Friday, June 18, 2010

The King of Salmon

On a recent trip to New Zealand I tasted New Zealand King Salmon and to my delight have discovered that not only is King Salmon (also known as Regal Salmon) the salmon of choice for many top restaurants but it has recently hit the Sydney Fish Market’s auction floor and is available at de Costi, Aldi, IGA stores in NSW, Victoria and Queensland as well as specialist food shops and fishmongers.

Comparable in price to local salmon, it is higher in healthy Omega-3 fat which makes it difficult to overcook and has vitamins and minerals that promote good health. Fantastic as sashimi, it is available year round as whole and portioned fish, cold smoked, wood roasted and as dips and caviar. It has clean, green credentials being grown in the remote pristine waters of the Marlborough Sounds in the South Island of New Zealand without any chemicals or medicines.

Back to my trip … we were taken on a fascinating tour of the farm and my overriding thoughts were pristine and pure. The farm is compliant to robust environmental regulatory framework and is the only salmon producing region with no antibiotics. Further, pesticides or sea lice treatments are not used and there is a pressurised water system to clean the nets rather than anti-foulant paint.

When I looked at the whole fish the fins and tails were not clubbed, this is a sign of low intensity production – these fish are free to swim around with no overcrowding. Predators, principally seals, are not treated lethally but kept out with caging and the like rather than shooting.

Okay so the salmon are happy, but what about the people? Yes! I met many staff members at the farm and factory and they certainly are a happy and loyal bunch!

When I returned home I was dying to get my hands on the product. I’ve cooked with it several times in the past month – both at home and at my cooking classes – and I’m pleased to note several things:

Why does it freeze better? King Salmon has a very high oil content which gives the product great freezing attributes. What happens is the high oil content and reduced water content causes less crystallization in the flesh/cell structure of the product thus when the product thaws it resembles a fresh product and very few people can tell the difference if the product is thawed under refrigeration. In actual fact product blast frozen in the factory will have as good a shelf life as fresh once thawed. Unlike meats when forced thawed or even under refrigeration has fluid or blood loss.

Less odour Again the high oil content ensures the product has a pleasant and not fishy odour. Most fish with little oil content have again more water content which over time is where the product degrades and causes the odour. There was a remarkable lack of odour in the factory.

Yield? The King Salmon has approximately 7% more yield than the Atlantic due to their stockier shape and thicker girth; the Atlantic is longer and more tubular.

In terms of recipes, I’ve tried a few different methods and styles and while I love pan fried or roasted salmon with a simple salad or seasonal vegetables, I especially love the salmon raw with a slick of my new favourite citrus flavoured ponzu style soy sauce.

You should try it for yourself. Click here for a list of stockists or ask for it by name at your local fishmonger and they can order it in for you from the Sydney Fish Markets.

I cooked Regal Salmon with braised lentils and spinach yesterday on Mornings with Kerri-Anne, click here to view the video and click here for the recipe on my main site.

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