Cockles And Mussels, Alive, Alive-O!

Much like the fair maiden who wheeled her wheel-barrow through streets broad and narrow, I find myself touting the flavors of  New Zealand’s cockles (well, oysters) and mussels.

New Zealand Green-lipped Mussels

Green-lipped mussels, easily identified by their unique dark brown or dark green color with a green “lip,” are a mainstay of New Zealand’s economy. There are tons of them–more than 140,000/year–available in NZ, valued at about 250 million $NZ. No need to worry about poisons; the mussel industry has to test for biotoxins and bacteria. If what people say is true, dining on these delicious morsels will help repair damaged joint tissues. We eat them with no higher aspiration than to enjoy every bite.

Bay of Islands

Lovely coves like this one found in the Bay of Islands on New Zealand’s North Island, provide the perfect places to harvest oysters.

Stopping in Dunedin at  Harbour Fish to make our purchases, we stocked up on oysters and mussels. On impulse we also bought a bag of frozen whitebait, out of season but still tasty. Whitebait are a tadpole-sized New Zealand fish, best served simmered in butter and garlic. We packed our seafood delicacies in an ice bag, which had to substitute for a “chilly-bin”—the NZ term for a cooler—and then drove north to Central Otago.

Harbour Fish, Dunedin
Lake Dunstan Motel with Dunstan Range in Background

Our favorite place to stay in this region is at the Lake Dunstan Motel in Cromwell, where we always rent a kitchenette a few blocks distant from the waterfront. The roses along the golf course that serves as our backyard view provide a lovely foreground to the Dunstan Range, but what really got us in gear to unpack the car and settle in was the thought of cooking up our seafood.

NZ Seafood: Green-lipped mussels, battered and fried Bluff Oysters. Oops, took the picture before the whitebait was on the table. I guess we'll have to go back.

Steamed mussels, batter-fried oysters, and the sautéed whitebait—along with a leafy side salad—were accompanied perfectly with a glass of white wine. We dug into our dinner—having to use just a bit of muscle and a spoon to separate mussels from shells—and thanked heaven for New Zealand’s delicacies from the sea.

Now lest you think all was play, I should say you’d be wrong. Fortifying ourselves with a healthy meal simply helped us to prepare for the days of work ahead in Central Otago, our region of study in the South Island of New Zealand. More on that in posts to come.

2 Responses

  1. Mom

    I found the fair maiden who likes cockels and shells and I set her face as my desktop. Pretty red roses too!
    Love you

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