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.

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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.

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