Tag Archives: seafood

Sydney rock oysters vs Pacific oysters

I’m not sure I have eaten Sydney rock oysters, certainly not in the last 10 years or so anyway. Here in Queensland, Pacific oysters are the commonly available variety. These are not a native oyster, but are extensively farmed, and are large and delicious. I have always eaten oysters ‘au naturel’ and have very pleasant memories of gathering them off rocks as a child and eating them fresh. I don’t know what variety they were, in New Zealand in the 60’s, possibly not Pacific oysters. But I digress…. Last week I had the opportunity to buy and try Pacific and Sydney Rock side by side and compare. I know a lot of New South Wales people claim that Sydney Rock Oysters are the best oysters in the world. Prices were similar per oyster, but the Pacific oysters (shown on the right) were almost twice the size.

The Pacific oyster was from Coffin Bay in South Australia, and as I bought them already opened, may have dehydratred and shrunk a little. Certainly for the size of the shell I expected a little more meat, but this is about quality, not quantity, right? I have to say, I wouldn’t mind at all being an oyster taste tester, I rarely buy them, and when I eat them I wonder why I don’t do it more often. I love oysters!!! So, to the taste comparison, Pacific oysters are beautiful, there is no argument from me on that, but I think the Sydney Rock oysters are a little sweeter. Not much in it, but I guess Sydney Rocks get my vote. So in the end it does get to quality vs quantity, and Pacific oysters are better value. And as for those people who say Sydney rock oysters are the worlds best?  Go try a fresh Bluff oyster from NZ!!!

Wildfoods festival Hokitika NZ

For someone interested in throwing all kinds of weird stuff down their throat like I am, the Wildfoods festival in New Zealand’s South Island seemed to be a ‘must visit’.  So for 2011 we made the effort, flew to Queenstown for a few days, then drove to Hokitika for the festival on March 12.

                       One of the first stalls encountered was the huhu grub stall

 Huhu grubs are the  larval stage of a native beetle. The huhu grubs live in rotting logs, and were being harvested from a wood pile in front of the stall. They were available fresh and alive from the log: 

or cooked:The live grubs were a bit leathery and popped when bitten, but the cooked grubs are delicious, crunchy with a sweet nutty flavour.

Seafood next, with a mix of delights in the platter.Kina (sea urchin) roe is an acquired taste which I love, the taste of the ocean, and I really enjoyed the shot.

The poor mans paua (abalone) and sea cucumber both had an oceany taste similar to the kina, but were rubbery.

Smoked eggs were something new to me, so I tried a raw egg shot. Manuka is a NZ tree (where manuka honey comes from) and the smoke imparts a strong, lovely flavour.

The manuka eggs were delicious, one of the highlights of the day.

Next up was pigs braun. I have eaten braun a long time ago, but I think back then it was made from the entire pigs head, this may have just been the brains. No matter, it was nice, maybe just not as dense and with less pork flavour.


                      Back onto the seafood with a couple of……um…..unusual delicacies?

                           Paua tit is the stomach of the NZ abalone (paua).

As paua eat only kelp (seaweed) which I like to chew on at the beach, I thought it would be okay, but I guess the digestive juices were doing their work and the taste was quite bitter, very similar to the Kaio which is a NZ sea squirt.

I ate these two one after the other so I’m not sure which one did it, but I had a bad taste in my mouth for some time. But hey, thats why we try these things. Definately the worst things I ate at the festival. I returned to this stall some time later and tried a seagull egg and a paua pattie.

 Seagull eggs are bigger than hens eggs, and these were hard boiled. The yolk tasted just like a normal egg, but the white was semi translucent, seemed to be in two layers, and I didn’t much like the texture of it. On the other hand, the paua fritter (and these are very popular in NZ) was spectacular, one of the stars of the festival for me. The nicest paua I have tasted in years.

Next it was into insects.

Scorpions (I had a raw one) had a strong unpleasant chemically flavour, maybe they were imported into NZ in ethanol, or maybe that’s what scorpions taste like.

I didn’t try a raw grasshopper, I can get them at home, but did try a chocolate coated huhu beetle from the crouching grasshopper stall.

They tasted like ….. chocolate, no discernable insect flavour at all, but like the scorpion, left my mouth full of crunchy bits of shell to dispose of.

Worm sushi and worms on toast were nice, but any worm flavour was overpowered by the other ingredients.

Next it was time for a drink and dessert.

Some people may be a bit turned off by the thought of colostrum, but it tastes like watered down milk. The worst part is putting on a silly hat, getting down on your knees and getting the shot squirted into your mouth. 

The mastitus mousse was strawberry, and again like light milk, but tasty and refreshing.

There were stalls with more mainstream foods, some of the yummiest pork belly I have ever eaten, a plate of beautiful tuna,

both raw and cooked. And all washed down with a glass of honey mead.

There were a lot of other choices, too many to eat, but one of the best was a West Coast icon, the white bait fritter.

Unlike most fish and chip shop whitebait fritters I have had in recent visits to NZ, these were more whitebait than egg batter. The way they should be, and absolutely delicious.

WARNING. If you have a weak stomach, it might pay to skip through the next part of the story. I wanted to go to Hokitika to challenge myself, eat outside my comfort zone and find out just how far I will go with extreme foods. I think I know now.

No prizes for guessing that these are sheep testicles or mountain oysters. Cooked with onion and pepper they were tender, moist and fairly mild in flavour.

I know they are considered a delicacy in some countries, but testicles are rarely eaten in Australia. I would certainly eat them again.

And the ultimate test of a cast iron stomach?

Yes, for the first time here, shots of horse semen! I heard about them a couple of weeks before the festival, so I had time to get used to the idea.

And thats yours truly shooting horse semen, au natural of course, not the flavoured variety.It surprisingly tasted not unlike milk. So after that, I think I can eat anything!  The stallion shot stall was very popular, but I think it was mainly people hanging around waiting for someone willing to try.  The festival was a great day out, if you can get there next year, do it. I sure hope to.

Eating limpets

I was at the beach today and decided to gather a few limpets. I have previously written about eating chitons and thought limpets may be similar. I know they are eaten in Italy, usually with pasta, so I thought I would cook and try a few. The local limpet is Cellana tramoserica, the Variegated Limpet, and is common on rocky foreshores here on the Sunshine Coast.

Limpets, like chitons, are quite difficult to get off the rocks, a thin blade and a quick action are necessary, once they clamp down on the rock they are nearly impossible to dislodge. I decided to just get half a dozen as I had no idea what they tasted like and I didn’t plan to cook them as a meal, only a taste. Just before cooking I removed the flesh from the shell by running a knife around the inside of the shell.  An Italian friend had given me a few tips on recipes which involved garlic, tomatoes, onions and wine, but I doubt I could have tasted the limpets, so I just quickly pan fried them.

The limpets tasted very much like mussels, which I love, and I think could be used as a substitute in many dishes. Unfortunately, similar to chitons, the feet of the limpets were quite rubbery, but not so bad as to be inedible. Perhaps a different cooking method might tenderise them. I will certainly eat them again.

Kina (sea urchin) and soft shell crab sushi

It’s a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to eat sea urchin roe (kina in NZ, uni in Japan). It is available occasionally here in Australia, in small frozen tubs from NZ, but it’s not at its best. So when I saw it on the menu at  freshsushico in the James St Market in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, naturally I tried it.

The hand roll contained sushi rice, a fairly generous amount of sea urchin roe and a slice of cucumber. This is definately a great way to eat kina! I can’t really descibe the flavour of kina, it tastes like the sea smells, sort of salty and maybe of iodine and a bit organic,  yet at the same time it doesn’t taste all that salty. It is actually quite sweet and the texture is creamy. I have heard it called the taste of the ocean, and I think that describes it perfectly. I think it is a food you either love or hate.

The second hand roll that caught my eye was soft shell crab. I have heard what a delicacy these are, and on my last trip to NZ I bought a couple at the supermarket and fried them in a pan. As you can see, I didn’t do a real good job of it, and the end result was a watery, almost flavourless crab. It’s always a bit of a problem when you don’t know what you are doing. Are soft shell crabs always like this? Did I get a bad one? Did my  preparation ruin a good crab? The only way to find out is to try them again, preferably cooked by someone who knows how. So here was my chance.     The crab was deep fried in a light batter, and then cut up and placed on the sushi rice with a few salmon eggs, some lettuce and a dribble of a tartare style sauce (a japanese equivalent?).

The result was amazing, and I now know why soft shell crab is considered such a delicacy. Slightly crispy and such a delicate crab flavour, it really is delicious, seafood at its very best, and on my must have again soon list.

I ordered the rolls to take away, the photos were taken on the bonnet of the car. The two rolls were served with a little pickled ginger (a favourite of mine),  and saschets of wasabi and kikkoman sauce.                                                                                I look forward to visiting freshsushico again and trying a few more of their masterpieces.

Little neck clams or cockles

As a child raised in New Zealand, I enjoyed gathering and eating cockles whenever we stayed at our bach (kiwi for beach house). I moved to Australia and never gave cockles a thought, but way too many years later, and just a few months ago, I found cooked, frozen NZ  littlenecks in a seafood shop. To say I got excited is an understatement, and I enjoyed my reunion with cockles that night and several times since. So naturally when we went to NZ in October and planned to spend a little time on the very south coast of the South Island, cockle hunting was on my list of things to do. On a cold windy morning on our way to visit cathedral caves, we stopped at Waikawa harbour and I struck cockle gold. The tide wasn’t out far enough, so I had to wade in ice cold water, but it was worth it (easy to say now). The numbers of baby cockles in the beds was staggering, I had read figures of 4500 per square metre, and now I believe it. Getting larger, eating size shellfish wasn’t quite as easy, possibly because of the tide. But I did get enough for a feed.

Boiled until the shells opened and then dipped in vinegar is my preference, maybe because that’s how we ate them all those years ago. The meat is sweet and very tender. This time some were also used in a claypot casserole with fish, a few vegetables and rice. Superb!

Fleurs Place, Moeraki, NZ

I try to make these posts about food that is unusual and not eaten by the majority of people that I know. This post features a restaurant and food that is unusual for a different reason, it is unusually good. We had heard about Fleurs Place before our recent trip to NZ, and research indicated it would be worth the detour north of Dunedin to visit. We were not disappointed, with the experience well and truly meeting our expectations. Fleurs Place is right on the waterfront on an old jetty, and serves fish straight off the fishing boats.

As seems to be the case in seafood shops in NZ, there is a large selection of fish species offered.

A delicious feed of Moki

and mouth watering fresh blue cod

The fish and vegetables were cooked to perfection, and a side dish of fresh asparagus and hollandaise sauce was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed the chowder, with Queen scallops, Green lipped mussels and Cockles (small necked clams).

The fabulous food, spectacular location and great atmosphere of the restaurant certainly made our detour well worth while.  Thanks Fleur.

Sushi rolls

I thought when I tried rollmops last week how nice they would be in sushi rolls, so last night I gave them a try. I have only made sushi rolls a couple of times, so my technique could use some improvement, but while they don’t look pretty   they certainly tasted great. Along with the rollmops I included combinations of carrot, cucumber, creamcheese, pickled ginger, spring onions, coriander and horse raddish sauce and a few with smoked salmon instead of rollmops.