I spied the kingklip proudly perched above the routine seafood while searching for last night's dinner at the local market. It looked pink and fresh and, never having tried it before, made it the catch of the day.
A quick Google search for kingklip revealed:
This tasty and versatile import has yet to win a following outside of ethnic markets(Note to self: kingklip is very popular in ceviche.)
Kingklip possesses all the attributes that usually make a species a star in the U.S. market. With white, mildly flavored, firm meat, kingklip is a versatile fish that can stand up to grilling and frying as well as being chunked in a fish stew.
Yet the eel-like fish remains a niche product that is sold primarily to a Latin American market familiar with the fish from their home country.
Three varieties of kingklip are found in the waters of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South and Central America. Importers prefer the golden and red kingklip, which tend to be larger fish and yield fillets of between 1 and 4 pounds. A smaller, black-skinned variety has a darker flesh, smaller fillet size and a coarser texture. It is not as popular as golden and red kingklip because of its less appealing meat color and texture.
“We don’t sell that much of it compared to other fish, since not everyone is familiar with king-klip,” says Tampa store Manager Lidia Vlahakis. “But our [Latin] customers do buy it regularly.”
Buyers of kingklip say it is similar to grouper, and demand for it often jumps when grouper are in short supply, as happened in late 2004 when the domestic grouper fishery was closed.
“We will bring kingklip in when grouper gets tight and the price for grouper starts to go up,” says Robert Pidgeon, director of purchasing at Inland Seafood in Atlanta.
We wanted to get a good taste of the fish itself for the first time out, so the seasonings were minimal. The filet was gently seared on one side in grapeseed oil and butter, then flipped and poached in white wine, butter and lemon. Sauced with the reduced poaching liquid, it was accompanied by a green salad (with Cynthia's luscious lemon and thyme vinaigrette) and a crispy sweet potato-mushroom galette.
The kingklip was sturdy but tender with quite a nice texture, and the flavor was...bland. This fish needs some bold strokes in flavorings and preparation to bring it to life.
The sweet potato galette, on the other hand, was a tasty surprise: paper-thin chips of sweet potato topped with layers of sliced onion and mushrooms, cooked to crispy in a saute pan over medium heat and finished with a kiss from the broiler.
Sadly, I didn't make enough for seconds.