Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sirigado = Badejo = ????????



Fortaleza, where I live, is a paradise for lovers of fish and seafood. The local seas and shores are full of marine life, and the majority of commercial fishing is still artisanal - done by groups of two or three men sailing out to sea on small rafts, called jangadas, for up to a week at a time. Returning to land, they sell their fish at a fish market located on the shore within site of the port for these jangadas.

I'm just learning my way through the local variety of fishes, and the vocabulary for these varieties. One of my favorite fishes, perhaps my favorite, is referred to locally as either sirigado or badejo. Both names seem to be equally acceptable and equally used. The taxonomy and nomenclature of fish species is a notable linguistic problem, and those with more patience and more time than I have spent considerable time tracking down local or regional names in hundreds of languages for just one fish species. Fortunately, much of the fruit of their labors is now available online.

I've been curious what the English name for this fish is for quite a while, and after some googling today, I discovered via a site for professional translators that it is called Black Grouper in English, or less commonly Black Rockfish. This led me to the website of the Florida Museum of Natural History where I learned the following fascinating facts about this absolutely delicious (if not very pretty) fish:

  • Its habitat is in the Western Atlantic Ocean, along the coasts of the Americas, and it is found from Massachusetts to the southern coast of Brazil.
  • Black groupers can reach up to 52 inches (133 cm) in length and can weigh up to 179 pounds (81 kg). Most of the black grouper that are caught average a little over 2 feet in length (70 cm). They can live over 30 years, but most of the growth occurs during the first ten years of life. 
  • They feed primarily on smaller reef fish, such as grunts, snappers and herrings. They also consume crustaceans.
  • All Black Groupers are born female (this makes them protogynous hermaphrodites, should you care to know). Later in life some undergo a change in sex to become male, so as to allow the species to reproduce. 
Gastronomically, it is primarily the fillet of this fish that is served. It has a very white flesh, similar to the color of halibut, and the flesh can be separated into large flakes. It is very juicy when not overcooked, and it takes to all sorts of treatments and cooking techniques, from simple grilling and pay-frying to complicated saucings. It's flavor is well-developed, but not strong, and has little "fishy" flavor.

Sirigado/Badejo is highly valued here in Fortaleza, and in restaurants dishes with this fish are usually higher in price than dishes with other species. However, by North American standards it is relatively inexpensive. At the market, I buy a one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of sirigado for the equivalent of $5.00 to $8.00.

2 comments:

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