Tag Archives: Fish and Shellfish

A Paradise in Southern Brazil

15 May

Everyone has his (her) own favorite places in the world.  For me, one of them is Santa Catarina Island, southern Brazil, where the city of Florianópolis is located. Not by chance this is the place where I was born. Discovered in 1514 by the Portuguese, it was really colonized about 200 years later by immigrants from the Azores and from Madeira Islands.  It is a beautiful place, full of friendly people (don’t worry, I don’t live there anymore), not to be missed by anyone, specially if you enjoy the sea (and who doesn’t?).

The island, about 100 km long and 20 km wide, has 42 beaches (even though I have walked all around the island in my youth days I have never been able to reach this number), ranging from protected bay areas (where some wonderful oysters are grown) to open sea beaches (a surfers paradise).

My father has a house on “Praia dos Ingleses” (Englishmen’s Beach), on the north end of the island, where my family usually spends quite a few days during summer vacations.  At one of the beach extremities (east side, almost at the corner of Estrada Dom João Becker and Estrada Vereador Olindo Lemos – GPS: S 27O 26.629` and W 48O 22.579`) there is a small restaurant called “Dunas” (Sand Dunes).

The restaurant is located right at beach, so close that you can almost dive into the sea from the window.  One of these days I went there with my wife and my 2 daughters for lunch.  The menu is, of course, plenty of seafood.  We ordered, shrimp in “catupiry” sauce and grilled mullet, along with a simple salad (onions, carrots, lettuce, beets and tomatoes) and rice (one of the girls could not refrain from having some French fries).

Shrimps with "catupiry" and grilled mullet

Shrimps with "catupiry" and grilled mullet

“Catupiry”, which means “excellent” in Tupi-guarini (the language spoken by most Brazilians native indian tribes at the time of discovery, in 1500), is a soft and mild cheese (almost like the American cream cheese), which was developed in the first half of the last century by an Italian immigrant.

The basic recipe seems to consist of a very mild sauce (butter fried onions and garlic with some small diced tomatoes, minced parsley and spring onions) to which the shrimp (most probably a Penaeus sp.) and the cheese are added (the idea is to preserve the shrimp taste and enjoy the cremosity and light saltiness of the cheese).  Cooking is done in an adobe pot. A very simple but fairly elegant dish served over plain white rice.

Shrimp with "catupiry" sauce

Shrimp with "catupiry" sauce

The mullet (Mugil sp.), which is found worldwide in tropical to temperate coastal waters, is very appropriate for grilling due to its high fat content.  It was seasoned with salt and pepper only.

The service was quite informal and matching the place, a very happy and friendly fellow who seemed to enjoy his job.  The price was quite reasonable (around US$ 17,00/person – soft drinks included). The shrimp was excellent, the mullet not bad (although a bit overdone), and the scenery, as well as the company, just unpayable.  Almost paradise.

Is there a better way to wait for your lunch?

Is there a better way to wait for your lunch?

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Steamed Shark Head

8 May

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.

Rhinobatos horkelii

Rhinobatos horkelii

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).

Chinese steamer

Chinese steamer

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.

Shark Heads - The final dish

Shark Heads - The final dish

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.

Shark Head on FoodistaShark Head

Steamed Shark Head on FoodistaSteamed Shark Head

Bamboo Steamer on FoodistaBamboo Steamer

Shark on Foodista

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