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

Aldergrove Community Secondary. (Aldergrove Star files)
Noel Booth, Douglas Park, RE Mountain, and Aldergrove Secondary see positive COVID tests

As of Monday, May 10, 18 schools are currently on the Fraser Health exposure list

Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.
ON COOKING: Chef Dez does parsley pesto

Pesto traditionally has fresh basil but it can also be made with another fresh herb

Langley’s Madison Sweeney a 5’8” forward who began her career playing for Walnut Grove Secondary, has signed with the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Cascades women’s soccer team. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley’s Madison Sweeney signs with UFV Cascades soccer team

UFV ‘checks all the boxes’ for former Walnut Grove player

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks drew a large crowd to the Abbotsford Centre in 2019. Canucks management hopes the crowds return for the planned AHL team this fall, and early returns are positive. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Canucks: ‘Incredible’ early interest for Abbotsford AHL tickets

Team has had a strong response to both e-mail information and priority ticket lists

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

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Most Read