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Bite Into Some Shark With Hesitation

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 18, 2009 7:30PM

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Certain fish have the texture to handle direct heat (e.g grilling) very well, like salmon, swordfish and tuna. Another fish that makes a good steak is shark. Shark has a great flavor and the preparation is best kept simple: lemon and a little butter will suffice. Pete's Fresh Market had shark loin for sale at $4.99 per pound last week and we had a couple steaks cut from it.

Post-meal, we were thinking, "How come Pete's had shark, but no one else?" So we sent an e-mail to Bill "The Fish Guy" Dugan. For nearly two decades, Dugan's market at 4423 N. Elston has been a major purveyor for some of Chicago's best restaurants. Dugan also advises chefs on the environmental and ecological concerns of overfishing and poaching. Guess which one shark falls under?

There is a HUGE market for dried shark fin, as anyone who's had shark fin soup can attest. A common practice known as "finning," where a shark's fins are sliced off and the remainder of the fish is tossed back into the sea, is so prevalent that the practice has been banned in the Pacific. Dried shark fin garners a hefty price is Mexico. "The Mexican people love tiburon and the fisherman off the Pacific coast of Mexico are among the most notorious poachers for the dried fin trade," Dugan wrote. Dugan has not actively sold shark since he entered the seafood industry in the '70's. There have been exceptions, Dugan allowed. "When some of my fisherman who are going after swordfish come up with a Mako, I have sold it through the store as it was already captured and is not a targeted specie. But (that's happened) maybe two or three times in the last 30 years."

That's not to say that all shark is poached. The Plitt Company, headquartered here, sells Mako wholesale and utilizes the entire fish. So it's best to do some legwork before deciding to purchase shark, lest a little bit of knowledge be a dangerous thing.