Driving for more than an hour from her home in Manurewa to Auckland's North Shore to get her seafood fix is not a problem for Auckland foodie Jasmine Yang.
She makes the 50km journey with her two young daughters Sophie Pan, 7, and Mia, 5, to a restaurant called Fresh Bite in Albany because she says it's only place in Auckland that serves seafood like how she gets it in her birth city of Guangzhou, China.
Abalone, clams and crayfish are picked live and fresh from the tanks, steamed on an electric steamer and the juice from the seafood would drip through into a pot of rice creating a savoury congee.
Yang, a media and events company director in her 30s, says it's a style of eating that takes her tastebuds "back to Guangzhou" and it's a "secret dish" she wants to nominate and share with fellow Aucklanders as one of the city's iconic eats.
Nominations are now open for Aucklanders to nominate their favourite dish and share their food story for the 2021 Iconic Auckland Eats list.
Last year's inaugural list, published after Auckland Unlimited invited the public to nominate a dish they absolutely love, received 350 nominations.
The website received more than 56,000 hits between October 1 and February 28 this year. Nominations can be submitted at www.iconiceats.co.nz by August 31.
Stories and nominations were received for dishes that can be found at fine dining establishments, cheap and cheerful cafes, food trucks, markets and hole-in-the-wall offerings.
The programme highlighted unique and well-loved dishes that can only be enjoyed in Auckland and encourages locals and visitors to explore the Auckland region.
It was launched as part of the Destination AKL Recovery Plan to support local hospitality businesses and build Auckland's reputation as a food and beverage destination.
Yang said Fresh Bite's style of cooking puts the focus on the freshness of the seafood rather than the seasoning.
"Growing up in Guangzhou, we ate seafood based on the freshness. The favourite way to have them is by steaming and my mom used to tell me this is how you bring out the fresh quality of fresh seafood," she said.
"I really miss my family and because I can't travel to Guangzhou, eating at this restaurant is the next best thing for a taste of home."
Owner Toby Yin, who started the restaurant in 2016, said he was thrilled that his steamed seafood and congee will be in the running for iconic eats.
"I'm from Hainan Island, where people are very particular about the freshness of the seafood," he said.
"So when I opened my restaurant, I wanted to cater to customers who have that sort of thinking and demand for fresh and live seafood."
Last year, dishes that made the final cut included much-loved, timeless, toe-warming classics to those reflecting the ethnic diversity of the region to create the ultimate culinary bucket list of dishes that can only be enjoyed in Auckland.
Auckland Unlimited programme manager Annie Dundas said the list was a special dining guide that helps tell Auckland's unique food story, which is about more than delicious food.
"Following a successful launch of Iconic Eats last year, we are excited to uncover even more of Auckland's favourite dishes," Dundas said.
"What makes this list unique is the amazing stories submitted with each dish that showcases the diversity of Auckland's food scene - the talented people, the places, the cultures, the experiences, the flavours."
Each dish was considered against a set of criteria: well-loved, representative of local culture and people, a timeless classic, or a "signature dish".
"The Iconic Eats list is a collection of heart-warming stories that show how important food and dining is to us: it's a way to travel to unfamiliar places or back home again, to enjoy quality time with loved ones, to bring back special memories, or to savour dishes that are impossible to forget," Dundas said.
Aucklander Kerrie McGirr nominated multiple dishes in 2020, and her heartfelt storytelling won her the grand prize of a voucher to experience all 100 dishes over 12 months.
McGirr, originally from Christchurch, said she had just finished her 56th restaurant and the experience had been incredible.
"It's really changed the way I see the Auckland food scene, which I honestly feel is better than Melbourne, Sydney or might I say even London," she said.
McGirr refused to name an absolute favourite, and said each were exceptional in their own way.
Dishes on last year's list include Mr Hao's spicy chicken wings, Azabu's volcano sushi, Cassia's special fish with Kerala sauce, Mekong Baby's braised pork belly and Red Elephant's flaming chicken with Thai herbs.
Steve Kennedy, co-owner of Cheese on Toast, said it was a pleasant surprise to have his creamed corn toastie make last year's list.
"The creamed corned toastie has taken off and is now gunning for the most popular dish on the menu," Kennedy said.
"We've had customers come in specifically to try it, mentioning the award, and having the Iconic Eats award displayed has made people pick the creamed corn flavour over the other toasties on the menu. It's been great."