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Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category

I LOVE oysters.  This is surprising because I hated them as a kid and when I tried my first raw oyster in the mid-90s (at the London Beer Show) , I got violently ill.  Instead of putting me off of oysters for life, I fell in love with them and even did an in-depth study on oysters and pearls in literature for a senior thesis at university.  No one loves oysters as much as my friend Jacqui, who can knock back more raw oysters than anyone I know.  Jacqui was also the friend who introduced me to some of the best oysters I ever had in my life, straight from Barilla Bay farm near Hobart, Tasmania.  We have gorgeous oysters in South Australia as well, especially from the Eyre Peninsula.  Just remember that oysters tend to spawn in the summer and if you happen to eat them in the summer, you may notice a creamier texture (which I do not like at all).  Most people would agree that they are at their best in the winter.

Japanese Fried Oyster

Japanese Fried Oyster

Deep-frying oysters is also delicious.  In Japanese restaurants you’ll often see it sold as “Oyster Fry” or Kaki Fry” (Kaki has a double meaning of both oyster and persimmon in Japanese).  The recipe is super easy and there is no measuring that needs to be done.

All you need to serve two portions:

– 12 to 16 oysters (depending on whether you are having it as a main or an appetizer)

– plain flour

– 1 to 2 eggs

– Japanese panko breadcrumbs (don’t substitute this)

– salt & pepper

– oil

– cabbage

– tonkatsu sauce  (Tasty Island Blog has a great post on tonkatsu sauce) http://tastyisland.wordpress.com/2008/01/13/tonkatsu-is-all-about-the-sauce/

Directions:

Shred cabbage very thinly by hand or with a mandolin.  Divide between serving plates.  It is meant to be eaten with the fried oysters.

Put raw oysters in a bowl and rinse with cold water (you can use salted water but I don’t think it’s necessary).  If you happen to have some grated daikon handy, you can also use the daikon to “rinse” the oysters and then rinse with cold water.  Pat dry with paper towels or tea towel.  Put about 1/2 cup of flour on one plate, a cup of panko on another plate and beat an egg (w/a couple of tablespoons of water) into a separate bowl. Meanwhile, start to heat the oil.

Season the oysters with a little salt and pepper.  Then get yourself situated so that the closest plate to the hot oil is the panko, then the egg, then the flour.  Roll as many oysters as you can into the flour to coat and before dunking them into the egg, dust off excess flour.  Once coated with egg, dip them immediately into the panko and dunk straight into the hot oil.  If you start running out of flour, egg or panko before finishing all the oysters, just simply add more to finish off.

If using a deep-fat fryer, fry until golden brown.  If using a shallow fry-pan, let oysters become golden brown on one side and turn over with cooking chopsticks or tongs until both sides are golden brown.  Let drain on paper towels. Serve with Japanese tonkatsu sauce and hot Japanese white rice.  I like to have miso soup with this as well to round it off to a complete meal.  🙂

Here is a link to another version of this dish from about.com:

http://japanesefood.about.com/od/seaweed/r/friedoyster.htm

Shredded Cabbage & Cucumber as Accompaniment to Oysters

Shredded Cabbage & Cucumber as Accompaniment to Oysters

Oysters Dusted in Flour Ready for the Egg

Oysters Dusted in Flour Ready for the Egg

Oysters Frying in Oil

Oysters Frying in Oil

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Walking in the Mud Flats

Walking in the Mud Flats

Rather Unattractive Shot

Rather Unattractive Shot

Walking Back to the Car

Walking Back to the Car in the Heat

Mud was almost a food deep in places

My leg was all scratched and cut up

Here are the Blue Swimmer crabs, our biggest bounty yet!

The bottom crab is legal sized and the top one is gigantic!

Yes, the title is about “raking” crabs…you haven’t read wrongly. It is a South Australian tradition to go to the coast (often where mangroves grow) and trek through thick muddy sand armed with some rakes (specially designed to catch crabs) and an old baby bathtub (or whatever plastic tub that size) in tow to put the crabs into. This type of crab fishing is very different to catching them by merely throwing a crab net overboard from a city beach jetty and waiting every few minutes to see if any crabs have crawled in to eat your bait. Crab raking on the other hand is far more rewarding BUT is so damn tiring and dirty that we have to think twice about it before we rush and do it again, especially now that the cold weather has already started to settle in.

We probably needed a few locals to help guide us and/or tell us beforehand what to except with crab raking. Trying to read fishing books or websites hardly gives any clues worthwhile so, armed with our crab rake and our bucket (we forgot our big tub), we decided to just head towards the beaches that are famed for crab raking. The first beach we got to, the water was so far away that you could barely see it – all you could see was sand because the tide was way out. So we headed north to try the next beach and it was a similar situation except it seemed like the water was nearer. There were three other cars parked on the sand so we just followed suit and started walking and walking and walking about 2 kilometres or so. Stupid me, I forgot to bring my sand shoes (reef walkers) so my Crocs were getting sucked into and stuck in the muddy sand. I then gave up walking in Crocs and decided that barefoot was the easiest way to walk in the nasty, smelly muddy sand. When we finally reached some water, it was only 6 to 10 inches deep and I couldn’t understand where we’d find crabs. So many times we questioned whether this was worth our time but two other small groups (very far away) were making lots of “woohoo, yeeha, yeeaahh” noises so we figured that they must be catching crabs.

All of a sudden, we started seeing crabs walking around and then another. We couldn’t figure out where the rake but then soon realized that they hide and dig themselves under very flat sandy patches. In once sandy patch, we found over 15 crabs!! Legally, they have to measure 11cm from the base of their longest spine across the carapace and we found so many large crabs there. Our largest was 17.5cm and it was amazing. I even stepped on a crab by accident and thrust it deeper into the sand. It truly freaked me out and I screamed because of the unexpectedness of a crab being under my feet. I then reached down and pulled the crab out of the depths of the mud and let that one go!

It is easy to get carried away with how far you are walking out to search for crabs and little do you know, you’ve walked another couple of kilometres out. Luckily my husband was the disciplined one and told me when it was time to go home. I’m glad he did that otherwise I am not sure I’d have had the strength to have walked all the way back to the car. The sand and constant rubbing on my legs started to take its toll on me. My legs were very raw and scratched up and I started to get sores that looked very disgusting. My husband was smart enough to bring his sand shoes so he was fine but I wasn’t so prepared. When we finally reached the car, my feet were all cut up and so were my legs and it was over 40C (104F) that day. Exhausted, we decided to drive to a beach near the city and take a dip in the sea to wash off all the mud and to cool down.

As soon as we got home, I knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked to borrow a huge pot so that I could cook the crabs. I seasoned the water with garlic, chillies, bay leaf, peppercorns, salt and brought it to a boil and dropped all the crabs in. I shared them with a friend and my neighbors and froze a few for later but that night, my husband and I ate one crab each (the biggest ones) for dinner and they were very, very satisfying!! After all the pain, it was worth it…just.

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Digging for Cockles


When it comes to finding food in the wild, I can actually surprise myself when the findings are great. Sometimes, it seems as though I have the metal detecting version of food finding and my eyes are able to highlight (as if in fluorescent green) fruit growing on an abandoned tree by the side of the road as if yelling to me to pick them and to create something amazing. A couple of weeks ago on a long weekend getaway to the Yorke Peninsula (about 2.5 hr drive from here), we were invited to stay at a beach shack with some friends. This tiny community is practically in the middle of nowhere and the beach was not that enticing because it was thick with sea grass debris everywhere. Just as we were packing our cars to leave, I decided to take a walk to the ocean. When I got there, I noticed that there were quite a few WHOLE, LIVE cockles (clams in N. America) all over the place. Usually there are tons of shells that are empty but these cockles were definitely live and nice and heavy for their size. So I dug under the sand, near the grassy bits (where they usually hide) and came with fistfuls of these wonderful cockles which are often called vongole (Italian) in the fish markets here. I was in absolute
heaven with my discovery and was soon filling a quarter of my bucket with them. I couldn’t wait to get them home to make spaghetti con vongole for dinner.

As soon as we got home, I rinsed them very very well, repeated with water and scrubbed a few of them that looked like they had a healthy colony of algae growing on them. Meanwhile, I started to boil the water for the pasta and I sauteed the vongole with some olive oil and butter (I like both) and garlic, white wine, chillies, basil, flat leaf parsley and garnished with fresh Parmesan. The cockles were absolutely tender and about the least sandy cockles I’d ever eaten in my life.

The next day, I decided to prepare them completely differently. I made homemade miso soup with tofu and threw in the cockles and ate a huge bowl of it with hot rice. The slightly briny flavour of the cockles mixed with the salty, umami of miso is heaven and not to mention, plenty of minerals and very good for you. 😉

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Crab Season

Catching Crabs with a Crab Net

Most fishing experts claim that it’s best to go crabbing during the months with a “r” in it here in South Australia although crabs can supposedly be caught all year round. Judging by our crabbing luck, I believe in the fishermen’s advice. Blue Swimmer (Portunus pelagicus) crabs are the species that everyone here looks for – they are small compared to the Dungeness crabs (Cancer magister) that I was used to in San Francisco and all up the Pacific Northwest but they are still very tasty. The meat is sweet and delicate and is very tasty when tossed with some pasta, olive oil, garlic, chillies and freshly grated Parmesan. Although you can buy crabs in the markets here, it is so much more fun and rewarding when you go through the effort of catching them yourselves.

I also believe that if you find food growing in unexpected places such as on a tree, growing wild by the side of the highway or digging up clams on a beach that you never even been to before, the sheer excitement of finding food either by fishing or simply stumbling upon it in unexpected places makes me giddy like a small child. You will hear of many entries where I search for food in my neighbourhood or while on my many road trips. Bon appetite!

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