Snakehead fish said to be 'good with noodles'

Monday, July 29, 2002

By Edward Harris ~ The Associated Press

SINGAPORE -- Fish breeder Koh Boon Haw has some advice for Americans trying to eradicate the predatory snakehead fish: Simply cook them up with green apples and ginger, sit down and enjoy.

Demonized and subjected to an eradication campaign in the United States since it infested a Maryland pond, the fanged, freshwater fish is a delicacy in this predominantly ethnic Chinese city-state.

Singapore's 4 million inhabitants gleefully have followed news of the Maryland pond teeming with the species, which American authorities fear could spread from the pond, devouring indigenous species and overrunning local ecosystems along the Atlantic Seaboard.

On Tuesday, a proposed U.S.-wide ban on the many species of snakehead was announced as Interior Secretary Gale Norton declared, "These fish are like something from a bad horror movie."

But in Singapore, the snakehead is viewed simply as an important part of a savory lunch.

"We've been eating snakeheads for centuries. They're tasty and the flesh is so tender," said Koh, general manager of Khaiseng Trading and Fish Farm, while standing over a tank of the fish.

Gingerly prepared

Put snakehead fish in soup, grill them, or fry them with rice noodles, Koh said, but be sure to use lots of ginger to cut the fishy taste.

"And if you cook them with green apples, it's also very good for the complexion," he said.

Maryland scientists are studying the best way to eradicate the fish from the pond, where they were dropped years ago, for fear they could spread throughout the northeastern United States.

Koh's advice: "The best way to get rid of them is to just eat them."

Singaporeans following the snakehead fish furor find the fish's portrayal both hilarious and exaggerated.

Digging into a bowl of snakehead fish-and-noodle soup at Singapore's Hong Kong Street Seafood Place, 46-year-old real estate agent Gerald Goh said, "From young, we know snakeheads have good nutritional value and even a healing effect.

"But it's no monster. It's good with noodles."

Singapore imports about 1,200 tons of snakehead fish a year, primarily from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia, according to the Agrifood and Veterinary Authority. Also, three local fish farms -- including Koh's -- raise the snakehead fish.

Koh sells his fish for about $4 per 35 ounces, and said the sudden U.S.-driven snakehead fascination has brought an influx of new customers.

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