Alaskan butterfish? What was really served to the Chinese VP?

February 17, 2012 

Ming Tsai

CHARLES DHARAPAK / AP PHOTO

Boston-area celebrity chef Ming Tsai appears to be on a campaign to rename Alaska sablefish (also known as black cod). The common name of the North Pacific delicacy -- it could be called buttery -- just doesn't roll off the tongue as well as "butterfish," the owner of the Blue Ginger restaurant has said. The problem is, sablefish isn't one of the eight species the FDA allows to be labeled butterfish, reports the Boston Globe.

The latest example of Tsai's renaming came during a State Department lunch in Washington for the visiting vice president of China. In attendance were Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton. Tsai served "Soy Marinated Alaskan Butterfish."

From the Globe:

It was a take-off on the signature Miso-Sake Alaskan Butterfish Tsai serves at his restaurant.

But as the Globe reported last fall after a five-month investigation into fish mislabeling, the silky fillet on the menu at Blue Ginger at that time was actually sablefish. ... And as it turns out, sablefish was served at Tuesday's luncheon at the State Department, according to Alan Eisner, a spokesman for Tsai.

"The goal was to show off American products, and Alaskan butterfish is what Ming came up with. It sounded a lot better than Alaskan sablefish. But it was sablefish," Eisner said.

After last fall's Globe article, Tsai promised to change the dish's name.

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