As we enter the chilly winter months, we asked Tour Guide Alex Stollznow to talk us through the best seafood species to buy in Winter. Not only will paying attention to seasonality get you the tastiest seafood, but it will often save you some money too!
We’re kicking off this list with an Aussie favourite, prawns! King Prawns are one of the biggest types of prawn (some can even grow up to 30cm in length!), and are generally wild-caught from estuaries and the ocean all around Australia. Like all seafood, prawns require very little cooking, and it is always best to undercook rather than overcook them, lest they become tough.
In summer, cooked King Prawns are the perfect specimens for just peeling open and eating them cold. However, in cooler weather, you’ll be more likely to cook them yourself into a cosy dish. Our suggestions are either these warm Steamed Prawn Dumplings, or these tasty Stir-fried Ginger and Honey Prawns (add chilli flakes for some extra heat!).
Blue and Silver Warehou
Part of the Trevalla family, Blue and Silver Warehou flourish in the winter months. They are generally sold whole (gilled and gutted), and as fillets, and usually skinned. Because this species are on the fatter side, they yield thick fillets, and have a medium to low oil content, making them beautifully suited to both baking, and being battered and deep-fried.
Silver Warehou are targeted by trawlers and caught in large numbers, both of which are fantastic traits to keep the price down; they are usually priced in the low teens per kilo, making them a great family feed.
Try this super easy recipe, which also makes use of seasonal vegetables: Silver Warehou Fillets Baked with Winter Vegetables and Horseradish Cream.
Tailor (aka Bluefish) is one of the most popular recreational fishing species along the west coast of Australia, named for their ability to cut through fishing nets with their razor-sharp teeth! While there is only a small commercial industry for this fish in Australia, you should still be able to get your hands on it if you ask your fishmonger.
They live in large schools and feed aggressively on mostly small baitfish, which impart an evenly distributed oil throughout the flesh. This is a species that benefits from proper handling, and as most Tailor are line-caught, this has become standard practice.
With a rich, strong flavour, Tailor’s high oil content makes it ideal for cooking methods that use high, direct heat (think grilling or BBQ-ing). Ideal flavours to go with this species include tomato, oregano, basil, thyme, fennel, citrus and balsamic.
Grey Mackerel is our top pick as the next of the Tropical Mackerel family to make a name for themselves. This species lives in the warmer waters of Northern Australia, with four distinct populations spanning territory from WA to Northern NSW, with the bulk caught in QLD and the NT.
As indicated by their narrow mouth and sharp, fine teeth, this fish predominantly feeds on baitfish. This gives the thick fillets a rich oiliness perfect for winter eating, and allowing for a huge variety of cooking methods. Try marinating cutlets and pan-frying, like in this Moroccan-style recipe, or placing large pieces in a vibrantly-flavoured curry like this one.
These appropriately-named bottom-dwelling marine fish have a flat, triangular shaped head and long, tapering body. Wild-caught, they are found mainly on the continental shelf and upper slope, at depths of about 70-490m, and are caught by trawling off southern WA and in the Great Australian Bight.
Closely related to Tiger Flathead (but lacking their distinctive spots), Deepwater Flathead has a slightly sweet flavour, low oiliness and slightly dry, medium textured flesh with fine flakes. For winter, throw this fish into a warm Bouillabaisse, or make your own battered fish and chips of a weekend!
Trumpeter Whiting is known by fishers as Winter Whiting, making the species a perfect fit for this list! Comfortably one of Australia’s sweetest fish, they are caught by estuary haulers and seine netters in inshore waters, and as a trawl bycatch further out to sea. They prefer muddy bottoms (as opposed to sand or reef) that allow them to feed on a variety of prey, such as small crustaceans, polychaete worms, bivalves, and small fish.
Though highly regarded as table fish, their abundance and ease of capture allows this fish to remain low-priced, with whole fish usually available for $8-12/kg. Trumpeter Whiting can be filleted, but we recommend that they be cooked whole - whether that’s steamed, wrapped in foil, or deep-fried like chicken wings. You won’t need to adorn this fish too heavily: let the flavours speak for themselves.
There is often controversy around Orange Roughy as a species, as they were heavily exploited in the 1980’s, leading to focused attention by scientists to understand the stock biology and manage a recovery. Unlike many other fish species, Orange Roughy reach reproductive maturity at 27-32 years of age, meaning that extensive fisheries management programs have had to be introduced in Australia (including catch limits, spatial closures, reporting and monitoring, and regular assessments) to ensure that the catches are sustainable.
As a result, customers can be reassured that any Australian Orange Roughy you see in a fishmonger has been caught in a fishery that is managed within strict regulations.
These fish work beautifully in wintery recipes, such as this Baked Whole Fish with Olive and Walnut Stuffing, or with this Coconut Curry Sauce.
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. So, yet another species that will work well in a warm winter curry!