Chef Juan presented the fish to the group and walked us through how best to prepare it. Before he did, though, he explained the dangers of the lionfish, and how the species is forever changing the Caribbean ecosystem.
Why are lionfish dangerous
Lionfish, formally known as Pterois, are a voracious fish native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. With few predators, most likely due to the effectiveness of their venomous spines, they have proliferated in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, as well as the Pacific Ocean over the last 20 years.
Deceivingly beautiful, they are adept hunters and have been found with over 50 different species of prey in their stomachs such as mollusks, invertebrate and minuscule fish. One reason for their excellent predatory skills has to do with their bilateral swimming technique. Able to move up and down in the water column, they spread their pectoral fin and eat their prey in one single motion while altering their center of gravity. Another trait to facilitate their kills, is the blowing of water – like a jet – at their prey, which disorients them just long enough to be eaten!
So what’s the problem? The problem with lionfish is that they are feasting on incredibly important fish, like the parrotfish, to the reefs. These fish that they are demolishing eat toxic algae, wich keep the coral healthy. In some estimates, lionfish consume 80% of the reef’s smaller fish in just over a month.
What can you do about it?
Eat lionfish, of course! One way to help the spread of this invasive species is to strap on your snorkel or scuba gear, arm yourself with a speargun and hunt them. There are companies out there that offer underwater excursions to help eradicate the Atlantic and Caribbean of this amphibious nuisance; however, you may not be quite ready to get all Crocodile Dundee on it.
Another, more tasty, option is to simply eat them as often as possible. If your favorite eatery doesn’t carry lionfish, ask them to order it. Public awareness is one way to fight off the destruction of the coral reefs as we know it.
You can also cook your own lionfish at home. Here is a tasty recipe for you, and your family to enjoy, all while making the world a better place.
from The Lionfish Cookbook by Tricia Ferguson and Lad Akins
8 wonton wrappers*
1/2 cup oil
8 lionfish fillets
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce*
2 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce*
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup seaweed salad*
1/4 cup wasabi mayonnaise*
*Items can be found at Asian markets.
Place oil in a small frying pan and heat oil until hot. Place one wonton wrapper in at a time. Cook briefly until it starts to bubble (approximately 10 seconds). Turn over and cook another 10 seconds. Remove and drain on kitchen towel.
Put wasabi mayonnaise into a squeeze bottle and set aside. Combine sweet soy sauce, sweet chili sauce and soy sauce together in a bowl and set aside. Spray skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Cook lionfish fillets in skillet over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until flaky and tender. Cut or flake lionfish so it is in small pieces. Toss lionfish in soy sauce mixture.
Place lionfish on wonton wrappers, top with seaweed salad and drizzle with wasabi mayonnaise.