The Ugliest Fish to Put in Your Mouth

Categories: Eat This
conch.jpg
"I'm not eating that disgusting bottom feeder," said my friend, who happens to be a marine biologist. As a part of my Florida adventures of eating like regular people, I joined friends at Heart Rock Sushi, where fish is so inexpensive, it's surreal. They steered the ordering, during which I learned that sushi with scientists makes eating fish a guilt-laden affair.

Parsing the menu didn't prevent the table from ordering the biggest assortment of fish, presented without intended irony on a sushi boat. Among the sashimi, nigiri, and rolls were a selection of disturbing and often delicious bites that you'd see on just about any sushi menu. Would we eat them again anytime soon? Our findings after the jump.

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Unagi
What it is: Freshwater eel
What's wrong with it: Despite that most freshwater eel that we're eating in restaurants is cultivated through aquaculture, farming depends on young, wild-caught eels for stock, reports Seafood Watch.

"Wild populations of all three eel species are in severe decline from a variety of sources, most notably habitat loss and alteration but also factors such as pollution, disease, natural and anthropogenic climate change, and fishing." Serious Eats confirms eels' dubiousness in this post from the Nasty Bits series.
Would we eat it again? Anything in that addictive sauce tastes ridiculously good.

Uni

What it is: Sea urchin gonads
What's wrong with it: The custard-like texture of red and green sea urchin takes some getting used to. So does the fact that you're eating gonads, not fish egg roe. According to Seafood Watch, uni from Maine is verboten. The best alternative are those from Canadian waters.
Would we eat it again? Yes. Despite a custard-like consistency, its earthiness is delicious.

Fake crab

What it is: Also known as surimi, it's a slurry of whitefish that's pressed and dyed.
What's wrong with it: First produced in Japan in 1973, fake crab is primarily made from processed pollock. Once it's processed, the product is tasteless and must be flavored artificially.
Would we eat it again? We wouldn't seek it out, but we'll likely eat the fake, bland, and mildly repulsive crab in our travels.

Conch
What it is:
A big sea snail in a pretty shell
What's wrong with it: Queen conch is closed to commercial fishing in Florida, yet it's showing up on menus as it's harvested elsewhere. Loss of habitat, pollution, and overfishing are stressing populations. When it's presented as a beauty plate with citrus and greens, conch is slightly turgid and tastes clean. When it's not shaved thin, it tastes more like a rubbery clam.
Would we eat it again? Yes, with a nagging sense of guilt.


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