Tuesday, May 10, 2011

FISH OF BRAZIL - Manjuba (Broadband Anchovy)

Lagoinha Beach, Ceará
One of the best things about spending a day at on a quiet beach in Brazil is that the menu at the beach bar is very likely to include some sort of small fish served whole. breaded and fried, accompanied by wedges of juicy fresh limes, plenty of salt, and a bottle of hot sauce, preferably homemade. With a glass of icy-cold beer to wash the little critters down there's really no meal more delicious or more suited to the beach.

Sometimes the fish are slightly larger, cleaned and headless, and sometimes they are so small they are served absolutely whole. However, they are always eaten bones, tail and all - those crunchy bits add flavors and textures which are lost in larger fish which are served filleted.

The most common fish served in this manner is a species (or a number of related species, to be specific) called manjuba in Portuguese, or often manjubinha, which is the diminutive form. According to the website fishbase.org the fish bears the name broadband anchovy in English - presumably the word broadband in this case having absolutely nothing to do with internet access. The scientific name is Anchoviella lepidentostole. It's natural range is along the western coast of the South Atlantic in South America from Venezuela to the southern Brazilian state of Paraná.

The manjuba lives in shallow waters near the shore, is very numerous within its range, and is each to catch. The price for a plate of fried manjuba at the beach is therefore likely to be quite low - I've had delicious manjuba for as little as R$3 (about USD$1.80) a plate.

Current thinking about the overfishing of the world's oceans tells us that in the future the world is going to have to look at eating more smaller fish and fewer larger ones - tuna, swordfish, halibut, all the world's large species are highly stressed, yet supplies of smaller fish like anchovies, sardines, or herrings can sustainably be fished. That may be the silver lining in the overfishing cloud - maybe more people will learn to appreciate small fish the way Brazilian appreciate fried manjuba. It's the taste of the Brazilian beach.

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