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PHOTO: REGAL NEW ZEALAND KING SALMON

New Zealand is famous for its natural beauty, from snow-capped mountain ranges and labyrinthine cave systems to magnificent old-growth forests and unspoiled coastlines. But you’re missing half of what’s on offer if you don’t take a look beneath sea level. The aquamarine waters that surround New Zealand’s islands are not only gorgeous, but they teem with abundant life.

This undersea world is all the more bewitching thanks to the country’s strict adherence to sustainable fishing practices. Keeping New Zealand’s oceans and inland waterways pristine—and the seafood protected—is a matter of national pride. Doing so not only ensures that high-quality foods, which range from rich golden-hued salmon to dainty langoustines, are at their flavorful best by the time they hit your plate; it also secures the long-term health of these bodies of water, not to mention the fisherpeople (and increasingly, the populations) who depend upon them.

It’s a commitment that’s on full display by the nation’s seafood producers and fisheries. Companies like Sealord and Sanford are blazing a path forward with new catching methods like Tiaki, designed to minimize harm to caught fish by allowing them to swim freely within the net—and allow small, unwanted bycatch fish to escape. Okains Bay is preserving the environment by using biodiesel and recyclable packing materials, Māori-owned Ngāti Porou is applying the Māori value of kaitiakitanga and the practice of rahui to protect fish stocks through careful conservation and rotation, and salmon fisheries such as Ōra King and Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon are pioneering traceability with unique tags for individual fish, ensuring that every home cook knows exactly where their food came from. All this innovation—plus the fact that 94 percent of commercial catch comes from sustainably managed fish stocks—just reinforces New Zealand’s position as a worldwide leader in seafood sustainability.

Hungry for a taste of sustainable New Zealand seafood? Here’s where to start.

PHOTO: NEW ZEALAND TRADE AND ENTERPRISE

Sealord and Sanford are blazing a path forward with new catching methods like Tiaki, designed to minimize harm to caught fish by allowing them to swim freely within the net—and allow small, unwanted bycatch fish to escape.

Okains Bay is preserving the environment by using biodiesel and recyclable packing materials.

FIN FISH

Silver sea bream

Silver sea bream are fascinating animals. By the time they’re four years old, half of the population changes sex. But no matter the gender, these fish boast tender flesh with a mild, agreeable flavor. They’re great in tacos—charred over a barbecue and tossed into fresh corn tortillas piled high with queso and salsa—or try them sauteed with butter and capers in a hot pan.

Not only are stocks of New Zealand silver sea bream stable these days, but they’re also prospering: In 2016, government officials upped catch limits after a survey revealed that populations had exploded. Check your local fish market to get your hands on a filet, or check the stockists here.

DID YOU KNOW...

With pinkish-red, blue-flecked skin, all of the large-headed fish of this species begin their lives as females.

Hoki

If you’ve never heard of hoki, it’s time to study up. Their meat is mild-tasting and flaky, making hoki the perfect fish for deep-frying. Bread some filets and serve up British-style with chips—that’s French fries, of course—or stuff them inside a brioche bun for a plate of over-the-top fish sandwiches.

Hoki live in deep water, sometimes as low as 3,000 feet below sea level. They’re typically caught by trawl, but New Zealand hoki have the distinction of being among the best-managed trawl fisheries on the globe. Certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, the New Zealand fishery adheres to strict catch limits to keep populations healthy. Filets are available at places like Webstaurant Store in large quantities, but check your local fish market for individual purchases.

DID YOU KNOW...

Blue-silver with hits of dark purple, hoki have immediately identifiable, long and thin bodies that verge on eel-like, though they’re closely related to cod.

King salmon

There’s nothing quite like King salmon. Silver-skinned with bright orange flesh, the fish’s buttery texture and complex, savory flavor has rightfully earned obsessives in all hemispheres; in fact, Ōra King and Regal New Zealand King Salmon won a “Best Choice” from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (owned by New Zealand King Salmon Co.), becoming the first farmed salmon to do so. While technically not native, they’ve thrived in the cold, fast-flowing rivers along the South Island’s east coast. The naturally high oil content in Ōra King salmon can be seen in the striking marbled fat lines within its bright orange flesh, prompting some to call it the Wagyu beef of salmon.

All King salmon in New Zealand begin their lives in freshwater farms, which are strictly regulated by the government. Everything from what the fish are fed to how farms deal with waste is carefully managed, ensuring that the industry is as sustainable as possible. Finally, the highest-quality salmon are hand selected by a master grader and branded “Ōra King.” These unique salmon are individually numbered for traceability.

In the U.S., New Zealand King salmon is available in all manner of ways. Go for fresh sushi-grade filets (like these dense-fleshed beauties from Catalina Offshore Products), wonderful for packing into homemade nori hand rolls. Alternatively, opt for a skin-on filet (like those at Fulton Fish Market) for an elegant pan-fried dish perfect for dinner parties. And if you’re really feeling adventurous? Snap up a whole fish—stuff it with herbs and lemon slices, then give it a spin on a hot grill. You can find more stateside stockists here.

DID YOU KNOW...

Salmon were introduced to New Zealand waters in the early 20th century.

PHOTO: REGAL NEW ZEALAND KING SALMON

Māori-owned Ngāti Porou is applying the Māori value of kaitiakitanga and the practice of rahui to protect fish stocks through careful conservation and rotation.

PHOTO: SEAFOOD NEW ZEALAND

Ōra King and Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon are pioneering traceability with unique tags for each individual fish, ensuring that every home cook knows exactly where their food came from.

CRUSTACEANS

Langoustine

Spindly langoustines, called scampi in New Zealand, roam Kiwi seas down to 2,500 feet below the surface. Managed by the country’s Quota Management System, langoustine stocks are generally considered robust across the country.

Langoustines’ delicate-tasting white flesh is a perfect match for garlic, butter, and an herbaceous hit of parsley. We like to saute it all together in a hot pan and serve over a steaming bed of angel hair pasta, complemented by a crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Langoustine can be found online through the famed Fulton Fish Market, specialty purveyor Regalis Foods, and other fish markets.

DID YOU KNOW...

Langoustines, with their long, narrow claws and distinctive orange-pink banding, may look like a species of prawn, but they’re actually a type of wild lobster.

Rock lobster

Also known by its Māori name, koura, rock lobster is one of New Zealand’s most important seafood exports, prized by discerning palates from China to the United States. Found along the country’s rocky coastline, an abundant rock lobster population fueled a bustling export business in the early 20th century.

Often sold frozen in the U.S. by seafood purveyors like Southern Rocklobster USA, rock lobster is fantastic when simply poached and served in mayo-slathered buns—New Zealand lobster rolls, anyone?—or sauteed with herbed butter alongside a hearty baked potato.

DID YOU KNOW...

Overfishing nearly depleted New Zealand's stock of rock lobster, but regulations developed in the late 1980s have helped bring them back from the brink.

PHOTO: NEW ZEALAND TRADE AND ENTERPRISE

All this innovation—plus the fact that 94 percent of commercial catch comes from sustainably managed fish stocks—just reinforces that New Zealand is a worldwide leader in seafood sustainability.

SHELLFISH

Greenshell mussels

Distinctive for their dark, emerald-hued exterior, greenshell mussels are unique to New Zealand, with flesh that ranges in hue from a creamy white to sunrise orange. Plump and smacking of the sea, greenshells have a rich flavor that’s a perfect match for all manner of preparations. Toss them into a coconut-spiked curry enhanced with pungent fish sauce, or cook them on the halfshell on a hot barbecue grill and serve simply with a spritz of lemon.

You can chow down with a clear conscience: Greenshell mussels are among the most sustainable seafood options around. Successful greenshell mussel aquaculture means there’s less of a strain on wild populations, ensuring that the waters around New Zealand will long be home to this bivalve. Find them frozen at your local fish market.

DID YOU KNOW...

As one of the world’s most successfully farmed mussels, New Zealand greenshells are subject to a strict license that monitors any given farm’s size and activities.

Arrow squid

Smooth and cylindrical, arrow squid offer meat that’s firm and slightly sweet. It’s perfect for charring, Greek-style, over a hot, open flame (served with plenty of lemon, of course), but equally delicious deep-fried for a classic Italian-inflected calamari fritti.

If possible, opt for squid that’s caught by jiggers—a type of specialized vessel and method specifically designed for catching squid. Ask at your local fish market for insights.

DID YOU KNOW...

White with bronze accents, New Zealand’s arrow squid are actually two different species—N. gouldi and N. sloanii—but they’re virtually indistinguishable from one another.

Abalone

Even if you’ve never eaten an abalone (or as the Māori say, pāua), you’ve probably seen its shell. Iridescent with tones of blue, purple, and green, the abalone shell’s interior is prized for jewelry and art. But the meat within the shell is prized, too, particularly in Asian cultures. Saute it simply with butter, garlic, lemon juice, and umami-rich dashi broth—then serve with a cold, dry sake.

Part of abalone’s mystique is that it’s difficult to obtain. In most areas in New Zealand, abalone can be harvested only by hand. Well-trained free divers spend their days swimming into the deeps to procure abalone, which can sell for exorbitant prices. Strict limits on catch quantities and abalone size help keep populations healthy. Check with your local fishmonger as to where you can find them, or locate a nearby stockist here.

DID YOU KNOW...

Similar to squid in texture, the abalone’s flesh has an almost steak-like flavor.

Cockles

Plump with round, sometimes green-tinged shells, New Zealand cockles are a delight. Delicate, creamy flesh is an exquisite vehicle for butter and garlic, not to mention sweet mirin-spiked soy and pungent Chinese black beans. Cockles are also decadent in a bowl of velvety, cream-infused seafood chowder, served alongside a crusty slice of sourdough.

New Zealand cockles like to live in the sandy shallows of beaches of the North and South islands. Cockles are considered some of New Zealand’s most sustainable seafood. Find them at local fish markets in the U.S.

DID YOU KNOW...

New Zealand cockles are caught by hand, a method which has an incredibly low environmental impact.

PHOTOS : SEAFOOD NEW ZEALAND

Seafood Kebabs with
Creamy Crayfish &
Brandy Sauce

See Recipe

Seafood Kebabs with Creamy Crayfish & Brandy Sauce

Serves: 6
Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • 12 scallops
  • 12 1/2 x 1/2 inch cubes of salmon
  • 12 raw prawns, peeled

For the brandy sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 crayfish (meat from body)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 teaspoons brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill, freshly chopped
  • Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  • Melt butter and add the crushed crayfish meat and tomato paste.
  • Simmer for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to burn the butter.
  • Strain through a fine sieve, retaining the butter.
  • Use this orange-colored butter to make a roux with the flour. Add cream, brandy, dill, and seasoning.
  • Cook slowly, allowing the flour to cook and the sauce to thicken.
  • Prepare the kebabs and grill for 6 to 8 minutes on direct medium-high heat.
  • Serve kebabs on rice or pasta with the sauce.
PHOTOS : SEAFOOD NEW ZEALAND

Barbecue Salmon With
Whiskey Sauce

See Recipe

Barbecue Salmon With Whiskey Sauce

Serves: 2
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • For the sauce:
  • 1 nip of whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1 tablespoon sparkling wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • For the salmon:
  • 2 3.5-ounce salmon fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour
  • 1/4 cup julienned vegetables
  • 1 lemon slice
  • 1 sprig fresh fennel to garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  • Mix sauce ingredients together in a saucepan and simmer until blended.
  • Roll salmon in the seasoned flour and place on a grill with indirect heat. Cook until just done.
  • Stir-fry julienned vegetables in a wok until hot but still crunchy.
  • Place salmon on the bed of vegetables and pour sauce over both.
  • Garnish with lemon slice and fennel.
PHOTOS : Nurtured Seafood

Mussel Paella

See Recipe

Mussel Paella

Serves: 4-6
Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 cups liquid chicken stock
  • 12-16 threads saffron
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup chorizo, sliced into 1/8 in thick rounds
  • 6 slices pancetta or streaky belly bacon
  • 1 med size onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 9 cups paella rice
  • 1 pound New Zealand Greenshell Mussels
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • Small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
  • 1/2 lemon

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat the chicken stock in a pot and infuse it with the saffron.
  • Heat a large skillet or paella pan. Add the olive oil to the pan and quickly add the sliced chorizo and pancetta or bacon. Fry the meat until browned and crispy, then add the onion and garlic; cook until soft.
  • Add the smoked paprika, the rice, and two-thirds of the infused stock. Allow it to cook on a medium to low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • The rice should be almost cooked. Pour in the rest of the stock and add the mussels. Place a lid on the pan and cook for 10 minutes more. Season to taste.
  • Finally, sprinkle with chopped parsley and the juice of the lemon.
PHOTOS : THE NEW ZEALAND SEAFOOD COOKBOOK

Thai Lemongrass &
Coconut Shellfish
Broth

See Recipe

Thai Lemongrass & Coconut Shellfish Broth

Serves: 4
Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 fresh mussels
  • 8 pipi (or clams if unavailable)
  • 12 cockles
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 2 2-inch pieces lemongrass stalks, bruised and thinly sliced
  • 8 makrut lime leaves, destemmed and roughly torn
  • 1 long red chili, chopped
  • 2 cups liquid fish stock
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  • To clean the shellfish, scrape the shells with the back of a knife to remove all barnacles and growth. Rinse well under water.
  • Place a large pot on medium-low heat. Add the peanut oil, and sauté garlic and ginger in it until fragrant. Add lemongrass and cook until it starts to release its perfume. Add makrut lime leaves and chili, and cook for another minute.
  • Turn up the heat and add the shellfish to the pot. Stir well, adding enough fish stock to create steam (about 1 cup). Quickly put the lid on to allow the steam to open the shellfish. Once shells are open, remove the shellfish from the pot and set aside. Add remaining fish stock to the pot along with the coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Taste and season with fish sauce, then cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Check shellfish to ensure that all the mussel beards are removed and that there are no crabs inside. Return to the pot to warm through.
  • Remove pot from heat and add lime juice and chopped coriander.
  • Portion shellfish into 4 bowls, pour the broth over it all, and enjoy!
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