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!!!
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.
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.
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!
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.