Shiny, Shiny Shark

iridescent shark catfish Pangasius hypophthalmus
Weird-looking fish

I know I’m writing about dinner a lot this week, but it’s really not my beat. I have friends – Domestigeek, Zucchini and Aubergine – who blog about food far more entertainingly than I ever could. Because they write better? I would deny that of course. But they sure as hell eat better.

OK, the days are over when I regarded beer as the staple and takeaway fried chicken as the health supplement. Seriously, I lived that way for years. Well, I say lived. Nowadays I’m a reformed character, all fruit and nuts and vegetables and cereals. But though my diet is healthy, it’s still not really interesting. There is only so much you can say about bran.

Today though was an exception. Today, I ate iridescent shark.

This is not a 60s band from San Francisco, it’s a type of catfish farmed extensively in Southeast Asia. I understand it’s fairly common in the US where it’s often called tra or swai, but it’s pretty much unknown here and was being offered under its taxonomic name pangasius. At an introductory price of just one euro a fillet too – but really, they had me at the Latin.

Even better, the place was about to close so she gave me the remaining four for the price of two. Mushrooms also being on special offer, I bought a punnet and grilled the whole lot together with butter and just a cheeky sprinkling of mélange d’herbes. The fish was pleasantly unusual. A little earthy, though not so much as catfish usually is, but quite sweet and fatty as well. I didn’t think I could eat four of them, but it was just exactly enough to make me feel sinfully stuffed. And all for three euro.

My cooking tip of the day then: Buy weird-looking fish they’re about to throw out.

The Back of Beyond, And Beyond

County Monaghan
Monaghan - Even Some People From There Have Never Heard Of It

I was rushing for this bus so there wasn’t time to look twice but I could swear that as I passed a shop I caught a glance of tanks full of fish on the floor, and people sitting on benches with their bare feet in the tanks. Funny, I thought. I never took all that much acid.

Bu that’s a thing now, isn’t it? Supposedly the tiny mouths of very small fish are meant to clean you better than scrubbing or using a soap. Better in what way exactly, I am unclear. More erotically I would think. But perhaps that’s just me.

There’s the Shannon. Just leaving Connacht now and entering Leinster, next stop Dublin. By tonight though we’ll be in Ulster – in the tiny and pretty much unknown town of Ballybay, County Monaghan. By this circuitous route we plan to reach a little literary and music festival tomorrow. But God knows.