Shark — that’s what’s for dinner.

retirednoway, Shark, Curry, Baler, Aurora

What species is this? The market vendor had three baby sharks. I bought the largest specimen. The three sharks were juveniles and clearly needed to grow some more to reproductive age. Obviously, that didn’t happen so the number of sharks available to try to reproduce more sharks for the next generation was permanently reduced by three. That’s how extinction works. Things happen in slow motion. This one was the largest at 800 centimeters in length and 2.5 kilos in weight.

Shark, that’s what’s for dinner.

Last weekend, I was in the public market of the town of Baler in the province of Aurora. My brother and I came across this baby shark in the market. It weighed 2.5 kilos and I bought it for Php 250.We were upset that it was still a baby but it was fresh so I bought it.

Tip: To retard decomposition, ask the vendor to remove the guts and gills of the fish. This is true for any fish, not just sharks. Removing the guts (the entire digestive system and fish organs) and gills eliminate most of the harmful microbes in the fish’s body. Your gutted fish will stay fresh longer.

What to do when the flesh smells of ammonia

I had tasted shark many years ago and was put off by the ammonia smell of the cooked shark. That happened because the shark we ate wasn’t fresh anymore when it was cooked. “The ammonia-like smell is because the fish is not fresh. It is a product of decomposition. Don’t eat it if it smells like that. It might not make you sick, but then again it might. Why risk it or have an unpleasant experience? Fish should have only a briny aroma of the sea. If it has a fishy smell from being in plastic, briefly rinse in fresh water. If the fishy smell persists or is strong, take it back and demand a refund. For that reason, it’s best to cook fish the same day you buy it.”


Shark fins are why sharks are killed.

When I bought the shark, its fins had already been cut off. It’s because of the fins that the Filipino fishermen who netted this shark did not release it. Marine product traders (of the kind that buy and sell sea cucumbers) buy shark fins from fishermen. These shark fins are bound for the Chinese market where they’re used for both food and medicine. I blogged about the market for shark fins previously. My post even has pictures of the fins of adult sharks — large ones. Click here.

I’m very much against the practice of shark-finning. All of these sharks are being killed solely for their fins and it’s because of the shark fin soup. I’d rather see that soup stop being served than see sharks become extinct.

Shark curry in coconut milk.

I checked around for shark recipes on the internet and decided to go with an Indian recipe that sautéed the chunks in a sauce made with onion, tomato, and curry mixed in coconut milk. Golden brown potatoes and green shallots completed the dish. I had an assistant, Gina, to help me make this dish.

It was delicious. Sharks don’t have bones; they only have cartilage. Therefore, shark meat doesn’t have fish bones and that made it easier to eat.

My mother, who was fearful of eating shark, in case it bites her ;-), remarked that you wouldn’t know it was shark (from eating it) unless you were told it was.

Bon appétit!

retirednoway, Baler, Aurora, Shark, Curry

The skin was so tough and strongly bound to the flesh that it pulled a lot of flesh with it. I had to slice off the flesh by hand. The flesh in the center is where the fishermen sliced off the fin.

retirednoway, Aurora, Baler, Gata, Coconut Milk

The skin was so tough and strongly bound to the flesh that it pulled a lot of flesh with it. I had to slice off the flesh by hand. The flesh in the center is where the fishermen sliced off the fin.

retirednoway, Aurora, Baler, Shark, Curry

This was all the meat we could get from the front half of the shark. Total weight: almost a kilo.

retirednoway, Aurora, Baler, Shark, Curry

The skin’s on the left. The head’s on the right. Note the cartilage framework of the shark. (Sharks don’t have bones, they have cartilages.)

retirednoway, Shark, Curry, Aurora, Baler

Shark skins are very tough. Apparently sharks are born with tough skin as even baby sharks have them. I was able to excavate the meat beneath the skin without tearing the skin. I was using a knife and fork.

retirednoway, Shark, Curry, Aurora, Baler

Saute-ing the chunks of shark meat.

retirednoway, Shark, Curry, Aurora, Baler

Shark meat on top and the sauce at the bottom.

retirednoway, Shark, Curry, Aurora, Baler

Pouring the gata (or coconut milk) into the cooking pan.

retirednoway, Shark, Curry, Gata, Coconut Milk, Aurora, Baler

Shark curry almost done. Now add potatoes and green shallots and we’re done!

Shark Curry07

Potatoes–first fried–were added at the end.

retirednoway, Shark, Curry, Gata, Coconut Milk, Aurora, Baler



10 responses to “Shark — that’s what’s for dinner.

  1. James Martinez

    Looks good, Cooper!


  2. Carrie de Vera Torres

    Great story. Thank you for the information, Cooper. I can imagine how delicious it would have been. I love gata! Did it taste like “chicken”? Like what they all say when eating new things.


    • Hi Carrie:

      Thanks. Lol, I was on the lookout for that, whether it would taste like chicken, but it didn’t. Crocodile did, when I tasted it at the Crocodile Farm in Puerto Princesa.

      Shark flesh is firm, even firmer than the meat of billfish like Marlin and Swordfish. Its flavor was mild and what you tasted was the curry, the trimmings (onion, tomato) and the coconut milk.

      The meat was first sautéed with onions (but no garlic). It was returned to the pan a second time, near the final step, in time to receive a bath of coconut milk.

      I still have the shark’s lower half. I’m going to prepare it for my daughter’s arrival next week.

      Shark, Liz, shark. That’s what’s for dinner. 😉


  3. Liz is your daughter, isn’t she?


  4. Those pictures are intense. I’m against the fishing of sharks. They are mostly killed for their fins. Unfortunately, they’re quickly becoming endangered. Sharks inhabited this planet before dinosaurs came around.


  5. Hi Alex,
    I stumbled upon your blog while searching info on spearfishing in Palawan. I’ll spend a week in PP/ EL Nido within 2 weeks, could you please give me some information about spearfishing in the area? I couldn’t find a club/association on the internet! I use to hunt in Andanlusia (South of Spain) since I’m a child. I’m french by the way!


    • Hi Baptiste,

      I’m happy to give you my feedback. Palawan is mostly fished out. When local fishermen refer to the “la-ut,” they figuratively refer to their best hunting ground. Every year, for the past 10 years, that la-ut has been steadily getting farther and farther. The la-ut for decent-size tuna is now 48 hours from the west coast of Palawan. Spearfishing is poor around Palawan I’m afraid. In Puerto Princesa Bay, near its mouth, I witnessed small (600- to 800-gram) groupers being spearfished at 20-meters of depth. The largest one bagged on my speargun (not by me but by my Badjao companion) was 900-grams, a Unicornfish speared just past the intertidal zone that surrounds Puerto Princesa Bay and runs north up to Honda Bay.

      So the area around Puerto Princesa (PP) is fished out. Read my posts about the bay. There’s one about the shape of the bay, the mouth of the bay, the seahorses caught inside the bay. Good stuff.

      I’ve freedove in El Nido. The water is a healthy-looking blue. The boatmen have learned to collect their cigarette butts and not just flick them into the sea. The fish there are larger and in more quantity but there’s a marine conservation effort there and I recommend you don’t spearfish there. Let them re-establish the fish there. I’m afraid that you can’t make spearfishing primary in Philippine waters. It’s really too bad but many areas have been fished out. But do come because the Philippines has many charms and it is inexpensive.


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