Tuesday, July 12, 2011


With the oversized tambaqui as the topic at hand, we're back in the freshwater environment of the Amazonian rain forest, where everything seems to come in only one size - XXXL. The Amazonian basin is Brazil's Texas - everything is bigger there. Good news when you're talking about fresh water or medicinal plants, and distinctly bad news when you're talking about mosquitos (humungous), spiders (humungouser) or cockroaches (humungousest).

The tambaqui must feel very much at home in this habitat. Even its scientific name (Colossoma macropomum) speaks to its dimensions. (As an aside, our Latin here at Flavors of Brazil isn't all that good, but wouldn't macropomum  mean "Big Apple?" Maybe the tambaqui is a exiled New Yorker at heart). The species averages about 3 feet in length (1 meter) and adult specimens can weigh upwards of 65 lbs (30 kgs).

The tambaqui is perfectly suited to its habitat in the Amazon, which alternates between flood season and dry season on a yearly basis. During the flood season, the waters of the rivers overflow their banks and invade the surrounding forests, flooding them for miles around. When this happens, tambaqui literally swim into the forest and gorge themselves on fruits and seeds that fall into the water. When the waters recede, leaving only muddy pools of water, the tambaqui live off the fat that they built up during the time of plenty and calmly await the return of the next flood stage. It is this ability to live for long periods of time in stagnant, low-oxygen water that makes tambaqui an excellent species for aquaculture, and fish-farming tambaqui is a growing industry in the Amazon region.

Culinarily, the tambaqui is highly valued by local dwellers, who love its rich white flesh, full of healthy fish oils. In recent times, however, the tambaqui has also begun to be coveted by inventive chefs in Brazil's metropolitan cities, and a market has developed for tambaqui far from its jungle homeland. One thing that makes tambaqui intriguing for chefs and diners alike is its unique skeletal structure, with large bony ribs, which offers the possibility of creating dishes for racks of tambaqui ribs. Who's ever heard of fish ribs? Well, now, readers of Flavors of Brazil just have. Tambaqui ribs. They're wonderful.

Since the species is suitable for closed-container fish farming, an environmentally sustainable practice, we think that the tambaqui could have a great future in markets outside Brazil. Imagine Buffalo Tambaqui Ribs in place of Buffalo Wings, or BBQ Tambaqui Ribs cooked in a smoker. All it would take is someone with vision and  a knowledge of fish farming (perhaps a catfish farmer) and tambaqui ribs could become the talk of the town. It would be a great future for a species that's been around since the Miocene Era.

Flavors of Brazil will offer up a recipe for tambaqui fish ribs in tomorrow's post.


  1. When my husband and I go fishing, what we mainly catch is Tambaqui...and I love it! Which I am grateful for...because I don't like fish at all. But the light flavor makes it easy to eat! We love it grilled especially :) Ours however are significantly less smaller...generally they range from 1kg to 4 kgs! I posted a while ago, here are pictures of our tiny tambaqui: http://livinglifeontheroadlesstraveled.blogspot.com/2011/02/fishing-galore.html

  2. Thanks for the comment Stephanie, and the link to your blog. I'd say your tambaqui is a bit smaller than the one whose photo graces this post, but I'll bet it was delicious. I'll check out some more of your blog when I have a minute - it looks really interesting. Where are you located?

  3. James, definitely much smaller, but definitely good! We are located in Ipatinga, Minas Gerais! A little out of the way, a little city, but we like it!

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