The story of Lake Balaton’s fish dish
The story begins in the late sixties and early seventies when due to the substantial freshwater fish export of Hungary there was a shortage in bream which needed a replacement. That was when the “hake” or Merluccius merluccius made it’s way to the Hungarian plates. The Merluccius merluccius is a predatory fish, which is part of the Merlucciiade family of cod-like fishes. They are native to cold water in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In appearence the hake has a long body, a drawn head, with a mouth with sharp teeth that goes under the eyes, and its sides and back are grey, the abdomen is white-silver grey. It can weight up to 16 kg, and can grow as large as 1-1,6 meters long, and if it does not get caught young it can live as long as 14 years. Due to the fact that it’s way easier to pack and transport without it’s head, most of the people have the misunderstanding that what they eat is a fish from Lake Balaton, because they never see it whole. The name „hekk” most probably comes from the misheard english hake or the russian „xek” (khek) word.
To Hungary the Merluccius mostly arrives from Spain and Argentina. The European hake is very similar to the Argentine hake, which can be found in the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea, but due to overfishing of the population there, the fishing shifted to the above mentioned countries. As for cooking the hake or herring hake is wide spread. The fact that it has good quality meat, does not smell very fishy after a good wash, has a light flavour and does not fall apart during cooking makes it a preferred fish dish. Not to mention that it’s not very bony so it is a perfect choice for children as well. It can be prepared in many ways, either cooked or pan-fried or baked or grilled, a great fish dish can be made of it. In Hungary at the beach buffets it’s usually served fried, with pickles and fresh white bread or fries.
So here is the tale of the misunderstood Merluccius which is not a Lake Balaton fish at all however since the 1960’s there is no perfect summer holiday without eating it. We hope you have the chance to taste this very delicious fish as well.
All the best for the remaining summer (and for the coming autumn),