Much like the fair maiden who wheeled her wheel-barrow through streets broad and narrow, I find myself touting the flavors ofÂ New Zealand’s cockles (well, oysters) and mussels.
Green-lipped mussels, easily identified by their unique dark brown or dark green color with a green â€œlip,â€ are a mainstay of New Zealandâ€™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.
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 atÂ 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 â€œchilly-binâ€â€”the NZ term for a coolerâ€”and then drove north to Central Otago.
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.
Steamed mussels, batter-fried oysters, and the sautÃ©ed whitebaitâ€”along with a leafy side saladâ€”were accompanied perfectly with a glass of white wine. We dug into our dinnerâ€”having to use just a bit of muscle and a spoon to separate mussels from shellsâ€”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.