Image: Flickr Creative Commons/LASZLO ILYES
There’s an invasion happening in the waters. No, not the plastic invasion, but another one that’s also wreaking havoc on marine life. Lurking in the waterways are non-native fish: Snakehead fish in the tidal waters of the Potomac, Lionfish throughout the Atlantic, Blue Catfish in the Chesapeake Bay, Asian Silver Carp in the Great Lakes. They disrupt the natural eco-system, often eating everything they encounter. They can also be quite tasty.
Take the lionfish. Sure, it’s a weird-looking fish with venomous spines, but the meat is also soft and buttery with a sweet mild taste similar to other white fish. Chefs have noticed it’s delicious, as well as many other invasive species, meaning many non-native fish and shellfish are popping up on menus around the U.S. After all, if you can’t beat them, eat them, right? Here are seven restaurants serving up invasive seafood.
The downtown Baltimore restaurant dishes up Blue Catfish Tacos. The Potomac River Blue catfish is an invasive species threatening the Chesapeake Bay. Eat it with chimichurri, blistered corn salsa, chipotle cabbage slaw and sweet potato strings. They also have wild boar sliders, another invasive species on land.
The annual cook-off in Salem, Oregon features chefs from across the Northwest cooking up and dishing out invasive species. Held during September at Zenith Vineyard, the event is a fundraiser for the Institute for Applied Ecology, which focuses on preserving native species. So, mark your calendar now and get ready to eat everything from Asian Sliver Carp to crayfish and dandelion.
Tenney Flynn, the executive chef and co-owner of GW Fins in New Orleans first learned about lionfish when he was approached to cook up lionfish at lionfish rodeo in Del Rey, Florida. He helped to cook the 700 to 800 lionfish 100 divers caught and since then he’s participated in lionfish rodeos as a diver and the fish also occasionally makes it his seasonal seafood menu.
Chef Bun Lai is who you want to talk to if you have questions about eating invasive species. The sustainable sushi chef even has a separate invasive species menu at his New Haven restaurant. You’ll find lionfish, green crabs and many more offerings.
Ryan Chadwick, one of the owners of Norman’s Cay on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is on a lionfish mission. He first had the delicious fish more than a decade ago in the Bahamas and when developing the menu for his Caribbean restaurant, he knew he wanted lionfish on it. He’s partnered with lobster fishermen in the Florida Keys that catch lionfish in their traps to supply his New York restaurant. They FedEx fresh shipments overnight.
Hosted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources the annual Potomac Snakehead Tournament helps raise money to fight invasive species in the Potomac River. Anyone with a Maryland of Virginia Fishing license can fish for the snakeheads and with cash prizes going for the heaviest total of Snakeheads harvested by bowfishing and for the heaviest total of Snakeheads caught by hook-and-link methods. After the snakeheads are caught a chef cooks them up.
The JW Marriott Essex House’s restaurant is run by innovative chef Kerry Heffernan. While invasive seafood isn’t a staple of the menu, Heffernan hasbeen known to cook up the Asian Sliver carp, filleted and sautéed with papaya, and relish of red and green onions.