At the start of the year of the dragon we thought we'd feature an artisan product which can be used extensively in Chinese cooking, but with a very New Zealand twist. Bob Molony's Ah Fooks mussel sauce fits the bill perfectly.
Molony knows food inside out - or outside in, to be more precise. He has spent over 40 years as a food technologist and analytical chemist. "Cooking is just applied chemistry," he laughs. Fortunately his mussel sauce certainly tastes more appealing than applied chemistry. In fact it's even been praised by a top New Zealand chef for its unique flavour.
Molony's in-depth knowledge of food at a structural level coupled with his wife's Samoan/Chinese heritage was a great combination for creating something with both great taste and texture.
"Ah Fook is my wife's maiden name and her grandfather was a chef for the New Zealand High Commission in Apia. Chinese food is an integral part of the Samoan diet, so when there was an excessive amount of mussels one year we decided to combine our skills and see if we could make a New Zealand version of oyster sauce using mussels instead."
And it worked. Ah Fooks mussel sauce has a unique flavour, undeniably mussel. Don't even contemplate using it straight unless you like these critters! It can be used in a variety of ways: stir-fries, soups, as a marinade.
And like oyster sauce, you don't really taste the intense seafood flavour once it's in a dish and it gives whatever you're cooking a deep umami lift. If you really want the mussel flavour, Bob suggests using it as a dipping sauce for fish and chips. The couple's favourite use is as a marinade for pork strips.
"The great thing," says Bob "is that because it's a hydrolysed protein, it has all the flavour-enhancing qualities of MSG, minus the downside."
However you choose to employ it, this sauce is a true taste of New Zealand.
* Ah Fooks mussel sauce is available onlineBy Alexia Santamaria