Monkfish: The Tasty Monster Fish You Should Cook

Avatar Author's default profile picture Team Published: March 23, 2021 Modified: September 26, 2021
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Monkfish may be unpleasant to the eye with its muddy color, blotchy skin, flat oval-shaped head, and uneven sharp teeth, but wait until you have a taste of this unique fish. We will give you all the reasons to try this deliciously-tasting seafood despite its aggressive looks.

What Is Monkfish?

poor man's lobster, monkfish on an icy tray, monk fish, whole monkfish for sale

Monkfish is a predatory sea devil that preys on any sea creatures its mouth could get. It buries itself into the ocean floor and prepares itself before ambushing its prey. This bottom-dwelling fish can weigh up to more than 12 kilograms, with its head weighing more than half of its total weight.

Aside from its usually misspelled name “monk fish,” another common misconception about this sea creature is that it’s a shark when in fact it’s not. They are real cartilaginous fish that are usually found in waters of the western North Atlantic. Yet, this fish does not swim but uses its fins to walk on sea grounds to prey.

This delicacy is known to many countries. Monkfish tails are what is usually served and eaten in America, but the whole fish (Including the liver!) and head are actually a delicacy in Asia, particularly in Japan. In fact, it’s often compared to lobster meat for its sweet flavor and dense texture.

Does Monkfish Taste Like Lobster Meat?

grilled monkfish with fresh tomatoes

There’s a reason why this fish is known to be the “poor man’s lobster.” Its meat is light pinkish in color, and tender yet thick and meaty in texture just like lobster meat. It also tastes like a lobster because of its delicate sweet flavor.

This tasty seafood is usually served in restaurants as baked, broiled, fried, grilled, poached, or even sauteed as a dish. Its meat can easily absorb marinades and sauces making itself more flavorful and easy to prepare at home.

So, despite its aggressive appearance, monkfish is also one of the healthiest lean fishes, being a good source of phosphorus and selenium, while low in mercury.

Know more about the benefits of including seafood in your meals and read about the fish diet in this article: The Debate Between Fish And Meat – Is Fish Meat?

How to Cook Monkfish and Recipes to Try

pan fried monkfish recipe

This is the part where the monkfish redeems itself from its appearance to its flavorful lean meat. There are tons of ways you can enjoy this delicious seafood. So, here are points that you need to take note of as we proceed into cooking monkfish.

1. Preparing Monkfish

Before we proceed with actual cooking, it’s also important to know how to clean it properly. First, you have to remove the monkfish’s pink or gray-colored membranes and rinse them in cold water. This is not only because its veiny appearance is unappetizing to the eyes, but because these membranes will shrink around your fish. It will curl up and turn rubbery, making it hard to cook. And as lean meat, monkfish would dry out if overcooked in heat.

During the process of cooking, monkfish usually excrete a white fluid. You won’t notice it if you’re cooking the fish in soups, sauces, or with other liquid substances. But if you’re going for different cooking methods such as frying or grilling, soaking it in salted water for one hour and patting it dry with a paper towel or cloth would avoid the excretion of the fluid.

2. Cooking Monkfish

You can enjoy this seafood in various ways. Since it’s mildly sweet and doesn’t have a fishy taste unlike some other seafood, a simple grilled monkfish with lemon juice and olive oil can already produce so much flavor.

Monkfish’s lean meat absorbs flavor really well, so rubbing spices, herbs, and other marinades would be a perfect way to enhance the flavor of this meaty fish. If you want to fry your fish, make sure to wait until each side is cooked well before flipping.

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3. Monkfish Recipes to Try

  • Pan-Fried Monkfish – One of the simplest, yet most recommended ways, to actually prepare a monkfish fillet is through pan-frying. All you need are just some lemon and butter for the lobster-like taste of this fish to truly shine.
  • Monkfish Liver – Aside from the fish meat, you can also explore a unique way of eating monkfish with monkfish’s liver also known in Japanese as ankimo. This dish is served cold with spicy daikon radish and wakame seaweed.
  • Seafood Mocequa – Include chunks of your delicious monkfish in this stew recipe and serve it with a white wine cocktail on the side for a filling meal like no other. The flavors of the mixed seafood pairs perfectly with the cold and refreshing cocktail mix. 

How to Choose Fresh Monkfish

deboned monkfish fillet

You can usually find common cuts of deboned and deveined monkfish fillets in markets, same as those that are usually served in many restaurants. These are displayed in icy containers to keep them fresh at all times. Choose something firm in texture, with a white-colored flesh. You should avoid any fillets with discoloration, slimy texture, and foul odor.

True to its “poor man’s lobster” title, you can get your monkfish at a very affordable price, too. Monkfish price ranges from six to seven dollars for fillet cuts per pound. 

How to Store Monkfish

raw monkfish on a plate, storing raw monkfish

The shelf life of a monkfish, just like any other dish, would vary on its way of storage. You can directly store your raw monkfish in the fridge for one to two days. If you want to store it for a longer time, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in the freezer. If kept properly frozen, the fish will last for the next six to eight months. After thawing, it can last for another one to two days in the fridge.

It’s best to consume your fish the day you cooked it. But if you have some leftover, you can put it in an airtight container and it will still be good for up to three to four days in the fridge. 

Monkfish May Be Ugly But You Will Love It For Its Taste And Benefits

Monkfish’s exterior might look uninviting, but its health benefits, flavor, and lobster-like flesh are something you shouldn’t miss. Make sure you follow our recommended guide on how to choose a fresh cut and explore delicious recipes for this seafood devil. There’s no doubt it’s the “poor man’s lobster” as it will give you the taste of a fancy restaurant dish at the comfort of your own kitchen.


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