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myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Archive for the month “December, 2013”

Flying Fish?

Little sailboats? The tiny roe that grace sushi? Lobsters or king salmon crisscrossing each other as they speed coast to coast nestled into their personal styrofoam cabins on Air FedEx?

Flying Fish!

Flying Fish!

No! Real flying fish! The birdlike treats that flit flit flit up and skim the Caribbean water as you kayak by.

MyMEGusta had always envisioned flying fish as being big, like tuna or marlin, but not so. They are little creatures, bigger than robins, but smaller and sleeker than pigeons.

flying fish coin

Dollar Coin in Barbados

It all makes sense when you think about Japanese tobiko (flying fish roe) being tiny, so the fish should be, too.  Flying fish are found throughout the world, and it is apparent that the sushi grade tobiko we enjoy in the United States comes from Hawaii and Japan. It does not seem to be captured at all in Barbados where the fish themselves are the treasure, never served raw, unless some enterprising chef is introducing this under myMEGusta’s radar.

The national dish of Barbados, even featured on the local currency,  flying fish are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, enjoyed fried in a “Bayan” spiced  batter or grilled, and often served as “cutters”, the local term for subs (or po’ boys or grinders or hoagies or wedges….).  The locals prefer it accompanying “cou cou”, a cornmeal based comfort food.

Flying Fish Cutter

Flying Fish Cutter

The condiment of choice at the Waterfront Cafe, a Bridgetown institution, is a mustard chili sauce, piquant and delicious. (www.waterfrontcafe.com)

Mustard Chili Sauce for Flying Fish Cutter

Mustard Chili Sauce

The Barbadan fish markets, at least as exemplified by the one in Bridgetown, the capital, and Oistins (where the Friday night fish fry is a destination in itself) are really fish receivers and processors, accepting the catch on one end, and spitting out processed primal fish cuts (like a gutted swordfish or shark) as well as filets and steaks destined both for the wholesale chain or the homemaker buying for the day’s dinner.

Oistins Fish Fry

Oistins Fish Fry

The flying fish of Barbados are not sold whole. Rather they pass through an assembly line process – gutters, skinners, fileters – and come out at the end in little plastic bags, ready for the pan. The flavor is simple but distinctive, and the seasonings are assertive, while the texture is similar to a flounder, but a little firmer.

Perhaps a trip to Hawaii to check out the flying fish industry there is in order….

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Spiny Lobsters from Sea to Shining Sea

Baja lobster at Villa Ortegas restaurant Puerto Nuevo

2014 has been a good year for myMEGusta in terms of spiny lobsters!

Spiny Lobster at Puerto Nuevo

Spiny Lobster at Puerto Nuevo

First there was a trip to Baja, Mexico, near San Diego, CA, where we feasted at Villa Ortegas, a renowned  spiny lobster restaurant in the town of Puerto Nuevo, known worldwide for these tasty crustaceans.

http://www.puertonuevolobster.com/

Months later, in Playa del Carmen on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, they reappeared.

Spiny Lobster in Playa del Carmen

Spiny Lobster in Playa del Carmen

Both preparations were iconic for where they were made:

Traditionally Mexican in Baja, the lobsters were served with refried beans, rice, tortillas, salsas and limes, intended to be consumed forkful by forkful or made into delicate little soft tacos, seasoned to taste.

Traditionally Italianate in Playa del Carmen (see myMEGusta’s recent posting “Pasta on the Riviera!”), the sparklingly fresh lobster was simply dressed, in olive oil, fresh tomatoes, and basil, tossed with freshly made tagliatelle.

Most of us from the Northeastern United States tend to disparage the spiny lobster, as we usually get it in Florida restaurants where it is served with butter and simply does not deliver on the flavor profile we expect, that of our beloved cold water beasts from Canada, Maine and elsewhere in New England.

Fresh! Nice shrimp, too!

Fresh! Nice shrimp, too!

The trick with the spiny is to serve it more imaginatively, like the chefs of Mexico have mastered.  The texture and flavor of the lobster meat are complemented beautifully by accoutrements like those salsas and Mediterranean flavors.

Spiny Losbters on the Hoof

Spiny Losbters on the Hoof

One curiosity for myMEGusta is how different but closely related species of warm water lobsters manage to be found on both sides of the Americas, in the Atlantic and in the Pacific Oceans, in fact in most warm water seas around the world. Summarizing a scientific article* on the subject, spiny lobsters don’t just live in warm water and can live in deep, cold water as well. Hence, they migrated all over and inhabit all of the earth’s oceans, but distinct species live in separate geographical regions, and some of the transitional species are extinct, found only in fossils.

Isn’t the internet great?

*Evolution, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Dec. 1967), The Evolution of Spiny Lobsters: a Study of Evolution in the Marine Environment by R. W. George and A. R. Main

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