The surubim, the giant catfish of South America's great rivers, is again the culinary delight of the Puente Remanso river market, where many Paraguayans are pouring in to savor its rich flesh after an almost two-month closed season.

The return of open season on Dec. 20 was the opening bell for stores and restaurants to resume sales in this busy market on the banks of the Paraguay River, where the surubim can again be enjoyed in four basic presentations.

"This fish is unique, it has no fat and allows many combinations - as fish stew or soup, in a casserole or as an escalope," Noelia Duarte, the chef at Las Delicias, told Efe.

Las Delicias is the oldest restaurant in the market and is located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Asuncion.

To the uninitiated who wish to experience the tasty surubim flavors, Duarte recommends that they sit down and try the casserole, similar to the stew but with the difference that it contains peas.

"The secret is to make it in a ceramic casserole and season it with garlic, onion, tomato, oregano, cheese, peas and parsley. Then you add the surubim cut into serving-sized pieces and add a little cream," Duarte said.

When dished up, the surubim looks nothing like the colossal nocturnal scavenger with the ugly, threatening aspect it shares with all its cousins in the catfish family.

It arrives with that fierce appearance at the market of direct sales at Puente Remanso, which gets its name from the imposing bridge (puente) 1.5 kilometers (almost 1 mile) long that crosses the Paraguay River.

There the surubim is sold to customers for 40,000 guaranis per kilo ($4 a pound).

Most of the catches in the market come from the Paraguayan part of the Parana River where it merges with the Paraguay River, and principally from the port of the city of Pilar, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Asuncion. EFE