What Does Lamprey Taste Like?

by Charlie
Lamprey

Lamprey is one that has been decimating the population of other fishes in both fresh and saltwater for a while now. The concern from Environmental Conservation officials is growing big, and they have decided that this one parasite has to go.

The best thing about eliminating this parasite to protect other wildlife is that you can’t let the body go to waste. Yes, lamprey poses a great danger to the existence of some fishes, but they make an awesome pie when you cut off the head and cook them.

What does lamprey taste like? Lamprey can be likened to meat, but you cannot specifically say it tastes like meat or fish. It has a texture that could be crunchy, if the notochord is not removed and soft if it is removed. Lamprey brings a strong flavor to any dish that it is incorporated into. 

Trying to accurately describe the taste of lamprey is not easy because in recent times, it has fallen out of favor in the culinary world. 

For thousands of years lamprey has served as a regal food that is only eaten by royalty or the elite. This fish does look like an eel but tastes delicious when it is properly cooked.

Nutritional Benefits of Lamprey

Lamprey might be parasitic but they have benefits to offer. While they are alive in the aquatic environment, they transport trace elements from the ocean and help to improve the chemical balance of the river that they swam into. 

If you eat lamprey, the nutritional benefit that it offers to the body is nowhere near bad. Lamprey is friendly to almost every diet, and it does a lot to whet any appetite. Lamprey is a good source of vitamins, fatty acids, and proteins. The noteworthy vitamins that they seem to possess an abundance of vitamin A, Retinol equivalent.

Retinol is great for maintaining good eyesight, keeping issues like night blindness and degradation of the eyes due to age away. Not only that, but it also helps to regulate the growth and division of cells in the body. It helps the production of white blood cells so that the body can fight off infections, illnesses, and sickness effectively. 

Lamprey contains other vitamins like niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, D, E, B1, B2, B6, and B12. The combined nutritional contribution of these vitamins can help to boost the immune system and improve the overall well-being of the body. 

Lamprey is also a good source of other materials like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, and phosphorus. These minerals play varying degrees of roles in the body. You have formation of cells, regulation of blood pressure which leads to increased heart health, and you have calcium to help increase bone density and maintain a good bone structure.

Culinary Uses of Lamprey

Lamprey has been used as food for thousands of years. King Henry I of England died while eating lampreys. He was so fond of them that he kept eating them well into his advanced age when his physicians advised him to not do so anymore. 

Moving away from the British culinary scene. Lamprey is loved by the Portuguese, there are many recipes that employ the use of lamprey. One recipe was found in Infanta D. Maria’s (Granddaughter of King D. Manuel) recipe book. This recipe book was written in the 16th century and it mentions a lamprey stew made with spices. 

Lampreys can be boiled, roasted, pickled and in some cases, smoked. In many traditional dishes, for example, the Portuguese, lamprey is boiled in its own blood and red wine then served with fried bread. This dish is known as a bordalesa which means a Bordeaux way. 

You can also have it as a minhota, this refers to a dish where rice makes up the base. It involves the use of lamprey blood, lamprey itself and other ingredients. This mashup is usually referred to as lamprey rice in English.

Preparing lamprey is not an easy task. You need to know how to parboil it so you can take off the skin easily. Before you cut it into chunks, you need to learn how to take out its stomach and preserve the blood so you can use it in the cooking. But after learning how to do all of these, making a lamprey pie is no stress at all.

What is the Origin of Lampreys? Where to Procure Them?

Lamprey comes from the superclass Agnatha or Agnathostomata. It falls under this class because of its prehistoric looking features and mainly because it doesn’t have jaws. 

Lampreys are ugly looking fishes; the adult lamprey has an open mouth that looks like a funnel and is filled with teeth. It uses those teeth to attach itself to a fish, scrape off their scales and bore a hole to suck their blood. This way, lampreys kill no less than 40 fishes in their habitat.

The common name “lamprey” is probably an adaptation of the Latin word lampetra “stone licker”. It can be broken down into two words: lambere which means “to lick” and petra which means “stone”.

Even though many people haven’t seen lampreys, they are very infamous. This could be due to the hoax lamprey disease that circulated the internet or because they kill fishes. Although lampreys accumulate some amount of mercury in their body, they do not cause any kind of disease and are very safe to eat.

The UK serves to be the predominant home of lampreys but their numbers have greatly reduced. You can get lamprey dishes at restaurants or search for an online purveyor to get you some if you need them fresh or frozen. If you like adventure, you can go catch your own lamprey.

Is it Bad to Eat a Sea Lamprey?

Lamprey cannot be classified as a bad food fish; it is cartilaginous fish that has no bones and tastes quite delicious. Even though King Henry I is said to have died as a result of a “surfeit of lampreys”, there have been no deaths publicly associated with the consumption of lampreys since then.

Facts You Don’t Know About Lamprey

  • After King Henry I died at his plate of lampreys, people fought for the throne and it led to almost 20 years of civil war and rebellion in England and Normandy.
  • Lampreys have starred in literature and movies as huge man eaters that are fed with slaves.
  • Queen Elizabeth II received a lamprey pie from Gloucester to mark her coronation. She got the same thing at her Silver and Golden jubilees.

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