Herring roe, or kazunoko, is prized for its wing shape, vibrant colour and crunchy texture.

Herring roe, or kazunoko, is prized for its wing shape, vibrant colour and crunchy texture.

You want me to eat what? A look at some of B.C.’s most exotic seafoods

Our waters are the envy of other countries for these five delicacies - Part 1

When foreign markets closed their doors to seafood imports during the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. fisheries suffered huge losses this year. Some sympathetic consumers here at home abandoned the cheaper, farmed products from other countries to pay a little more for fresh, locally sourced wild catches, as suppliers and retailers identified new ways of getting that seafood on the shelf.

By population alone, domestic appetites will never replace markets abroad, valued at $1.4 billion annually, but there’s hope the trend will continue post-pandemic as British Columbians come to appreciate the importance of food security and the economic wellbeing of coastal communities.

But there are some more obscure fisheries that will never secure the support of mainstream seafoods like crab, prawns, or halibut. So while B.C.’s exotic catches normally end up abroad, it’s worth remembering the harvesters remain here at home — neighbours and friends, spokes in the local economy as important as any other to keep things spinning.

Black Press Media invites you to explore local waters to support these men and women, while having a little fun in the process. In this two-part series we present five of B.C.’s top exotic exports you can try at home.

READ MORE: B.C.’s wild seafood exports snagged in Beijing’s recent COVID-19 panic

Geoduck Clam

What it lacks in good looks, it compensates with attitude. Pronounced GOOEY-duck, this is the world’s largest burrowing clam with an extraordinary lifespan of about 140 years (no, that’s not a typo). Native to the coasts of Washington and B.C., the filter-feeder is distinguishable for its ability to far outgrow its puny shell, reach up to two pounds in weight and, remarkably, telescope its siphon more than one metre from the safety of its sandy burrow to pull in the nutrients of the sea.

Divers, with a surface air supply and 70 pounds of weights, walk around the ocean floor seeking out the siphon tip poking through the sand then use pressurized water to liquefy the surrounding area, allowing for easy extraction. Because every geoduck is harvested by hand, there is zero bycatch.

More adventurous eaters can boil the stomach, but the siphon and belly is more commonly consumed in thin slices and eaten raw, maybe with a little lemon juice, olive oil and chives.

With a texture sometimes compared to cartilage, geoduck has a crisp bite. It’s mildly salty with a savory-sweet depth and familiar clam flavour. Other popular preparation methods include ceviche or stir fry.

Lower Mainland chefs of Chinese cuisine have elevated geoduck to a respectable status, and are chiefly responsible for creating a demand in China that imports 90 per cent of B.C.’s geoduck, valued at about $50-million in 2019.

Many recipes can be found on the Geoduck Harvesters Association of Canada’s website, along with a step-by-step guide to breaking down the parts.

It is found widely in Chinese and Japanese restaurants, and at specialty retailers like T&T Supermarket for about $20 to $30 per pound.

A diver presents a geoduck clam for the camera during harvest off the coast of British Columbia. (Maxwell Hohn photo)

A diver presents a geoduck clam for the camera during harvest off the coast of British Columbia. (Maxwell Hohn photo)

Herring Roe

Throw out your impressions of salmon eggs and even caviar. Herring roe, or kazunoko, is a delicacy in Japan prized for its colour, shape and unique crunch. Yes, crunch. Think of a bright yellow, wing-shaped morsel the size of a thumb with the texture of biscotti.

B.C.’s cool northern waters are known for herring that produce some of the more perfectly shaped clusters of roe, loaded with protein, nutrients and omega fatty acids.

Kazunoko has held a special status in Japan since at least the early 19th century as a symbol of prosperity and still today is a customary indulgence for New Year’s celebrations.

Herring roe is best eaten raw with a little soy sauce. Increasingly so it’s also been seasoned with squid guts, chilies, or Japanese mayonnaise (much sweeter than the western version). Deep fried kazunoko is also finding a following.

The taste is unpretentiously simple: salty and fishy. But it’s the crunch that defines a good grade of kazunoko, as emphasized in a jingle for the Yamaka brand, loosely translated as, “Eat kazunoko together! Crunchy, crunchy!”

B.C.’s herring roe is sold almost exclusively to Japan, with a few very small markets at home and in China. Even in high-end Japanese restaurants, it’s hard to find on menus, but specialty retailers like Fujiya Stores sell it for about $33 per 470 grams.

Long before the Japanese popularized herring roe, north coast First Nations have prized a more advanced stage of the product commonly referred to as roe on kelp. K’aaw, as it’s called in Haida, is a traditional food that comes seasonally after the herring spawn in the kelp forests. (Today it is mostly cultivated through sustainable farming.) Once the eggs bind firmly to the plant they are harvested as one, in long thin sheets, and cut into bite-sized pieces. It’s commonly salted and either eaten raw or pan-fried.

Click here for Part 2 of this series.

2

READ MORE: Strong season but no market for B.C.’s spot prawn fishers



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Food

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Residents in the past have protested trees being cut in areas in Qualicum Beach. (PQB News file photo)
Concern raised over trees to be cut at Qualicum Beach’s new public works location

Coun. Westbroek wants council to discuss tree-planting initiative

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map shows new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 11-17. (BCCDC image)
BCCDC says fresh COVID-19 cases down in most Island Health areas

Nanaimo sees its fewest new COVID-19 cases since mid January

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
AstraZeneca vaccine appointments fill up fast on Vancouver Island

More pharmacies expected to be added as supply increases

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Richard Desautel with supporters outside the courthouse in Nelson, B.C., in 2016. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
BREAKING: Sinixt, First Nation bordering Canada-U.S., can claim Indigenous rights, top court rules

The decision essentially reverses a 1956 declaration the Sinixt were extinct

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read