Wednesday, 18 March 2009

What do the Aussies put in their fish?

One of our major "must do" things while we were in Australia is to check out their fish market.
Ever since my Mum visited my aunt and uncle in Sydney, I'll never forget her talking about the fish market - how they'd buy some fish and eat it there in the same place. Will it really live up to our high expectations given that we're used to see great markets like La Boqueria?
The answer was sort of..

The variety was amazing, a lot of varieties of fish that we know back home but different - like New Zealand green-lipped mussels (mmm, go figure that I'd be interested in them!), Sydney bay oysters and a number of different catfish and snapper. However, what shocked us more than anything was the price - how can monkfish be selling at $27 a kilo, that's just €13.50! Our prices start around 27€, so there must be a catch.

We couldn't help but wondering why, if the fish is so cheap, don't the Aussies spend all there time at the fish market (it was empty apart from the usual Japanese tourists)? The place had a run-down feeling and my uncle told us that they weren't quite sure what to do with it, as
it was outdated now, they had problems keeping the fish during their summer with its high temperatures, and it seemed that no one (apart from the Japanese who would go wild over the tuna - every fish stand served ready-to-eat sushi) went there to buy.

There doesn't seem to be much clue about how to cook fish (especially in our Aussies' house - fish is "ew, yuck, it smells so fishy" word). E couldn't understand why anyone would want to serve mussels in coconut cream.
So the challenge for us was to present it so that even my picky cousins would try it. Tough challenge, given the variety of fish, but we reckoned that we had to narrow it down to the more meaty fish - Monkfish, cuttlefish, fresh red tuna, and some of the Sydney bay oysters just for us, as it was unlikely that any one else would try. My uncle was delighted at the thought that someone else would encourage the rest of the family to try new things.
As usual, E donned his chef's hat and started preparing the perfectly cleaned fish (no heads or bones here!) - the plan was simple: grilled tuna with a dash of salt and pepper, deep fried monkfish, beer-battered cuttlefish and oysters au naturel.
I think the fact of seeing someone *cooking* in the kitchen made my cousin take on an adventurous spirit and he even tried an oyster although wasn't too enamoured although the comment was "it's not bad..". First, challenge past with success.
How about the rest of the family? Well, I won't bore you with the details but I think it went down well, even with my extremely picky aunt (it's not surprising that the rest of the family as turned out suspicious of new food!). There's nothing that gives me more satisfaction than when we convince someone to try something new that they've never ventured to try before and find that they actually like it!

Getting back to the fish - we found out why it was so cheap. It's not that it's bad fish, just rather insipid when you compare it to Mediterranean fish (which has a higher salt content). So no wonder everyone dares to spice it up with chilli (chilli squid, chilli fish, chilli mussels - everything gets a health dose of chilli)!

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