What one of the most venomous fish in the world tastes like

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  • Scorpion fish is one of the most venomous fish in the world. Its sharp spines are coated with venomous mucus.
  • Fine and Rare, a New York City restaurant, uses the scorpion fish in its fish and chips.
  • INSIDER’s Herrine Ro visits the restaurant to learn more about the fish and how it is carefully prepared, and describes the taste of the fish.

The following is a transcript of the video:

Herrine: This is a scorpion fish. It’s one of the most venomous fish in the world, and today, we’ll be eating the scorpion fish. There’s the heat. So today, guys, we are at Fine and Rare, and this restaurant we’ve been at previously before. We did the giant ostrich egg. Hoo boy, OK. Fine and Rare specializes and kinda focuses on these rare foods or ingredients that they showcase to its customers. And this time around, they managed to find scorpion fish. If the name doesn’t sound daunting enough, obviously I’ve never had scorpion fish before, and the only existing knowledge I have is that it sounds dangerous. So if I were to just kinda like… touch that, I could get hurt? So we are going to pull out my phone and do some research on what a scorpion fish is because I will be eating one in a few minutes. According to Britannica, a scorpion fish, first impression is it’s not a cute fish. And related topics, the first word that comes up is “venom,” so that’s nice. Scorpion fish are perchlike fish with large spiny heads and strong, sometimes venomous, fin spines. If you do get pricked by one of these things in the ocean, do you need to go to the emergency room?

Chef: Yeah, if you should step on one or have an unpleasant encounter with a scorpion fish and get pricked by one of these, you do need to seek medical help.

Herrine: Am I excited? Yes. Am I nervous? Probably more than I am excited. Mom, if you’re watching this and I don’t make it alive today, I love you.

Chef: So I first came across scorpion fish, I had a restaurant on the cape, Provincetown. It’s line-caught, short-line caught, so it’s generally one person going out fishing for generally not the scorpion fish because they couldn’t really sell this at market. A lot of the people who would buy the fish generally in market after the fisherman caught them, they didn’t wanna deal with it for two reasons. They thought it was too spiny and that it was venomous. But it’s not poisonous. There’s a difference between poisonous and venomous. Poisonous is if you eat it you can get sick. Venomous, you actually have to be injected.

Herrine: Finally, it was my turn to meet the fish. That is a gnarly looking fi…I didn’t know it was like gonna be that bright. So if I were to just kinda like… touch that, I could get hurt?

Chef: No, you’re pretty safe. Once they’re dead, the venom can’t be injected into you, but you’re safe. The thing about it, it’s very hard to source, hard to find. So a scorpion fish if you’re lucky enough to find it in your market, is probably gonna go for about $16 or $17 a pound, and the fish generally weigh about 3 to 4 pounds.

Herrine: OK, is that on the more expensive scale or cheaper scale?

Chef: It’s probably on the more expensive scale. You wanna hold it?

Herrine: OK, so were just gonna, OK, oh. I mean, it is a pretty fish. I take it back. It’s not an ugly fish. It’s just very spiny.

Chef: So here at Fine and Rare, our take on scorpion fish is we do it for lunch exclusively right now, and we thought it’d be fun to do a take on fish and chips. And only for me when I butcher it, you just gotta be careful not to prick yourself with some of the porcupines on the fish. So just last week when I was preparing the fish, they have little porcupines on their face, which are hard to see. I kinda brushed my hand on it, and it was kind of irritating and painful for a couple of hours, so you really need to be careful. Kinda bit me.

Herrine: Did it really?

Chef: Yeah. So for the diner, scorpion fish is a 100% safe to eat. So fish and chips is generally made from cod or haddock, and the thing about the scorpion fish, it’s kind of a mix between a monkfish and a sea bass, so it’s not as meaty and tough as a monkfish, and it’s not as flaky as a sea bass would be. One of the reason I think they do taste so well is what they eat. They stay in the reefs, and they eat a lot of shrimp and lobsters. So some people say they actually taste sweet like a lobster because of that. The fish and chips, the way we prepare it here, not only do we do the scorpion fish, but we also have a scorpion dusting spice, which we use a scorpion chili pepper, which is the second-hottest chili out there.

Herrine: Ooh, that’s gonna hurt. All righty, here goes nothing. That was a mistake.

Chef: Our customers first are intrigued by the whole scorpion fish theme, but once they taste it, I think everybody’s kind of amazed how delicious and sweet the fish actually is. It’s probably the best fish and chips you’ll ever eat.

Herrine: My first bite into scorpion fish. It really just does look like a flaky, like, fish, so. There’s the heat. If I was a first-timer and I saw scorpion fish on the menu, I probably wouldn’t order it, but having this fish and chips, I honestly wanna say that this fish is better than a lot of the fish and chips that I’ve had in London or anywhere else really. The fish itself has, like, a lot more meatiness and flakiness to it, and it’s, like, nice and bouncy like monkfish, and I love monkfish. Now that I know that it’s perfectly safe to eat and it’s delicious, I would probably order the scorpion fish again. The most dangerous thing by far is not the fish, it is the chili that goes into the seasoning here.

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I'm a writer who focuses on the outdoors and travel. I share my time between Alaska and Colorado, where, when I'm not writing, I enjoy camping, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and skiing (often with dogs in tow). My byline may also be seen in publications such as The New York Times, National Geographic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and others.


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