As we emerge from the chill of winter and launch into spring, many Australian seafood species come into delicious and abundant form. In this article, Sydney Fish Market tour guide Alex Stollznow runs us through some of his top species picks for spring – from the common to the lesser-known!
These little guys are all wild caught across the entire southern half of Australia. One of the nation’s best sources of Omega-3, this species is loved worldwide. Forming large schools in the ocean, Sardines are generally caught by a range of methods that target them specifically. Not only does this eliminate bycatch, but also helps to keep this species low-priced. Usually sold either whole or as fillets, make sure to work with the rich oiliness of this fish when you cook it. Flavours such as lemon, garlic, and punchy herbs are ideal.
The next time someone tells you that a fish is inedible, ask them if they’ve tried it before. Because this species is one of the strongest examples of the gulf between its reputation and actual eating quality. This is a fish that responds particularly well to proper handling methods such as brain spiking, bleeding, and placing in an ice slurry as quickly as possible. Good handling methods make for a clean, firm, meaty fillet that is excellent as crumbed fish pieces, minced in fish cakes, barbequed, smoked, or even as sashimi.
No longer the ugly duckling of the Dory family, the Mirror Dory remains one of our go-to Dory species. Caught in Australia’s South East Fishery, Mirror Dory live from 50-600 metres deep, with large protrusible mouths that enable a diverse diet. In winter the fillets thicken, the roe develops, and finger-thick seams of fat are deposited between the fillet and the bones, and these qualities continue into the beginning of Spring.
Due to the abundance of this species and the ease with which it can be caught, this is typically a low-priced fish. On a day when John Dory fillets sell for $40-$50/kg, Mirror Dory will retail for closer to $15/kg. Thanks to the fat, the fillets pan-fry or roast particularly well.
We can’t rave enough about Spanner Crab. Although this species is found in many countries, and highly prized in almost all of them, Australians are yet to fall in love. The last surviving member of a long-extinct family, it’s a strange looking crab. A vivid red-orange shell when live immediately distinguishes it from other crabs. The strange body shape and skinny, spanner-like claws complete the odd ensemble.
But beneath all the unconventionality is arguably the finest meat of all crustaceans. It’s light, sweet, fragrant, and, coming out of winter and into spring, gets fat! Cook it how you would any other crab. Buy whole, blanche, and quarter for stir-frying, steam whole and crack open for the natural experience, or clean the meat out of the shell for a world class pasta. Be sure to use the last of the flavour in the shell and organs - a bisque is perfect.
Blue (Threadfin) Salmon
What lives where Barramundi lives, eats what Barramundi eats, but tastes better? Ok, there are actually a few right answers to that, but for now, we’re talking about the Blue Threadfin Salmon. They are easily identified by their ‘free sensory filaments’, hence the name threadfin, that protrude from the base of their pectoral fins, and are used to rummage through dirty water and muddy substrata in order to find their favourite foods, chiefly being crabs, worms, prawns, and small fish. It is this diet that makes their flavour so pleasant, by contributing to the light layer of fat through the belly and the succulent flavour and texture of the flesh.
This is a versatile meat to cook, and responds to a variety of cuisines and techniques, so feel free to experiment.