As an Anthony Bourdain fan I couldn’t start this blog without recurring to him for inspiration. This adventure started after I watched the Singapore episode of his “No Reservations” show, in which he takes us into a journey to the Tian Jin Hai Seafood Restaurant. There we’re introduced to a most unusual dish, the Steamed Shark Head. At that very same moment I took a decision: I have to try this dish.
The next step was a web search. I Googled “steamed shark head” and “Anthony Bourdain” and ended up in Rani’s Blog, a fellow from Indonesia who had taken almost the same decision I did. One big difference though: He decided to go to Tian Jin Hai Seafood, while I decided I would prepare the dish myself. Next step, find the shark heads.
Actually shark fishing has been prohibited in southern Brazil but, for my joy, a friend oceanographer had kept some frozen specimens of Rhinobatos horkelii from previous studies, and he made a couple of heads available to me.
Rhinobatos, also known as “guitarfish” (in this case the Brazilian guitarfish) is not really a shark, but a member of the Rajiformes, a fish order formed by rays and skates, and thus very closely related to sharks. Taking into account the images presented both by Rani and Anthony Bourdain I suspect they might be using a similar species. Not sure though.
Following Rani’s indications I cut the upper jaw just before the eyes (the clearer area in the above picture). I took the tough skin off and was ready to start cooking.
I then prepared a mixture of corn oil, soy sauce, sesame seed oil and minced garlic and ginger, which I abundantly brushed all over the head (the shark’s head, of course, not mine). The heads (I actually had two of them) were placed in a porcelain dish and inside a steamer (which I’ve received as a gift from my Chinese daughter Biqi Feng, an exchange student who lived with us for some time).
The steamer was then obviously placed on a wok with some boiling water and the heads steamed for around 20 minutes (I suspect I may have steamed a bit too long). The heads where removed, placed on a clean dish and garnished with ciboullet, sliced red chillies, and the oils and soy sauce mixture.
Well, it feels like you’re eating jelly (what in fact you are), the real taste being of the spices employed. An experience to have, specially considering the texture, but nothing fantastic. Of course this was “Euclydes’ ray head”, and not “Tian Jin Hai Seafood‘s shark head”. Don’t know of anyone who has tasted both to declare which one is better….even though you can easily imagine. Maybe Tony or Rani can stop by, if they happen to come to Brazil, and settle the question.