The world’s best seafood.
AUSTRALIA is justly famous for its seafood but some things overseas are too good to ignore. These five treats show that the rest of the world can almost keep pace with us – and that great seafood seldom needs a great restaurant to make it special.
MAZARA DEL VALLO RED PRAWNS
These small red-shelled prawns that they pull deep from cold sea off Sicily are so sweet, so tender, that they’ll make you forget your name let alone your problems. Fleshier than the deep-water, sweet shrimp (amebi) caught off Hokkaido but just as sweet, they need little more than a splash of olive oil and a dot of salt to make them sing.
I once ate a kilo of them at Da Vittorio, a cute family-run restaurant close to where the prawns were landed. This orgy perfectly ended a 10-day love affair with them as I ate my way across the island. I still think of them as fondly as any great holiday romance.
SEA URCHIN TOAST AT SAISON
San Francisco is new-age foodie heaven and the 3-star Saison is one of its high altars. Chef Joshua Skenes tops a fat soldier of toasted sourdough with a cold tongue of Californian sea urchin roe, and then soaks the base in a warm emulsion of soy, brown butter and egg yolks.
It’s crunchy, oozy, rich, hot and cold all at the same time but not so much that the foamy, crashed-wave freshness of the sea urchin doesn’t shine through.
We raved so much about it that he subtly sent another wave of them out three courses further on through the degustation. It was just as good the second time.
FISH COOKED OVER COCONUT HUSKS ON LOMBOK BEACH
Lombok might be named after the chillies that grow everywhere but it has none of the international restaurant heat of neighbouring Bali. Not that it needs it when you can sit with the ocean lapping your toes, eating a small white snapper cooked whole over a flaring fire fed with the hairy husks of coconuts that have fallen from the palms that surround you.
RICE THIEF CRAB
The name says it all. This Korean dish of raw crab marinated in a soy sauce brine lightened with aromatics is so mind-numbingly moreish you’ll wonder where all the rice that’s served with it has gone.
Made with nothing more fancy than common horse crab, which is the most caught crab in the world, the secret is correctly balancing the marinade so it brings out a delicate, almost umami sweet-saltiness of the crab flesh.
Choosing female crabs for the best “ganjang gejang” means that there’s roe as well as rich tomalley to mash through the last of your (third) bowl of rice once you’ve finished sucking the soft flesh out of the legs.
The combination of fatty richness and raw fish is especially prized in Japan where the fattiest cuts of tuna command top dollar and blue fin belly is at the pinnacle of this price pyramid.
Known as o-toro in Japan, tuna belly is marbled pale pink, wonderfully creamy and melts on the tongue. It can be eaten as sashimi or blazed but I like it warmed marginally on a bed of sushi rice which accentuates that creaminess.
Given that Japan has cornered the market for tuna belly – the nation consumes 80 per cent of the world’s catch – Tokyo is the best place to get it even though much of it is actually imported from Australia and you will occasionally find it on the menus of the best Japanese places here.