Ah, the lionfish. A beautiful, magnificent creature that, sadly, has been invading the Caribbean and the Americas for a few decades now. For those of us that started diving in Australia and Southeast Asia, lionfish are a welcome sight that we delight in showing our divers. Unfortunately, human influence has released them into our American waters and we are now tasked with keeping their numbers in check for the sake of our reefs' safety.
In some places, like Roatan, we have quelled the invasion to a certain extent, at least within the Roatan Marine Park, but some places that were hit first and reacted more slowly have had invasions of apocalyptic proportions.
Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for them, lionfish are delicious eating, so one of the things that Roatan is doing is offering lionfish on the menu in lieu of other more "traditional" fish, like snapper, to increase the demand and make it financially smart for the local community to provide a supply. Lionfish is a dense, white fish that's not very oily or fishy tasting, so it can be prepared in a ton of delicious ways.
Whether you get your lionfish from restaurants like Blue Marlin and Cannibal Cafe in West End or prepare it yourself, here are 5 delicious ways to eat lionfish!
Recipe 1. Lionfish ceviche
Ceviche is a cornerstone of Caribbean cuisine, and there's a good reason why. It's delicious, easy to prepare, and there's no cooking involved!
Cure the lionfish in lime juice, letting it sit for a while as you prepare your other ingredients. Cut up onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapenos (or any other chili pepper) and garlic and mix it together. Add the lionfish and another healthy dose of lime juice. Voila! Use as a dip for chips or as a side.
Feeling fancy? Throw in some mango or passionfruit and make it a truly tropical ceviche!
Recipe 2. Lionfish wrapped in bacon
Everything tastes better with bacon, right? This age old theory rings true with lionfish as well. Cut the lionfish into small cutlets, wrap them in bacon and oven bake them at 350 degrees until cooked through. These make an excellent appetizer or side. If you're feeling fancy, use the lionfish spines as your skewer to hold it all together. The heat will neutralize the toxins in the spines and it's a cool conversation piece as well. Just be careful when you're handing them, the spines are as sharp as needles!
Recipe 3. Coconut lionfish curry
Since lionfish is a wonderfully dense, white fish that isn't oily or "fishy", it's a fantastic fish to use in curries. Try pairing it with a light curry, like green curry or red curry, instead of a heavy, thick curry, to get the most out of the light flavor of the fish.
If you're not so into curries, you can also cook up some coconut milk with fish sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, red chili and black pepper, then throw in some lionfish cutlets at the end to cook for a few minutes. This goes amazing with white rice or rice noodles with a dash of lime juice and cilantro.
Recipe 4. Breaded and fried lionfish
I am of the firm belief that life is better when it's breaded and deep fried. It genuinely makes the world go round. You can either marinade the lionfish before breading it or just go with some salt and pepper, then bread with panko or coconut flakes, and deep fry it. Garnish with lemon or tar tar sauce. Buen provecho!
Recipe 5. Lionfish stir fry
Take your veggie stir fry to the next level with some lionfish. You don't want to overcook the lionfish, so start frying up your vegetables first before throwing the lionfish in towards the end. Try adding some dark green vegetables, like kale, bok choy and chives to really bring out the beautiful white flakes of the lionfish. Your belly will thank you.
And there you have it, 5 delicious ways to save the reef and eat a lionfish!
Our favorite source for all of our lionfish recipes comes from REEF's Lionfish Cookbook. When we're looking for new culinary inspiration, that's always our go-to source, so do yourself a favor and purchase the book today!
If you're interested in learning how to hunt lionfish while you're on Roatan, the Roatan Marine Park offers lionfish licenses. All spearfishing is illegal on Roatan except for lionfish hunting, but you need to have a license and designated spear to do so. Talk to your dive center or visit the Roatan Marine Park Eco Store in Half Moon Bay to sign up for the lionfish license course and get hunting!