Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crayfish and Mussels in New Zealand, my favorite vacation food memory

My favorite vacation food memory has got to be traced back to New Zealand in 2005, and specifically the South Island in New Zealand. New Zealand consists of North Island (the smaller island, where almost 80% of the population lives) and South Island (the larger island, but less populous).

The rustic beauty and fresh seafood aplenty...each place you stop by to savour the scenery and food, is almost as unique as the island itself. Always a pleasant surprise.

A relatively easy drive round the entire island in 12-14 days gets you all the magnificent scenery you could get - from city-like Christchurch, to the vineyards in Marlborough, the remote West Coast that is the gateway to the Glaciers, and to adventureland Queenstown.

The Maori name Kaikoura translates to 'meal of crayfish' (Kai - food, koura - crayfish), and it is crayfish for which the region has traditionally been famous. Kaikoura is about
2 hrs (115miles) drive up north from Christchurch. Even on the road, there is always the opportunity of a surprising gourmet food, like tasting fresh crayfish from roadside stalls at Kaikoura. We stopped by at Cay's Crays along the highway and digged into the real taste of fresh crayfish. Simply boiled and eaten cold, that's real, unpretentious taste of fresh seafood. I just came to know that the crayfish I'm so familiar with is also known as crawfish/crawdads. Why are there so many different names for the same food/ingredient ?

Further north from Kaikoura, comes to Marlborough region and Havelock - a small humble coastal village in the Marlborough region. Small, and humble it might be... but it is the center for much of New Zealand's Mussel industry. We had a wonderfully delicious mussel-pot meal at Mussels Boys, Havelock. This was as good as mussels in Brussels, also served the same way - in a pot. Almost like the crayfish, the best way to savour fresh mussels is not to overpower them with lots of ingredients and seasoning. Simply cooked in
white wine and garlic, the mussels tasted as real as the little town itself. Again...unpretentious, and delicious.

Thanks Chelsea, for hosting such a wonderful Meals Abroad event. Because of food, I was brought back to one of the best vacations I've had so far. Because of food, I see more. Because of travel, I taste far.



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