Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tiger Fish: From River to Plate

My husband, Mark, eats no beef, chicken or pork and has spent years saving (rather than squishing) spiders, flies and sundry insects by carefully escorting them from inside the house to outside the house. This past weekend, he lost all this positive karma in a two-hour span of fishing on the Zambezi River near Mana Pools National Park in northern Zimbabwe. It was worth it.

Fishing is not a pastime that usually appeals to me, but that afternoon the river was particularly inviting and fishing seemed like a good way to experience it. Once afloat, we saw crocodiles and hippopotamuses plying the shoreline – the crocs impressing us with their stealth, their terror-inducing incisors, and their armor-like scales, and the hippos punctuating the stillness with a ruckus of guffaw-like honks. Saddle-bill storks waded in the tall grasses, white-fronted bee-eaters flitted in and out of their riverbank nests, and a fish eagle manned his treetop look-out. On the Zambian side of the river, this scene was framed by the Zambezi Escarpment, a picturesque row of small mountains.

Although neither of us had cast a line for many years, Mark hauled in two fish, including a tiger fishone of the most sought-after catches in the Zambezi, largely because of the challenge of reeling it in. Tiger fish are fighters – once hooked, only one in ten are brought onto the boat. Mark and I had several “ones that got away” before he perfected the balance of pulling and reeling, and, in thirty seconds of action-packed drama, caught a four-pounder. The fish was silver, with dotted black lines down its body and a peach-colored tint to its fins and tail. Its sharp, fierce-looking teeth presented a very intimidating appearance. (The literal translation of the fish’s scientific name, Hydrocyon vittatus, is “striped water dog.”) For breeding purposes, female tiger fish are typically thrown back into the river, but Mark’s catch was male and sizeable enough to save for a pre-dinner snack.

Tiger fish is a white fish that tastes similar to bream (a.k.a. tilapia). It is much bonier than bream, however, which means it isn’t very conducive for serving whole or as a filet. The camp chef skillfully prepared Mark’s fish by cutting it into small boneless pieces and frying these pieces in a thick batter. He served the tiger fish nuggets on lettuce, with slices of lemon and tomato. They were gobbled up before I had the chance to take a photo. Apparently, tiger fish is also excellent when pickled.

While we were nibbling on tiger fish, what were the other animals at Mana Pools eating? Well, the elephants were snacking on “elephant cookies,” otherwise known as seed pods of the apple-ring thorn tree. Members of the antelope family were enjoying leaves from the Natal mahogany, which was beginning to flower and smelled like honey. The lions were resting in the shade, so it is likely they had recently gorged on something big like a buffalo. And, how about the crocs? Well, thankfully they weren’t munching on anyone in our party.


Julie said...

Hi Carolyn,
I just clicked on your blog from food porn watch. I'm really enjoying it! I love your curry recipe and the moroccan dish. It certainly sounds like a fascinating place to live. I'll be sure to check back.

Melissa CookingDiva said...

Fantastic report! Thanks for sharing...

Carolyn said...

Thanks for reading, Julie and Melissa! Please do visit again! I just checked out your blogs, and...

Julie: I am making that Slow-Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart just as soon as I can. I only wish I could get my hands on some golden beets for that double beet penne - what a gorgeous dish!

Melissa, I was very happy to read your meditation on mangoes...and, since mangoes are out-of-season here, I was even happier to see that your Molasses and Mango Bread uses dried mangoes, which I know I can find. This bread will soon be baking in my oven!


Slambe Jr aka Pokcik said...

Hi Carolyn,

Very nice report on Tiger Fish. I'm Nizam from Malaysia (South East Asia). My passion is most on fishing. When I read your article, I like it very much. So I have republished your article into my blog(jompancingsokmo.blogspot.com)and hope you don't mind. However I posted others people photo to compliment the article since there is no Mark's photo in your article.

If u or Mark have other experience regarding fishing, pls send to me so that everybody especially from our country can share it.