Grilled Barbecue Pacu Fish Ribs

August 25, 2008 14 Comments


Pacu Ribs

Pacu Fish Ribs

Every once in a while you come across something new in the culinary world that really surprises you because you’ve never heard of it before and it turns out to be incredible. This is what happened when we dined at Quahog’s Seafood Shack, a new restaurant in Stone Harbor, NJ that locals remember as Tridi Jo’s.

Quahog’s Seafood Shack is owned and operated by Argentina born Chef Lucas Manteca who also owns another Stone Harbor Restaurant that my wife and I dined at called Sea Salt. I’ll write about that experience another time. Quahog’s is a casual restaurant that welcomes kids, is named for the large hard clam and is all about seafood.

Among his most popular dishes are his soft shell crabs, Maine Lobster Roll, Cape May Salt Oysters and my entree, Pacu fish ribs.

While many local restaurants are serving salmon, swordfish or tuna, you’ll find sustainable fish like barramundi or escolar. Chef Lucas post grilled fish but what he serves each night changes depending on what’s fresh and available.

My wife shared the Lobster Bake with my youngest daughter and feasted on lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, potatoes and corn on the cob. They also served a tasty cole slaw that had a spicy flavor to it. Both of them thought it was excellent.

Quahog's Seafood Shack

The blackboard posting the daily specials listed Barbecued Pacu Ribs with coconut rice. When I asked our server for more information about Pacu and how they can be served as barbecued ribs, she told us Pacu is a Brazilian fresh water fish that grows to over 60 pounds. When she told us the ribs looked just liked pork barbecued ribs I knew I had to give them a try and I’m glad that I did.

They purchase their Pacu ribs from Samuels & Son Seafood Company so I looked up their web site and here is what they say, “Pacu grows very fast to very large sizes. They can eat almost any food, and are now being raised in huge fish farms throughout the world as a food fish, especially in Brazil.”

“The large and meaty pacu ribs, whether fired, grilled or barbecued on a spit are a unique, and highly appreciated delicacy. Whole pacu is normally prepared by oven baking or grilling on the barbecue.”

When our food arrived, I couldn’t believe how much the Pacu looked like barbecued ribs. They were stacked up on the plate the same way I’ve been served bbq ribs in restaurants. They were glazed with a rich barbecue sauce that had a hint of chipotle in it that gave it a tangy spiciness. What a great summer alternative to barbecue ribs.

When I took my first bite, I noticed the fish was meaty, tender and delicious.  If I remember correctly, there were three thin, flat bones per rib and the meat pulled off the bones with every bite.

Although the texture wasn’t exactly like meat ribs, Pacu comes pretty close. I don’t think you will find them in most fish markets, but you may want to ask your favorite fish monger if he can order you some.

I’ll see if I can interview  Chef Lucas and get some tips for cooking and maybe his recipe for barbecue sauce.



Last modified on Tue 4 September 2018 12:47 pm

Filed in: Fish Recipes

Comments (14)

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  1. Ed Paker says:

    I am very interested in the recipe for cooking Pacu ribs. I have 2 big pauc that spent last summer in my koi pond when they got too big for the aquarium in my office. I have had them in the house over winter and they will go back into the koi pond for spring and summer, at they rate they grow they should be eating size by fall.

  2. Adam says:

    Looks great!

  3. norberto di summo says:

    as a jungle junkie ,I was born and raised in the southern waters of the Parana’ River,where pacu, dorado (fresh water type), surubi, mandubi, sardin and pejerey(king fish)used to thrive.Unfortunately the fishery it’s not as good now due to pollution and dynamite fishing by our industries, brothers and neighboring countries. 40 years latter new laws are being implemented?. Pleeese! for these fish just use grain salt ,very little white pepper & fresh squeezed lemon juice.Just… taste the fish! Ok I’ll let you use chimichurry sauce to taste.

    Thanks norberto for the history and cooking suggestions. – RG

  4. natalie clive says:

    The first time I visited this blog, I can say: this blog rocks! Your writing is so inspiring. Thanks for sharing all here. My suggestion is: try to optimize more your blog, so more people will come and enjoy your posts.

  5. Chef Jay says:

    Its awesome! You provide such great information & gives idea most especially for moms. Thanks for posting. If you have the chance feel free to visit me back on my site to get more of my barbecue recipe.

    You are very welcome Chef Jay and thank you for your comments. – RG

  6. Weldon says:

    I had this dish in Lawrence, Kansas at a place called Teller’s (a former bank). It was so good I’ve been dying to make it myself. It was also served with coconut milk rice and I’ve found a place to order a 9 pound box from — on the rib. Did you discover the BBQ recipe? I plan to grill and want to get it right on cooking time. Thanks! This is a GREAT fish!

    I did not but I ate there again this summer and told the owner about my site. Maybe I can get them to send it to me. – RG

  7. Chef Gerry says:

    if you marinate the ribs with chipolte paste liquid smoke and coconut milk for a few hours it makes the meat so moist and tender. grill over a high flame wood grill is perfect to bring a great flavor to the meat and serve it with jicama and blood orange slaw with a caper lemon aoli. its the lobester of the fish world.

  8. Elbert Phillips says:

    I am looking for a recipe for paco paco ribs. Can any one help out, with recipe and supply source. I think this dish would go well in the coastal south. Thanks

    You must of just watched the Diners, Drive-in & Dives with Chef Carlos Barros from Quahog’s Seafood Shack. Great episode and yes I am a big fan of the restaurant. I’ll try to get an interview with Chef Carlos and ask him for the recipe but you can watch the show and figure out how he made the barbecue sauce. The question is where do you find Paco ribs? – RG

  9. Bjorn Flesaker says:

    I just bought 9 pounds of pacu ribs (the minimum quantity they will ship) from Marcomar: They shipped the ribs frozen in a styrofoam container via FedEx overnight. Fish + shipping to NY came to $110, which seems fair enough for an exotic product. The only slight complication was that I had to deposit the money into their bank account first, since they were not properly set up to accept credit cards. I imagine most of their business is wholesale, but they were happy to sell to me. I will now experiment with rib cooking!

    Hi Bjorn, thanks for sharing this information. I’m sure if anyone is interested in buying Pacu Ribs they can call the local fish distributor who sells to the restaurants and ask them if they will sell to them or ask your local fishmonger to order some for you from their distributor. One of the reasons I always say it is important to know your fish, meat, cheese and poultry people. Bjorn, please let me know how they turn out. – RG

  10. Bjorn Flesaker says:

    OK – I have now gathered some experience with the pacu ribs. They were the feature of one of several courses for a “seafood extravaganza” dinner party we gave (actually, sold, as a school fund raiser) this weekend, and they are really pretty good. I experimented with some of them ahead of time, and have by now broiled, sauteed, smoked and baked them. The main trick seems to be that the skin will be tough and “fishy” unless you apply high heat to it for a while. Since this is not really grilling season in NYC, my best results came from broiling with a brush of barbecue sauce (skin side up) and sauteing with a sprinkle of fresh thyme and rosemary. Smoking made for a nice tasting flesh but an unpleasant skin, which kind of defeats the purpose of eating it off the bones like pork ribs. The fish itself is relatively firm, moderately fatty, and fairly mild tasting (somewhere between bluefish and swordfish) and seems to take well to a variety of seasoning. Definitely worth trying!

    Hi Bjorn, thanks for the follow up on Pacu Ribs. Did you see the Diners, Drive-in & Dives with Chef Carlos Barros from Quahog’s Seafood Shack on television? You may be able to find it on On Demand if you have it. Chef Carlos marinates them in his Orange Barbecue sauce and then grills them. Appreciate all the information. – RG

  11. Bjorn Flesaker says:

    Yes, my awareness of and interest in pacu ribs can be entirely credited to Guy Fieri. I definitely buy the grilling idea, and at some future date I can see getting a batch during the time of year when we are not regularly getting inundated by snow and freezing rain. I really like y0ur web site btw. We have some things in common (11 year old daughters, a Wall Street history, an interest in making and eating good food), but I am way too lazy to do what you are doing. Keep it up!

    Thanks Bjorn and please give me updated with some of your great finds. – RG

  12. Bjorn Flesaker says:

    We just spent spring break in Argentina and Uruguay, and inadvertently ran into pacu central. After a 45 minutes commuter boat ride into the Parana delta from Tigre (close to Buenos Aires), we stopped for lunch at a rather unassuming open air cafe/restaurant. The menu contained the usual array of salads and grilled meats, but highlighted several variations of pacu. I had a grilled side of the fish, complete with a half face with piranha-like teeth and a sweet cheek. It was very good, and it separated nicely into a boneless fillet and a rack of ribs, which, when separated into pieces, looked much like the ones we have discussed above. No major revelations, but the fish was slightly smaller than I had envisioned (maybe 2 lbs), and the non-rib parts were at least as good as the ribs.

    Hi Bjorn, sounds like an amazing trip. Thank you for sharing your pacu experiences. I’m guessing not many people get to dine on fresh pacu at the source. – RG

  13. Greta says:

    This atrlcie achieved exactly what I wanted it to achieve.

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