Sunday, May 4, 2008

Baked Parrot

Two years ago, when Eric and I were visiting and teaching on Chuuk, for one of the meals we feasted on parrot fish. You have to understand that neither Eric nor I like fishy fish. What I mean by that is fish that really tastes like fish. Trout would be a good example of fishy fish. A good example of non-fishy fish would be halibut and to a lesser degree, salmon. Well, the parrot fish was delicious. It was the most tender fish I'd ever eaten and was definitely in the non-fishy fish category. Because parrot fish is a tropical fish, I had never seen it sold in the States. So, once we moved to Guam, my mouth began to salivate every time I'd think about eating parrot fish. There was one problem, even though we could now buy the parrot fish in the store, we had no idea how to prepare it. (They are packaged whole--guts and all!) What to do.....

Throughout the course of this semester, Eric and I have had the privilege of getting to know a married couple on campus: Perry and Joy, and their daughter, Ganya. They are from Palua and Joy is a full-time student. Joy's church encouraged her to come to PIBC to get her B.A. degree so she can return to work full-time at their Paluan church as the children's director. One evening, as I sat chatting in their "house," Perry pulled out a big fish from his freezer and offered it to me. (It is common for students' family members to send fish to Guam with friends leaving their particular island. This fish is delicious and MUCH less expensive than what it would cost on Guam). I looked at that big frozen fish and explained that neither Eric nor I would know how to fix it. I suggested we have them over for dinner. I would prepare the side dishes and they could bring the fish but prepare it with us so that we could learn. It was in this context that I mentioned in passing that my favorite fish was the parrot fish.

Fast forward five nights and, to my shock, Perry and family showed up not with the frozen fish from his freezer, but with a fresh parrot fish bought at a local Paluan market. What a treat! But first we needed to learn how to clean the fish. It was quite a bit of work and quite a fishy-smelling process. Each of us tried our hand at it. All the scales were removed as well as all the guts but nothing else on the fish was altered--head, tail and all fins remained intact. Finally, after baking for about 30 minutes, it was time to eat the fruit of our labor. Joy and Perry explained to us that the best part of the fish was the head and traditionally the husband got this because of his position as "head of the family." Joy giggled as she told us that sometimes she and Perry would "fight" over the head and he would kindly share it with her. Not wanting to be stingy :~) Eric and I generously insisted they should be honored with the head of our fine parrot fish. Perry informed us that the eyes are also delicious and a very juicy side benefit of the head. It was with great relish that the fish was consumed. Joy had also brought some tapioca as a side dish for our meal (that is what she is holding in the baggie--the leftover tapioca). The tapioca and the white rice was also devoured with vigor. Interestingly, what our Palauan friends showed NO interest in eating was the homemade bread and the homemade chocolate chip cookies. In addition to learning how to clean and cook a parrot fish, I also observed some distinct cultural differences in preferred cuisine. Regardless, we had a delightful night with our Palauan friends.

P.S. Follow this link to discover some amazing facts about the parrot fish. It is truly an intriguing creature! animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/parrot-fish.html

1 comment:

SLS said...

Wow - almost a year until we get a fish story. I hope you shared with your guests the fact that you are a Master Fisherman (a story I still tell my kids).