Lionfish: the Delicious Invasive Species — Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The waters of Florida and the Caribbean are being plagued by an invasive species that is threatening the well-being of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems. Lionfish are native to the South Pacific and Indian Oceans and have no natural predators in their non-native habitat, making them especially dangerous to the Caribbean and Atlantic waters and coral reefs. Females can reproduce every four days, feed on native fish like snapper and grouper and their venomous spikes can be dangerous to humans as well. However, once the spikes are removed the fish can be prepared into a delicious delicacy that has a sweet, “non-fishy” flavor. A growing number of restaurants throughout the Caribbean and Florida are serving lionfish on their menus.
A perfect stop for cruise passengers visiting Grand Bahama Island, the Flying Fish is located next to the Port Lucaya Marketplace (the main tourism center) and serves outstanding seafood with an elegant, waterfront ambiance. Despite minor hassles in obtaining lionfish, Chef Tim Tibbitts continues serving the fish because “it’s absolutely delicious.” The lionfish is prepared two ways: as lionfish cakes (similar to crab cakes) with fennel, orange salad and hollandaise sauce or–to sample the full flavor of the fish–simply pan seared on the skin side with lemon juice and celery.
Fennel & Orange Salad and Orange Hollandaise — Photo courtesy of The Flying Fish
The Square Grouper Bar and Grill
Located about 30 minutes from Key West, the Square Grouper is a favorite seafood restaurant among locals and visitors. Fresh lionfish is available on a weekly basis as a special, but call ahead since it is not on the regular menu. The one-pound fish is prepared as a whole Caribbean crunchy lionfish with cilantro lime mojo, key lime tartar dipping sauce and jasmine rice.
Zama Beach Club
Zama Beach Club serves contemporary Mexican cuisine and has been recognized by Isla Mujeres for their efforts in promoting lionfish as a mouthwatering entrée. Their special dish is called “lionfish tiradito” and is a twist on a Peruvian classic that is a hybrid between sashimi and ceviche.
Lionfish Tiradito — Photo courtesy of Zama Beach Club in Isla Mujeres
Those looking to sample lionfish in a carefree atmosphere should try the Straw Hat Restaurant, located at the Frangipani Beach Resort on Meads Bay. Executive chef Nick Dellinger serves it a number of ways: in lionfish crudo with candied lemon, black olives, radish and arugula; as blackened lionfish tacos with mango creme fraiche and chipotle aioli; or as lionfish ceviche with local sea urchin, celery and citrus.
Bluefields Bay Villas
Located an hour’s drive south of Negril on Jamaica’s West Coast, Bluefields Bay Villas became the first Jamaican resort to serve lionfish to its guests and currently offers a variety of preparations. The locally caught (in Bluefields Bay) fish are often pan-seared in olive oil, topped with a coconut curry sauce and accompanied by herb rice and locally grown organic vegetables.
Curried Lionfish at Bluefields Bay Villas — Photo courtesy of Flickr.com/Bluefields Bay Villas