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LEE FISH USA Introduces New Zealand Snapper & Japanese Iki-Jime Technique

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Whole NZ Snapper
(photo courtesy of LEE FISH USA)

(Gerry Furth-Sides)This summer shoppers across the US who picked up one of prized high-quality New Zealand Snappers this summer at Whole Foods were simultaneously learning from and supporting this small sustainable fishing community from the other side of the world while eating one of the best tasting fish on the planet.  If you are looking to the test for fresh fish, this is the freshest:  clear eyes, no fishy smell, firm texture.

Editor’s Note:  My first challenge at Western Research Kitchens/Lee & Associates, Inc., who helped organize the Southern California Fish Association (no connection to the fish import company below) was to show on TV how easy it was to cook fish.  Having no idea myself,  I created a  “kids can cook fish” campaign, later using prominent chefs to present fish seminars to restaurant chefs. Decades have passed but somehow the availability and the technique of cooking fresh fish (to say nothing of eating fish) is more familiar on the east coast and along the northwest coast, perhaps because  they are the home to harbors where consumers are more familiar with fresh fish than in Los Angeles though the ocean is nearby.  These days, just off-the-boat, prized  Santa Barbara shrimp and uni (also from Carlsbad waters), are already becoming more than the secret of restaurant chefs.

IMG_1311New Zealand native, Miles Bowker of LEE FISH USA updated this summer’s story for us this way: ” The small town of Leigh, New Zealand may only have a population of 750, but it’s an example to the world of how to do humane, sustainable fishing can be done right.
Leigh Fishing boat

Whole Foods participated in a summer promotion on the iconic New Zealand Snapper, known as Tai Snapper, prized for its golden scales, light blue spots and delicious taste – across the U.S. (photo courtesy of LEE FISH USA)

Two Leigh fisherman holding large NZ Snapper
Every Leigh resident in the small town of 750 has a relative who was fishing, packing or trucking the snapper to the airport for the Air New Zealand flight to the USA, starting with the 30 employees and the forty independent boats that fish for the company. (photo courtesy of LEE FISH USA)IMG_1341At the receiving end at  Lee Fish USA Inglewood, thirty factory employees went to work at the factory filleting, sorting, and packing the gorgeous, just about pure fish “Lee Fish” brand. (read more).

Leigh workers processing fish

These small artisan fishing boats brave the harsh New Zealand winter waters for 12-24 hours at a time to catch New Zealand Snapper using the longline fishing method, New Zealand Snapper (also known as Tai Snapper)– prized for its golden scales, light blue spots and delicious taste – across the U.S.where a single line with baited hooks is used to selectively pick the fish, which is cleaner, has a better, firmer texture and a less fishy taste.

NZ Snapper being pulled from water

(photo courtesy of LEE FISH USA)

The fish are brought out of the water alive and killed using the Japanese Iki-Jime method, which humanely kills the fish instantly preserving the freshness and taste.

The “Iki-Jime” technique (read more) is practiced on a small scale around the world, and usually only performed to meet the discerning demands of high-end sushi markets in Japan. It’s rare for US consumers to be able to buy fish that is truly sashimi-grade and of a quality suitable for the most discriminating chef.

Leigh fishing boats
Whole Foods sources seafood based on scores by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (read more) as well as the Safina Center projects that give sustainability ratings to fish buyers. The New Zealand Snapper meets these standards as an inshore fish which is managed under the world leading New Zealand quota management system for sustainability.

Lee Fish USA is America’s leading importer of the finest fresh seafood from around the globe since mid-twentieth century.  Their philosophy has always been one of a deep regard for the sea and the environment, for sustainability and responsible behavior.

In the last decade, Lee Fish USA has put an emphasis on Australia and New Zealand.  This area is set apart by a rich harvest of shellfish and seafood from the pristine waters of the Southern Ocean-ranked among the world’s best.  Tasmanian Ocean Trout is ample proof, so fresh it is sashimi grade (it is actually suggested that the belly be eaten raw) and requires about half the cooking time.

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Here is the fish at market, all carefully cut, dressed and ready for sale.

IMG_1371The Ocean Trout was quickly transported in a sealed bag with a separate block of sealed ice to India’s Tandoor Brentwood.   The chef seared it in the tandoor oven and served it simply with a salad and lime slices – and a glass of pinot grigio.

Lee Fish USA also imports from Spain, Italy, Tahiti, Japan, Malaysia, Chile, Peru and Hawaii.

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