be employed to ensure tenderness. With heat, whilst there is a softening of connective tissue, turning collagen to gelatin, myofibrillar proteins coagulate, causing protein fibers to toughen. So heat may be the enemy when cooking snakehead.

The idea of eliminating this invasive species by creating a market for it is absurd. If a market were to develop, the fish would not be permitted to die out; & fish farms would be built, thus subverting the intent. Plus there are safety issues concerning the fresh water environments that they have already populated. The Inn at Little Washington will not be serving snakehead from the Potomac anytime soon.

The critters are ravenous & where would their meals come from? Rendering plants? The taste of snakehead would have to be spectacular to justify the cost of high-end feed. They say it tastes like chicken, so perhaps we will see 'snakehead tenders' in McDonalds soon?

In terms of mercury, or other pollutants, that depends on water quality & the age/size of the fish. A Chinese study found "acceptable" mercury accumulations, whatever that means, but noted that mercury was preferentially stored in muscle.

At the moment, snakehead appears to be an over-priced novelty fish. With a name like snakehead, it has to be ...

-Patrick

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At the moment, snakehead appears to be an over-priced novelty fish. With a name like snakehead, it has to be ...

-Patrick

Just wondering if you have tried it?

Another question, if we don't try to fish it out of existence {or at least depres the population and keep it under control, how do you suggest we deal with it? In the areas where it is better established, the native fish populations are devastated.

We have restaurants in DC that serve bluefin tuna, skate and cod, all of which are severely endangered and on red lists all over the place. I wish thee was as much concern about these fish as the snakehead. These fish are going to be fished out of existence if we don't act.

We did acton blue crab andnow the sustainable harvest of the crab is back to 1993 levels even though the population is still depressed from all time highs. But concerted efforts made a diffference. You are sure that we cannot make a difference on the snakehead?

I know that the reason I buy it right now is because it is a tasty fish and to help the local watershed. But the reason I bought my first ws to help the watershed thru the efforts of Steve Vilnet at Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Preliminary data suggest that the fishing efforts are at least disrupting the population growth of the fish. But MDDNR does not have a lot of data to go by, thefish has been in our waters for only 7 years.

Both the boue cat and the snakehead were introduced into our local waters for commercial reasons. The Blue cat was introduced by Virginia fishing clubs for sport fishing. THe snakeheadwas brought in by restaurants serving live fish and when they were found out, they disposedof hte fish. Too bad the authorities took a criminal approach instead of a cooperative one. Now we have a problem! Maybe a cooperative approach to solve it would work.

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My Chinese mercury/snakehead reference (apologies for not providing a link) should be viewed in the spirit in which I wrote it. e.g. does anyone eat unagi in a Japanese restaurant without knowing that the eel wasn't raised in a highly polluted Chinese pond. The last time I checked the unagi in a local top-notch supermarket, China was the source:

http://www.nytimes.c...?pagewanted=all

"“Our waters here are filthy,” said Ye Chao, an eel and shrimp farmer who has 20 giant ponds in western Fuqing. "

Less of a problem in the U.S. for future snakehead farmers perhaps. Antibiotic use in aquaculture being the bigger issue.

In terms of the question I hear everyone asking: "Where can I find wildcrafted snakehead?" Well, why is it that I can self-cater in England & buy all manner of local game from the village butcher, but am reduced to ordering farmed game from a foreign country if I am in the mood for it in the U.S.? Supermarket snakehead, should it happen, is going to be nutritionally disappointing: low in omega-3 & high in omega-6 perhaps, & bad in unexpected ways. It will no doubt be a very pleasing product, & might take off - perhaps ending up on the next version of the food pyramid & served in schools.

-Patrick

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Deangold,

Apologies if I seemed to be flippant. I have no answer when it comes to invasive species.

The Normans invaded England in 1066 & I wasn't happy about that when finally informed as a 10-year old. Working on the family tree recently, I found that some ancestor of my wife married a direct descendant of William the Conqueror. The Battle of Hastings suddenly didn't seem quite so bad. I'm not saying that change is good, but it is the nature of life.

I do have strong views on skate. A lovely fish, 'skate & chips' was often eaten in our house in England. Prepared in much the same way as Le Bernardin when I first ate it there. My wife likes it simply done in browned butter with a splash of malt vinegar. I prefer lemon juice; basically the same dish I experienced at Le Bernardin.

In all the years I have been in the U.S., I have never seen skate on sale in supermarkets. A garbage fish I was told. And yet, when I first went to Le Bernardin it seemed to have star billing. I discovered later that huge numbers are caught, but thrown overboard, dying or dead. Skate wings may have become too popular & now off the menu, but it wasn't demand that caused its demise, but rather fishing practices. How many thousands of tons were thrown overboard?

I applaud your efforts to help the local watershed. I hope that it does make a difference. The snakehead is quite formidable though.

-Patrick

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Snakeheads are perfectly acceptable fish in Chinese cuisine. It's not highly regarded, but to me it tastes much better than tilapia (which has all the same dirty water fish farming issues).

They're quite tasty as misleadingly named shun yu (meaning smoked fished even though they're not smoked). Cut into 2"x1"x1" chunks, lightly dredge in flour and deep fry. Then add the fried fish to a marinade (traditionally soy sauce and sugar based). They're probably okay for stir frying as well.

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Channel surfing the other day I saw Cooking Channel show, "Hook, Line & Dinner" where Ted Wells of Baltimore restaurant Alewife made Snakehead Tacos. The way he described them, it sounds like it is a mild flavored fish. He said if he could get a ready supply he would put them on the menu to help clean them out of local waters to preserve the native fisheries. I saw the same approach on a Bourdain show a while back, a Boston seafood place that ia serving Dog Fish, a small shark that has replaced many of the local bottom feeding fish in the areas around Boston. Growing up almost in the shadow of the Coney Island parachute jump pictured in my avatar, we fished all over lower New York bay and regarded Sea Robbins, Dog Fish/AKA Sand Sharks and Skate as garbage fish and never ate them. This was before I discovered Raie au Burre Noir or that shark - even of the humble dog fish variety - is delicious and unlike the larger sharks, not in any danger of being overfished. I even found out that the detestable Sea Robbins with their poisonous spines taste just like monkfish and are a western cousin to the Scorpionfish used in Bouillabaisse. So the answer to the Snakehead problem just may be the recipe book

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I guess it's all about building awareness...and the need for a new name! (WaPo article: At benefit, eating snakehead to help the Chesapeake Bay)

Agree. If ever there was a precedent perfectly applicable for how this might really be promoted to encourage widespread interest, the Patagonian Toothfish was and is it. Just need an established wholesaler with foresight like Lee Lantz and a little help from the FDA.

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Snakehead is on Little Serow's menu for this week:

"bla chorn lom kwan

snakehead fish / kaffir lime / rice powder"

It's been there for a few weeks now... If their prep is any indication people should not be scared by the name alone. It's good. Mild and flaky.

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