Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

A paua by any other name sweeter when it's young

Marvel Bar & Grill waiter Britta Schafer presents the two Oceanz Blue paua dishes that will be served up at the Auckland Seafood Festival. Photo / Nicola Topping
Marvel Bar & Grill waiter Britta Schafer presents the two Oceanz Blue paua dishes that will be served up at the Auckland Seafood Festival. Photo / Nicola Topping

A homegrown delicacy usually only seen on fine dining tables overseas will debut at the Auckland Seafood Festival this weekend.

Oceanz Blue's farmed paua will be dished up for the first time. Oceanz Blue abalone (the overseas name) is harvested while still young and tender, unlike wild paua.

About 1500 of the sea snails, hand-reared in Northland, are on the menu at $12 a plate.

Auckland's Marvel Bar & Grill has developed two recipes for the festival. One is a savoury fritter in a slider bun. The other is sliced and seared paua served in its stunning aqua-blue shell.

Don Collier, Aotearoa Fisheries general manager of aquaculture, said the hand-reared paua are more succulent than their wild cousins.

"On our land-based farm we grow New Zealand's native species, Haliotis iris," he said.

"However, most New Zealanders have only experienced eating ocean-grown wild paua which are seven to 10 years old and harvested after a hard life being battered around by ocean tides and predators."

Mr Collier said this made some wild paua "somewhat tough" and people often felt they had to beat then mince it before consumption.

"Our hand-fed, cocktail-sized paua are a different proposition and are harvested after just four and a half years," he said. "They have a surprisingly tender texture from easy living in our tubs and trays. So we will be serving up not only the best fritter you'll ever have but have a chance to sample them seared and served in the shell."

The Oceanz Blue Bream Bay farm is the only commercially successful land-based paua-farming operation in New Zealand and produces 80 to 100 tonnes of paua at a time in multi-storey growing sheds. Wild paua predominantly goes to the export markets as a canned product whereas Oceanz Blue's paua is usually snap-frozen and exported in its whole shell form. It was popular in the United States, Asia and Europe due to its sustainability credentials, Mr Collier said.

The Auckland Seafood Festival is on from 11am at Halsey Wharf until Monday.

- NZ Herald

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