New Zealand salmon is the Wagyu beef of the sea

In my column First Class in today’s Inquirer (28 August 2016, Sunday), I talk about New Zealand salmon, my current obsession 🙂

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After being made aware by a wellness doctor of the dangerous levels of my visceral fat, on top of hideous subcutaneous fat, I realized it’s time to cut down on the Wagyu and Kurobuta and switch to healthier alternatives. Subcutaneous fat can be cosmetically removed, no problem, but visceral fat can lead to heart problems.

The bad news is that there is a real need to cut down on chicharon, lechon and even gloriously marbled beef. The good news is that this opens your eyes to a whole new world of healthy yet delicious options.

Topping the list is salmon.

I may be alone in saying this but I dare say salmon is the next best thing to bacon—at least if you can come by a really good salmon.

Fortunately, for us Filipinos, there is now Akaroa salmon in Manila.

My high school friend Rena Rico from St. Scholastica’s College tipped me on this. She was the smartest in her batch, leading the honor section and all, so I took her recommendation as gospel truth. Of course, consistent with Scholastican standards, she was right.

Chilled, not frozen

You can buy Akaroa salmon, a New Zealand product, by the pack at Rustan’s Supermarket. It is quite pricey but absolutely heavenly. It is so flavorful and decadent, and the texture is so creamy and smooth that it is almost as if you are eating healthy fat. This is the Wagyu of the sea!

The packs come in different cuts and you can even ask for the belly. But what distinguishes this salmon from others is that: a) it is chilled and not frozen, and b) the delivery date is on the pack to guarantee freshness. Every salmon is tagged as a guarantee of provenance and quality.

The brand even boasts of same day delivery. The only king salmon producer in New Zealand can harvest, process and distribute on the same day, often within hours of harvest. Starting their day at 3 a.m., the salmon is harvested and with minimal processing time, delivered chilled to the airport and destined for New Zealand and Asia’s finest restaurants in top condition. A true commitment to freshness, they target delivery within six to 24 hours “from the ocean to the plate.”

It is best to eat it on the same day. It is so fresh, even if purchased from a grocery store, that you can eat it sashimi-style. (Check the date, though, and make sure the delivery was on your day of purchase.)

Once the vacuum pack is opened, you can put it in the freezer for up to five days then cook it as you please.

The king

Akaroa is a harbor on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Akaroa salmon (the brand) is reared in Lucas Bay, a deep water bay near the entrance to the Akaroa Harbor, the natural environment and home of a wild salmon population.

As opposed to Norwegian salmon, New Zealand salmon is of the Pacific king variety, i.e., the only species that managed to survive and thrive after repeated efforts to introduce other species. Today, however, New Zealand king salmon has been hailed as “the creme de la creme of all salmon.” King of the hill, cream of the crop!

Like with Wagyu beef, founders Tom Bates and son Duncan have also created a special menu for the salmon, hand-feeding them a low-energy diet so they grow more slowly to enhance quality. Proof of quality: Duncan proudly shares that even if sea-reared, their salmon is most comparable in oil content to that of a wild king salmon.

Most farmed salmon have an oil content of around 30%, which is way above what the king salmon produces, thus leaving an oily aftertaste and drowning out real flavor qualities. New Zealand king salmon has an oil content of about 9 percent while the US king salmon has about 11 percent. Akaroa, although sea-reared, has an oil content of 10 percent.

Fountain of youth

Susie's Taba ng Talangka, Angeles, Pampanga
Since it’s so healthy, I cooked my Akaroa salmon with female crab fat! 😉

This fish is also sustainable. “We do everything possible to maintain and protect the ocean,” the firm says on its website.

There’s an added benefit to this aside from respecting Mother Nature: The species grow in some of the cleanest water on earth, giving the products a good clean taste. It’s just like Mayura beef—the cattle drinks water from limestone rivers, thus giving added quality.

READ: Producing high quality steak fit for kings of the corporate world

Also to maintain the target quality, Akaroa’s sea-reared salmon are hand-fed and closely monitored. No antibiotics are used.

I may start to eat this everyday. I hear that if you eat it twice a day for three days, it fights wrinkles. Whaddaya know? It’s the fountain of youth in the form of a fish!

Let’s hope supermarkets don’t run out of stock.

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