An Introduction to Seafood
It’s unsurprising that an area like New South Wales that is blessed with a beautiful stretch of bountiful coastline consequently also has some of the country’s best seafood, from prized Sydney rock oysters to fresh ocean-caught fish, writes Emiko Davies.
Sydney rock oysters, native to the eastern coast of Australia, are a star of the state’s local seafood offerings. Oyster farming, in fact, is the most important aquaculture industry in NSW, with an annual production worth 35 million dollars – nothing to sniff at. Shell middens along the NSW coast, some of which date back to ten thousand years, show that Sydney rock oysters have long been enjoyed as a favourite indigenous food too. In the late 19th century, the new European settlers began cultivating these delicious oysters and today’s farmed oysters are not only a good sustainable seafood choice, but a true gourmet delight. Smaller and sweeter than Pacific Oysters, which are an introduced species and considered a pest, a taste of fresh, local Sydney rock oysters should be on everyone’s bucket list.
With the growing demand for fresh oysters on the half shell – as opposed to oysters sitting in brine in a jar – attractiveness, including size and shape of the shells, as well as of course taste, has become more and more important and oyster farmers are meeting expectations, carefully cultivating cultures of single oysters and shucking with flair to retain the natural liquor of the oysters, all for this purpose.
Greenwell Point on the South Coast is a sleepy town not far from Nowra that has made a name for itself thanks to the delicious oysters that are produced here, in a spot where the mouth of the Crookhaven River meets the Tasman Sea. Here you can buy the freshest oysters, shucked on the spot, directly from the oyster farmers themselves. In their best season from January to June, Greenwell Point rock oysters are a large, sweet and creamy Sydney rock oyster that connoisseurs will love.
Jim Wild is one of the well-known oyster farmers of Greenwell Point – his claim to fame is holding a record as fastest oyster shucker, which may just be handy if you come for a visit as once you try oysters direct from his oyster hut, you’ll immediately want to come back for more.
Bed Rock Oysters is another Greenwell Point oyster farm that produces high grade oysters. It’s no small feat that they produce oysters favoured by some of the wonderful local South Coast and Southern Highland restaurants, from Jervis Bay to Bowral, all from a site that once was used only for jar oysters. It was run by Lyn and Rob Desoto until January 2013, when the business changed hands.
Another South Coast oyster worth trying out is Tathra Oysters. In the business of growing oysters since 1987, the Rodely family only sell Sydney rock oysters and have taken out over 130 awards, including most recently winning best produce in the From the Sea category of the delicious. Produce awards. They claim the secret to their outstanding oysters is their environment – grown in Nelsons Lake in the pristine Mimosa Rocks National Park, located on the southernmost part of the NSW South Coast not far from Bega, they are the only oysters farmed in the area. It’s a true local taste of this part of the coast.
With its temperate weather and a strong beach-going culture, NSW coastal life wouldn’t be the same without the local fish and chip shop serving fish fresh from the boat, where you can sit with your takeaway pack on the water’s edge, defending it from watchful seagulls.
A little further north along the coast, in Kiama, is the unmistakeable bright yellow signage of Kiama Fisheries, a small family-run seafood shop on the harbour that sell the goods directly from local fishermen. The benefit of the availability of fish such as snapper, trevally, oysters and prawns that are locally-sourced and seasonal, of course, is that they haven’t had to be transported very far and you’re looking at the freshest fish. They also sell bait and tackle for those wanting to fish their own.
There are similar fish markets up and down the coast, including the Fishermen’s Cooperatives at Wollongong, Newcastle, Ballina and Brunswick Head, which aim to provide the daily catch from local fishermen when possible. Usually with a cafe or picnic tables attached, they’re also the spot to enjoy freshly cooked fish and chips or buy some fresh local fish to cook yourself.
Meanwhile, Sydney itself is home to the largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere, the Sydney Fish Markets. Here, you’ll find Christie’s Seafood, a favourite of the likes of Neil Perry and Kylie Kwong, not only for the quality but also for the sustainable sourcing of their seafood. Offering a large range of fresh fish, including the Sydney market scene’s largest range of live seafood, they also have an oyster bar and will even cook your fish for you on the spot – from a simple fishermen’s basket to steamed crabs to noodle soup.
Also in Sydney is Martin’s Seafoods. Now located in Rozelle, Martin’s has been around for more than 30 years, supplying fresh goods from oyster farmers, fishermen’s cooperatives and fishermen – so if you can’t get to the source, this would be your next best bet. What sets them apart is a focus on quality and detail, preferring, for example, to source whole fish that have been caught on a day boat, head spiked (also known as ikejime, a Japanese technique that not only kills the fish humanely and immediately but preserves the best flavour) and ice slurried. Fish is also filleted dry, not rinsed or soaked, to protect the flavour. These are all things that ensure freshness and flavour in the fish. You can imagine why Sydney restaurants such as Tetsuya’s, Quay, Marque and Ormeggio and ACT’s Aubergine rely on Martin’s for their daily catch.
by Emiko Davies
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