Several Horowhenua producers have played a key part in this year's Visa Wellington On A Plate festival that has been running throughout August.
Participating restaurants around the region took part in Dine - a challenge tasking chefs with combining the best ingredients and local produce into a creative dish, which was served on their menu for the first two weeks of the festival.
The event resulted in a wide range of creative and innovative dishes using a vast array of local produce, including several Horowhenua delicacies. One was eel from Levin Eel Company.
Raumati's Waterfront Restaurant used the eel as one of the elements in a dish called Oceans of Colour.
The dish featured tuna carpaccio with Ōtaki "bush wasabi" - a special dressing made of foraged native plants, with grilled tarakihi and blackberry pesto as well as the smoked eel made into a textured mousse, served with fennel and chilli slaw.
Smoky and subtle, the wild-caught eel's flavour was a perfect accompaniment to the other parts of the dish.
Levin Eel Company manager Erik Kuijten says the fact their product isn't farmed makes it flavoursome and highly sought-after.
Sustainability is also a major focus for the company, with 95 per cent of its product being short-finned eels, which are considered an abundant and increasing species, Kuijten said.
Long-finned eels are considered at-risk, and the small percentage that are included in Levin Eel Company's output are bycatch.
"Sustainability is a huge thing for anyone in this industry," he said.
Kuijten said he believed it was important for his company, a business that has been in his family for 41 years, to attend all possible science meetings and keep up to date with the latest studies and reports into the sustainability of eels and their environment.
"If we want it to be around for ever, we have to look after it ourselves," he said.
The company exports eel all over the world, including France, Belgium, Korea and the US.
It collects its eel from local fishermen, as well as some from other parts of the North Island and an area of the South Island, Kuijten said.
As well as being part of the Waterfront's Dine dish, the product had been featured as part of several other Wellington On A Plate dishes and events, including a special Kāpiti Island Long Lunch event last weekend.
The Visa Wellington On A Plate festival has won a host of awards for its innovation and organisation, including the Creative New Zealand Excellence Award for Cultural Wellbeing and Vibrant Gold at the Wellington Gold Awards.
This year is the 11th time the event, now the country's largest culinary festival, has been held.
It has included close to 100 Dine menus and over 50 festival events throughout the city and wider regions.