Believe it or not, fish eating is very much a trend-driven activity. So it should be no surprise that certain fishlebrities get their 15 minutes and then seemingly disappear off reputable menus.
In Canada during the 80s, salmon, in all its oily, flaky glory, held a monopoly over gourmet menus. Now, with the unwanted help of fish farmers, the salmon has become flabbier and watered-down. Once the pearl of the ocean, salmon is becoming the “chicken of the sea” in the eyes of gourmets. Actually, here’s an interesting fact: the pink colour of wild salmon flesh is naturally occurring from their krill-heavy diet; the pink colour of their farmed cousins is a result of artificial colourants mixed with their prepared feed. Today, finding salmon on a respectable menu is quite rare. Then came Chilean sea bass, the fishlebrity of the 90s. Then we enjoyed it too much and word of its commercial extinction drove eaters to avoid it completely.
The sea bass and salmon have ceded the stage to a new fish star: sablefish. Or is it black cod? In fact, the sablefish OR black cod goes by several different aliases depending on where you are in the world. Blue cod, butterfish, bluefish, coal cod, coalfish, gindara (ギンダラ), and candlefish all refer to the same muddy sea bed swimmmer of the North Pacific. Sablefish have a long life span and are opportunistic feeders, preying on anything from herring to jellyfish.
On a plate, sablefish are known for their creamy, buttery white flesh, delicate taste and large silken flakes, reminiscent of sea bass. Sablefish is an important commercial product for the Japanese. For a long time, sablefish had no dealings with the haute cuisine world, relegated to being a cheap deli fish. However, with the help of some hard-hitting haute cuisine names like Matsuhisa Nobuyuki, miso-marinated black cod (check out Rain’s version here – just navigate to the menu) began proliferating in the cuisine world, and with a new name (black cod) sans the old negative connotations, sablefish began its climb to top fishlebrity today.
Many fish trends are dependent on the species in question’s state in the natural world. We tend over-exploit a certain fish species when we like it, and well, the logic flows on its own. In other words, these trends can be understood as a response to our thrusting endangerment on our favourite fish of the moment. And like all other fishlebrities, sable fish (or black cod) may soon see its popularity vanish as quickly as it came.
Personally, I am a lover of black cod. Whether or not it’s because I’m a trend follower, it’s something I’ve learned to really enjoy. My first experience with black cod (miso-marinated, in fact) was when I was naught be but a wee toddler, and as lasting impressions go, I can still conjure up the taste in my mind if that’s a testament to anything!