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

A Viking Air Twin Otter takes off on Runway 12 midway through a day of test flights on Jan. 13, 2021 at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport. Viking Air is located in Victoria. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Viking Air tests Twin Otter at Port Alberni airport

Victoria-based company used rural airport for numerous flights

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

An enchanted forest photo booth has been set up outside the Alberni Valley public library as part of Family Literacy Week activities (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Celebrate Family Literacy Week in Port Alberni

Alberni Valley Children & Youth Network has a week of activities planned

Christopher Anthony Craig Dick is wanted by the Port Alberni RCMP in connection to multiple investigations. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Vancouver Island RCMP seek man connected to assault investigations

Christopher Dick, 36, was recently in the North Cowichan and Duncan region

Inspector Eric Rochette is the new officer in charge of the Port Alberni RCMP. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP sees drop in property crime in late 2020

Clamp-down on prolific offenders seen as one reason

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)

Most Read