Bake and Shark!

Shark & Bake is a beach snack introduced to me by Cheesler. He stumbled across it during his travels to Maracas beach in Trinidad years ago, and he has begged me since then to make it for him.

Bake and Shark

Based on my internet research, it can be either Shark & Bake or Bake & Shark.

Bake and Shark

I am partial to Bake & Shark because it sounds like “bacon shark”, which is hilarious.

bacon shark

If any of you are Trini or familiar with the ways of Maracas beach, do enlighten me.

Bake and Shark

Apparently, the secret to Trini cooking is an ingredient called chadon beni, also known as culantro.

Bake and Shark

It is vaguely related to cilantro in the genetic sense, but tastes about twice as powerful and looks completely different. It is a long-leaved green herb that almost looks like a wild leek (aka ramp).

Bake and Shark

The literal translation from the latin name is “foul-smelling thistle”. mmmm….

Bake and Shark

I perused many an ethnic food store in Toronto in search of this herb, and any time I asked for it I was given a blank stare and a dismissive shrug.

Bake and Shark

After my futile searches, I found it totally unexpectedly. I was in my favorite Vietnamese store in Guelph buying pork bellies for my home made bacon, when I spotted it.

Bake and Shark

The elusive foul thistle! Right there next to the cash register, in an impulse buy display! I asked the cashier if that was chadon beni and got the familiar blank stare.

Bake and Shark

“It’s like coriander,” she said. “But stronger. Use only a little bit.”

Bake and Shark

Success! I could not quite believe it. Right there in little Vietnam I had found caribbean culinary gold. I bought as much as I could, naturally, which only cost about $2.75.

Bake and Shark

Which is a good thing, because the recipes I used for Cheesler’s Shark & Bake extravaganza called for lots of it. So much for using “only a little bit”.

Bake and Shark

That, and a veritable ton of garlic.

Bake and Shark

The “shark” part of the sandwich is misleading in these circumstances. In Trinidad they use a local type of white fish or small shark that is abundant in their waters. As far as I know it is not a politically incorrect shark (as in shark fin soup). But I have never been there so don’t quote me on it.

Bake and Shark

Due to a distinct lack of fresh shark in my area, and for the purposes of this recipe, I stuck to a white fish I am familiar with…your good old, garden variety cod.

Bake and Shark

The bake part refers to the bread, I guess, which is a fluffy deep fried puff of yeast-leavened dough.

Bake and Shark

The true soul of the sandwich, however, is the plethora of condiments and toppings that are piled on and drizzled over the fried fish and puffed bread.

Bake and Shark

This is where the chadon beni comes in. It is in everything.

Bake and Shark

But somehow each sauce comes out tasting completely different. Some are spicy, some are herbaceous, some are sweet, and some are downright explosively garlicky. Yummmm.

Bake and Shark

Though he couldn’t enjoy it while basking in the sun and sand of Maracas beach, Cheesler was quite pleased with the outcome and gave his stamp of approval.

Bake and Shark

The only problem after all the sandwiches were gone was…what to do with all these leftover condiments?

Bake and Shark

Here are the recipes!

I highly recommend listening to Jump in the Line by Harry Belafonte while enjoying your Bake and Shark. You will not be able to resist dancing calypso, sandwich in hand!

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