Invasive snakeheads have reared their “hideous” mugs within the information once more just lately, this time as a result of they’ve been found in Louisiana and Missouri. My response to those tales is all the time, “right here we go once more.” If you realize something about how these fish have proliferated within the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, nobody needs to be stunned that they hold increasing their vary. They’re so tolerant of a variety of environmental circumstances that I’m stunned it took this lengthy for them to hit the information within the South.
Having spent a bunch of time in Louisiana and Missouri, I can let you know the make-up of lots of their waterways are actually snakehead paradises. I might go on about how proof from different elements of the nation (the place they’ve existed longer) suggests their presence isn’t that catastrophic, or how I get pleasure from catching them a lot greater than different freshwater species. However as an alternative I wish to dispel a pair myths within the culinary division contemplating the newest snakehead uproar.
Can You Eat Snakehead Fish?
Snakehead meat is white and hearty. Joe Cermele
When individuals take a look at a snakehead, they are saying they’re so ugly. They’re so gross. They’re vile. Who would wish to eat them? Properly, heaps and many individuals, which is among the important causes they exist in our waters within the first place. Snakeheads have been a well-liked meals fish in Asia for hundreds of years, and unlawful smuggling to produce fish markets within the States is a giant motive they ended up right here.
I’d argue that snakehead style higher than many freshwater fish American’s love, and for my buddies within the South, you have to be a bit excited concerning the prospect of sticking a couple of. No person does fish cookery higher than you guys.
So in case you stumble upon one, sure, you’ll be able to eat snakehead fish, however right here are some things it’s best to know earlier than you do.
Snakeheads Do Not Style Like Mud
When rating freshwater fish when it comes to their reputation on the desk, catfish sit fairly excessive on the record. Throughout the South specifically, mom-and-pop roadside eateries specializing in fried catfish abound. I get pleasure from my meal immensely each time I go to one, however what many individuals might not take into account is that catfish you purchase in a restaurant or fish market are often farm-raised. This implies the fish has been reared in a clear surroundings and sometimes fed processed fishmeal. Catch a catfish out of the native lake or river that’s been rooting by means of the underside, consuming decaying fish and who is aware of what else, and there’s a robust likelihood it gained’t style as candy because the one you bought from the Cease & Store. Wild catfish are infamous for his or her muddy aftertaste, but this doesn’t appear to show many individuals off. The irony is that many of us flip their noses up at consuming snakeheads assuming they’ll style like swamp muck. Nevertheless, in actuality they style a lot cleaner and brisker than the common catfish.
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Snakeheads will feed off the underside, however they don’t seem to be backside feeders. Such is the case with many well-liked fish like trout, bass, perch. Catfish and carp, however, are true backside feeders, therefore the muddy taste injection of their flesh. Regardless of thriving in shallow, weedy, mucky areas, snakeheads don’t gravitate to decaying forage. They predominantly feed on baitfish and bugs larger up within the water column like many different predator species, and due to this I’d argue that snakehead meat is milder, sweeter, and has much less aftertaste than even a contemporary walleye fillet.
Snakeheads Are Not Bony
Every time I carry up consuming snakeheads to individuals who have by no means tried them, it’s quite common to listen to: “Aren’t they stuffed with bones?” No, they’re not. Trout, pike, and pickerel—all of that are well-liked on the desk—have many extra small bones that must be handled than snakeheads. In truth, as a result of heartiness and firmness of snakehead meat, they’re really very straightforward to fillet.
One caveat, nonetheless, is that snakeheads are arguably slimier than most different fish you’d slap down on a chopping board. Moreover, they appear to simply get slimier after they die. Slime actually drips off them, and there may be an inch or extra of slime within the backside of your cooler. This alone turns lots of people off to consuming them. Nevertheless, there’s no connection between the slime and the standard or taste of the flesh.
What I love to do is go away them within the cooler however hold the drain plug open. Prop the cooler at an angle on the garden and repair your backyard hose so it’s showering the fish on a high-pressure setting. Simply let the hose wash the fish for 10 minutes or so to empty away as a lot slime as potential, then wipe the fish down with paper towels earlier than placing it on the chopping board. After filleting, you’ll really feel one small strip of pin bones alongside the centerline on the extensive finish, however these may be simply trimmed out with two fast slices.
Snakeheads Are Versatile Desk Fare
Snakehead fillets can rival the very best freshwater fish. Joe Cermele
Ninety-nine % of the time, after I do see somebody cook dinner snakehead on YouTube or elsewhere, they deep fry the fish, usually chopping it into nuggets to serve appetizer type. There’s nothing unsuitable with that, in fact. I imply, I like a Cajun-fried snake nugs dipped in slightly spicy ranch as a lot as the subsequent man, however one of the vital distinctive issues about snakehead fillets is that they’re arguably extra versatile than many different freshwater fish.
Crappies, walleyes, and panfish are often fried, and that’s partially as a result of their thinner, extra delicate fillets profit from a batter coating holding them collectively throughout the cooking course of. Snakehead fillets, conversely, have a texture way more just like saltwater species like snapper and grouper. It flakes after cooking, however not fairly as simply because the meat of different well-liked freshwater fish. Due to this fact, it holds up a lot better to cooking strategies like grilling or stuffing, rolling, and baking.
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The snakehead’s agency chicken has a pleasant taste when minimally dressed. Nevertheless, very like flounder, it additionally advantages from a very good marinade or heavy seasoning. As a result of it’s so delicate, it really works properly with any flavors you wish to incorporate. From an Asian-inspired marinade to an Italian preparation heavy on wine and butter, to blackened with Tex-Mex seasonings for tacos, you’ll be shocked by the deliciousness of those “hideous” invasives.