Catch of the day
As beautiful to eat as it is to look at, the luxurious coral trout has no problem attracting the attention of Anthony Huckstep.
Get the best from coral trout.
THEY SAY BEAUTY
is only skin deep, but when you’re talking coral trout, it goes far deeper than most. With bright, bursting red/ orange skin artfully dotted with pale-blue spots and a delicate blue eyeliner around its big, black eye, it’s one of the most beautiful species in Australian tropical waters.
But as all good chefs know, coral trout’s real beauty lies beneath the surface, where wonderfully wobbly, gelatinous, sweet, delicate flesh resides. It’s so good, it’s considered by many to be at the luxury end of a deep-blue diet, where lobsters, caviar and oysters are found.
“Coral trout is, without doubt, one of my all-time-favourite special-occasion fish!” exclaims fish-o-phile John Susman, of Fishtales seafood consultancy.
This bottom-dwelling beauty fossicks around inshore and coastal reefs and islands in Australia’s tropical waters from Northern Queensland across the NT and down the coast of WA to Shark Bay.
“Whilst the species is found throughout the world, Australian coral trout has a distinguishable characteristic in both its flesh texture and flavour, mostly to do with their diet of antipodean crabs, prawns and smaller fish,” says Susman.
“We have seen the industry transform when they discovered the live fish markets in Hong Kong and China and the domestic Chinatowns, as this fish has royal status through much of Asia. Fishermen were incentivised to really look after their catch so they could get the big bucks for live coral trout.” A by-product has been an uplift in the quality of not-so-live fish Down Under.
Once only seen north of the Tweed, coral trout is fast gaining super-premium status in the best Western dining rooms of the south, too, Susman adds. “And its availability means we can all enjoy this incredible fish.”
Its pearly white flesh has a density and almost meaty character that transforms to a light, clean flavour when cooked, and while its mild, sweet flavour is beautiful on its own, it provides a delicious flavour canvas, too. “I especially like it steamed with Asian ingredients like ginger, lime, spring onions and coconut,” says Susman. “Surprisingly, the almost leathery skin crisps up like duck skin when given the old fish-weight cooking technique. Serve it with fennel or a sharp saffron aioli and you’re in absolute heaven!”
Coral trout is one of John Susman’s “all-time-favourite special-occasion fish”. ‘Steamed coral trout tailil with almonds, pomegranate and prunes’. Find the recipe at delicious.com.au and in the Australian Fish & Seafood Cookbook (Murdoch Books, RRP $79.99), available in bookstores now.