Seafood and summer go hand in hand. Not only is Christmas the ultimate seafood-centric holiday in Australia, but the refreshing and light qualities of seafood as a whole are the perfect foil for warmer weather.
Cooked prawns, cold oysters, and Barramundi fillets on the BBQ are absolute staples from December-February. But summer is the peak season for many other seafood species too, some lesser known!
In this article, Sydney Fish Market tour guide Alex Stollznow talks you through the best species to get on your plate this season: try these to make the most of high quality and low prices.
Tiger Flathead consistently lands in the top 3 species (by weight) traded through Sydney Fish Market’s auction, and its peak seasons are in December and February. These appropriately named bottom-dwelling marine fish have flat-triangular shaped heads and long tapering bodies, and are endemic to Australia.
Wild-caught, they are found mainly on the mid-continental shelf and upper slope in depths of 10-200m (sometimes as deep as 400m) and are caught off the south-eastern coast, including around Tasmania.
Tiger Flathead have a slightly sweet flavour, low oiliness and slightly dry, medium textured flesh with fine flakes. Our two favourite ways to cook Flathead are wrapped in banana leaves and baked or barbecued, like in this recipe, or battered for fish and chips (recipe here).
For such a premium table fish, the Goldband Snapper is yet to gain the reputation it deserves, particularly in southern Australia. Ranging across northern Australia from Perth to Brisbane, the bulk of our catch comes from the Northern Territory, West Australia, and Queensland’s tropics.
Goldband Snapper are generally mid-sized, with small whole fish weighing about a kilo and a half and larger fish well over 5kg. Smaller fish are often sold whole while the larger fish are usually filleted. This fish has a delicate, mild-medium flavour, low oiliness, and moist, firm flesh with large flakes and few bones, which are easily removed.
It is particularly amenable to grilling or roasting: try this recipe if you’re cooking it whole, and this one for fillets.
One of Australia’s most misunderstood fish, the Australian Salmon is named for its perceived visual similarities to Atlantic Salmon, which were observed by early settlers to Australia. It is, however, not a part of the “Salmonidae” family, but in fact a member of “Arripidae”, a family of salmon-shaped fish which occur only in Australian and New Zealand waters.
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 ensure optimal freshness, making for a clean, firm, meaty fillet that is excellent as crumbed fish pieces, minced in fish cakes, barbequed, or smoked.
We even have a video tutorial on our Facebook page that teaches you how to make delicious fried fish balls using this species… Check it out here!
Known in New Zealand as Red Moki, Banded Morwong have distinctive red and white stripes across their flanks, and are normally found around Tasmania. Their firm, flaky flesh has a distinctive, medium flavour, though is sometimes considered dry. To prevent the flesh from drying out, we recommend baking this fish in banana leaves or foil, such as in this recipe.
The size of this species also makes them ideal as an inexpensive centrepiece on your dinner table, and taste especially good when married with teriyaki, chilli, basil, and coconut milk. Try it in this recipe for a burst of flavour.
These estuarine cephalopods have mottled pinky-purple skin, long thin bodies, pointy side fins that run about half their body length, 8 shorter arms and 2 longer tentacles.
They are wild-caught in estuaries along the NSW coast, and tend to gather near the riverbed during the day, spreading out at night throughout the water and coming to the surface to feed. They are mainly caught by jigging (using lights to attract them to the water’s surface at night).
This tasty species works well being steamed, poached, deep-fried, pan-fried, stir-fried, baked, braised, grilled, barbecued, or raw (sashimi). To be tender, squid must be cooked very quickly over high heat or very slowly over low heat.
The flesh of the mantle, fins, arms and tentacles is suitable for a wide variety of preparations, whole tubes can be stuffed and baked, strips or rings can be dusted in seasoned flour and deep-fried, or marinated and char-grilled, or stir-fried. Bonus: The ink can be used to flavour and colour risotto or pasta (though Cuttlefish ink is traditionally used).
Available wild-caught and farmed, these marine crustaceans are closely related to Tropical Rock Lobsters. Found from the East coast of Australia all the way to WA, they shelter under rocks, on ledges and among coral to depths of 200m, although commonly 35-60m.
By far the most valuable commercial species in Australia (worth over half the value of total Australian finfish catch), they are caught mainly in pots and mostly exported live or frozen to Japan, Taiwan, or China.
These are a premium species and as such deserve a thoughtful approach. Whatever you do, make sure that the Rocklobster is the star! They are gorgeous as sashimi, in a salad, or in a pasta where the sauce is made by simmering and reducing the Rock Lobster shells and organs (video tutorial for this recipe here).
Our best tip for selecting a good specimen is to make sure that the shell is firm (this will indicate that the tail is full of meat). If cooking a lobster yourself sounds like a bit much, try one of these pre-prepared dishes from our retailers.