#33 | Catfish, Vegan Poke, and a Desert Dweller’s Guide to Sushi
We just want to take a moment to acknowledge Jim Wilson’s 1979 record, which stands to this day, for catching the biggest fish on record from New Mexico’s vast and mighty waters. The behemoth flathead catfish Wilson caught tipped the scales at no less than seventy-eight pounds and was about four feet long. On that fateful June day over four decades ago, a true water elephant emerged from Elephant Butte Lake.
Catfish, flathead or otherwise, didn’t make it into our fish issue, but we happen to be fans of these whiskered, bony-headed bottom-feeders (who, Wikipedia tells us, have a keen sense of smell and taste). We also have a soft spot for po-boys and have been on a slow-moving search for the tastiest (not necessarily the biggest) ones around. While we’re not about to tell you which one is “the best” (and we’re definitely not going to pinpoint the worst!), we can report that the catfish po-boy at K’Lynn’s Southern and Cajun Fusion in Rio Rancho is excellent—mostly, as it should be, because of the catfish itself. Ours had a touch of earthiness, but without verging into the muddier flavors that sometimes turn people away from the fish, balanced with the nuttiness of the cornmeal that dressed the moist, firm fillet—a simple, superlative sandwich finished off, in our case, with Louisiana hot sauce.
Whoever claims that a good poke can’t be vegan has likely never made the trip to La Finca Bowls in Albuquerque. The crunch of salty, house-made sweet potato chips, the balance of edamame and tangy chile-lime carrots and pickled onions, the perfect softness of beets and avocado and roasted sweet potatoes, all collide with the ponzu and spicy mayo to create a highly satisfying kaleidoscope of oranges and purples, yellows and greens, deep reds and soft pinks that bleed onto the rice at the bottom of the bowl, leave you full, and erase any lingering doubts about a seafood-free poke.
Entrances & Exits
The recently relocated from New Orleans Wolf ’n’ Swallow has been doing “subversive charcuterie” pop-ups at Still Spirits and other fine Albuquerque venues. We have not yet sampled their fare, but we respect that they make their own pickles, preserves, and spreads—and that they have found a way to make vegan boards as well as meat- and fish-driven ones.
Speaking of which: Lucky Goose is a still sorta new Albuquerque food truck that’s serving 100 percent plant-based fare—the sort for vegans who’ve been craving burgers and fried chicken.
In Santa Fe, SkyFire at Bishop’s Lodge recently welcomed the restaurant’s new executive chef, Pablo Peñalosa (originally of Mexico City, with distinguished culinary forays in Spain and Baja).
And, after much ado, Santa Fe Asian Market has opened at St. Michael’s Village West shopping center—which means that Santa Feans and those farther north will no longer have to trek to Albuquerque for oyster sauce, fish cakes, chicken feet, ramen, rice cookers, and whatever else shoppers ask to see on the shelves. Owner David Thianhlun also runs Sushi Avenue in Los Alamos, and to-go sushi is on the market’s future menu.
Santa Fe’s Plantita Vegan Bakery is having a pop-up sale on Lena Street today (that’s March 26) from 10am to noon. This means you can pick up vegan pies, cakes, bagels, empanadas, and other treats without preordering!
In case you missed it: today is the grand opening for the Middle Rio Grande Community Soil Health Lab, located at the Agri-Nature Center in Los Ranchos. Also today, Food is free Albuquerque is hosting a Seed Share at the Wheels Museum at Albuquerque’s Rail Yards.
Speaking of seeds: The Santa Fe Seed Library, located at Santa Fe Public Library’s Southside Branch, reopens today. And the Española Healing Foods Seed Library, housed in the Española Public Library, is open too.
Our very first issue, you may recall, concerned the taco. We talked tacos al pastor, vegan tacos, bibimbap tacos, Indian tacos, and El Parasol—but not fish. And we don’t eat them every day, but we do appreciate a good fish taco. Which is why we invited Maria Manuela to fish for tacos in Burque for our latest issue.
“Sticking to the urban centers of central and northern New Mexico, you’ll find that the days of one or two sushi options in Albuquerque and Santa Fe are long gone,” writes Ty Bannerman in “A Desert Dweller’s Guide to Sushi,” also in our latest issue.
“Mines played out, people moved on, boomtowns slumped, fell into disrepair, and became ghost towns. The forest grew thicker, tourists kept coming, and the Gila trout retreated to higher elevations.” So writes Ron Dungan in this 2020 New Mexico Magazine story on one of our state’s most cherished and resilient fish.