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Snakehead Murrel: The Flaky Freshwater Fish

Channa striata, snakehead murrel

Mild, firm and flaky, snakehead murrel is a delicious freshwater fish belonging to the “snakehead” family of Channidae. Whether grilled, roasted, curried, or batter-fried, snakehead murrel tastes equally captivating. 

What is Snakehead Murrel?

Known for its protracted and snake-like body, snakehead murrel has its origin from South and Southeast Asia, and recently it has been introduced to Pacific Islands. It is found in a vast variety of habitats including rivers, swamps, ponds, canals, lakes, and puddles. 

The fish is slimy, dark brown with black stripes all over the body, and grows as long as 3 feet in length. It’s bony with an extended ribcage and thankfully, doesn’t contain sharp bones which minimizes the risk of choking while consumption. 

Image Credit: Flickr user juanwei ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

Snakehead murrel is an important food source in its native range including Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. Interestingly, this fish is considered illegal in most of the States as it’s considered an exotic species and can threaten the native fish species of the region by competing for habitat and food sources. However, if you’re lucky enough, chances are you can find and buy exported frozen snakehead murrel around Asian grocery stores or online.

What is the flavor of snakehead murrel fish?

Snakehead murrel is mildly flavored with a firm flaky texture. It perfectly takes in the flavor of ingredients it’s cooked with which also makes it a good candidate to experiment with an array of other food ingredients. Murrel is specially paired with tartar sauce to complement its delicate flavor. The best part is, it does not taste fishy at all, making it an equally great seafood option for the picky eaters amongst us.

How to Cook with Snakehead Murrel?

Like most white fish, snakehead murrel is no different to prepare and filet, however, their slimy skin makes it a bit tricky to prepare. Using a towel to hold the fish during cutting can considerably ease this step. Follow this illustrated guide to filet a snakehead like a pro.

Grilled or curried snakehead murrel is served with white rice and other vegetable side dishes in most of Asia. For instance, it is curried with tapioca and spices to form a delicacy in Kerala. In the Philippines and Thailand, this fish is mostly deep-fried, grilled, stewed and paksiw (cooked in vinegar). 

Looking out for some delicious recipes to prepare with snakehead murrel? Here are some recipe ideas, but replace the white fish used in these recipes with snakehead murrel instead. 

●      Blackened Fish Sandwiches

●      White Fish with Herb Butter over Spinach

●      How to Make Peruvian Ceviche

Besides these fun recipes, you can stew snakehead murrel with an array of hearty ingredients of your choice, or perhaps use this recipe as a guide for the perfect fish stew. Serve your grilled snakehead murrel filets with our recipe for Slow Cooked Fennel with Olives and Sundried Tomatoes for a restaurant-style delish meal with a myriad of flavors and textures.

Feature Image: Flickr user makunda2018rejoice.org ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

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