U.S. chefs' solution for invading Frankenfish? Eat 'em

Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:42pm EST
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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 U.S. 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.   Continued...

This undated file image shows a juvenile northern snakehead fish, a species that can breathe out of water and wiggle across land. Scientists with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources identified an 18-inch (46 cm) long sharp-toothed fish netted by a fisherman near downtown Chicago as a snakehead, a fish that has been found in U.S. waters, but not in its Great Lakes. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang