Sopa de Pejelagarto
At the June 2015, Traditional Cooks Event at the Parque Bicentenario in Guanajuato, we had the chance to try sopa de pejelagarto, lizardfish soup, a pre-hispanic dish typical in the State of Tabasco. The dish is well known in Mexico but rarely served outside of Tabasco. This was our first chance to try it and it was spectacular.
What on Earth is a Pejelagarto?
A Pejelagarto is a freshwater fish from the Gar family which resembles a pre-historic creature. Once you get past the looks of the fish, the soup is delicious. We were offered the head but we declined. We were feeling adventurous but not that adventurous.
Nelly Córba Morrillo and Esmeralda Jiménez de la Cruz, traditional cooks called cocineras tradicionales in Spanish, are from the town of Comalcalco which is located about 30 miles from Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco.
The fish is cooked in a broth made hoja santa, chipilin, and cilantro thickened with masa. Roast platano macho, plantain, is cooked with the fish. The flavor of the broth is herbal, earthy, sophisticated, and delicious. Unfortunately, they didn't give us the recipe. I wish they had.
For such an aggressive-looking fish, the flavor is surprisingly mild. The texture is light and flaky.
A cross-section of the fish is served with the bones and skin intact. You have to pick out the meat. There are quite a few bones but they are easily removed. Serving it with the skin on creates an impressive looking dish. It almost looks as if you just got served a big hunk of alligator meat.
A large tortilla made from platano macho seasoned with chipilin is served as an accompaniment to the fish. It is great dipped in the broth.
You can add a little salsa made from machito chile, a small green very hot chile, and pickled red onions to add some heat.
Be Sure to Try It
If you ever get a chance, be sure to give sopa de pejelagarto a try. You will be impressed with the depth of flavor and sophistication of the dish. Plus, you will probably be the only one you know who has ever tried it. You will earn some culinary bragging rights.