To most landlocked diners, a dish of fish tongues might sound slimy, tiny, and salty. But in Newfoundland, fried cod tongues are a delicacy. These appetizers, which have a flavor similar to scallops, are also not tongues at all.
Though this slightly rubbery snack looks like it might belong in the mouth of a monstrous cod, each “tongue” is actually a small muscle extracted from the back of the fish’s neck. Lightly battered and topped with salt, pepper, and scraps of pork called scrunchions, these fleshy bits of fish are transformed into a pricey appetizer that can be enjoyed throughout the coastal province.
But just decades ago, cod tongues were far from the revered treats they are today. Cod was once abundant in Labrador Sea, and most fishermen didn’t bother scooping out the neck muscle of their fish. It was often children who, in the hopes of making some extra pocket money, would parse through piles of chopped and discarded cod heads and remove the fleshy morsel. By the early 1990s, however, overfishing led to the near-extinction of local cod. The Canadian government placed a moratorium on commercial fishing off Newfoundland’s shores, leaving thousands jobless and even more cod-less.
Though several small fisheries have been established in recent years, cod is no longer the easily accessible seafare it once was. However, you can still taste Newfoundland’s most popular tongue, as long as you’re willing to fish out a few extra dollars for it.
Where to Try It
Fairmont Newfoundland115 Cavendish Square , St. John's , Newfoundland, A1C 5W8 , Canada
This upscale hotel has been known to feature cod tongues on the menu.