Sunday, April 11, 2010

Robalo - Difficulties with Taxonomy and Linguistics

A while back, I published here on Flavors of Brazil a couple of postings about one of my favorite eating fishes here in Fortaleza, the sirigado. In researching this fish, my initial problem was the determination of exactly what a sirigado was. To briefly summarize, the sirigado is also known in some regions of Brazil as badejo, and in English it is known primarily as black grouper (although it is also alternatively known as the black rockfish.)

This Tower of Babel confusion of common names for comestible fish seems to be almost universal, and the more research I've done for this blog, the more complex it becomes. No matter what the language, or how big the geographical area of distribution of a particular fish, there will be competing regional and national names for it. If each species of fish were restricted to one scientific name of genus and species, plus one common name per language, it would be simple to cross-identify species. However, reality has nothing to do with this perfect solution and most species have many, many names.

The fish I wanted to write about in this post is a perfect example. In supermarkets and at the local fish market in Fortaleza, one of the most commonly available fish year-round is called robalo. It's relative inexpensive, and its fillets are wonderful simply pan-fried or oven-roasted with tomatoes, onions and potato slices. It was fairly easy to identify robalo as Centropomus pectinatus, which is found all along the western coastline of the Americas from the southern USA to Brazil. From there the waters became a bit more murky. It appears that in the northeast of Brazil, where Fortaleza is located, this fish is also known as camorim-sovela. OK, two names locally, not to difficult to handle. However in other parts of Brazil, it's known by such names as rubalo, robalo flexa, just plain flexa, robalo peva and robalão. Plus barriga mole (soft tummy) or furão. Plus all the variations on camorim: camurim, camury, camorim açu, camurim açu, camury açu. Plus others I'm sure exist but which I haven't tracked down yet.

With the help of the scientific name, tracking the name(s) in English is easy. We're talking about our friend the snook (which are also sometimes called robalo in English too). There are at least twelve members of the snook family which are commercially or sport-fished, but at least in English they're all called snooks. There are the Armed, Swordspined, Blackfin, Guinian, Black, Fat, Tarpon, Mexican, Yellowfin, Common, Union and White Snooks to be fished and eaten in various parts of the globe.

In the next post, I'll provide a simple recipe for oven-roasted robalo (or camorim, or flexa, or Tarpon snook, or Swordspined snook, etc.) Whatever you call it, it'll be delicious, I promise. As for me, I think I'm going to start calling it "soft tummy" from here on in.

No comments:

Post a Comment