Catch of the day
There’s a new fish on the block.
COBIA IS SOMEWHAT of a conundrum, albeit a delicious one. Is it a fish, a chicken or a duck? Well, it may seem neither fish nor fowl, but it is, in fact, a new hero of Australia’s aquaculture industry.
Sometimes known as black kingfish – which is confusing – it is a pelagic species (swims in the mid-level, neither at the bottom nor the shore) and has the external and flesh appearance of the yellowtail kingfish. But it is of no direct relation to one of our most popular eating fish.
Cobia actually belongs to the remora family – those crazy fish with the sucker on their heads that hang off the bottom of whale sharks, waiting for scraps after a feeding frenzy. But Cobia are no suckers. They’re fast, with a sleek dark-silver body, and roam the open oceans in tropical waters looking for a feed.
“It moves through the water like a stealth bomber; it reminds me of how great white sharks swim – frighteningly beautiful,” says fish fiend John Susman of Fishtales seafood consultants.
Lone wolves in the wild, they’re not so easy to catch, but here in Australia they are farmed by Maria Mitris-Honos at the Pacific Reef Farm, located on the edge of the Coral Sea at Ayr, in North Queensland. Mitris-Honos farms her cobia in sea-water ponds, where they grow a staggering 7kg in 18 months.
Like many aquaculture species, the farmed cobia is more consistent and bulletproof than the wild fish.
When raw, the firm white flesh is fresh, with light asparagus and iodine notes, finishing with a clean eggwhite characteristic, but what sets it apart from kingfish is evident when it’s cooked.
“Where the yellowtail kingfish carries fat through the muscle, which renders quickly and falls out on cooking, the cobia retains the fat in the muscle when cooked and is therefore more moist,” says Susman.
“I like to refer to it as a great ‘dad’ fish – it can be left on the barbecue for half a can of beer too long and won’t dry out!
“Plus its small scales don’t have the calcium content of other pelagics, which means it can be cooked with skin and scale on and crisp up like duck skin.”
Fish or fowl, cobia is a culinary star.