Where: In the tropical coastal & fresh waters surrounding the top half of Australia. Also farmed extensively throughout Australia.
Uses: Highly prized, both in sport fishing & on the table
Serving suggestion: Fresh-caught, wrapped in leaves, barbied on hot coals and washed down with plenty of the amber nectar – beer
Taste: Large firm flakes with a delicate flavour
Australia is world-renowned for the abundance, freshness and variety of seafood on offer, and the barramundi, or barra as it is affectionately called, is one of its specialities. Its Aboriginal name, meaning “river fish with large scales” makes it just as uniquely Australian as its feisty temperament – once hooked, it is known to take giant leaps from the water and dance on its tail during the angler-barra struggle. Considering that in the wild they can grow up to 70in and 135lb, that battle must be quite a spectacle, and anybody catching one is justly respected Farmed barramundi, however, will be smaller – about 6lb when filleted – and its moist white meat has a subtle flavour that makes it incredibly versatile, lending itself to any method of cooking.
The freshest catch
Traditionally, Aboriginal fishermen would catch them by wading into the rivers at night, brandishing a spear in one hand and a bunch of flaming sticks or reeds, said to attract the fish, in the other. The barramundi is often celebrated in Aboriginal art and was cooked fresh, wrapped in the leaves of wild ginger or flavoured with native bush spices, in the hot ashes of a fire. Some fishing tours in the Northern Territory enable punters to learn these traditional fishing methods from the Aborigines – but for the less adventurous, the barramundi frequently appears on the menus of Australia’s best restaurants. Bear in mind, though, that a variety of accompaniments is not all it might be served with – it will often also come with a price tag to match the fine reputation of its flavour, anywhere in the range of AU$25-50.
Still, you don’t have to have loads of cash or be an expert fisherman to bag a barra – simply head down to the local fish market and bung a few on the barbie. Alternatively, you can let yourself be inspired by the myriad of Asian influences and flavours in Australia. Try concocting a mixture of diced garlic, lemongrass, chilli, ginger and fresh coriander (cilantro), stuffing it inside the scaled and gutted fish, wrapping it in aluminium foil and baking it for about 10-12 minutes, or until tender to the pressure of a fork. Serve with a zesty squeeze of lime, steamed Asian greens and jasmine rice. You beauty.
Provides seafood recipes and contains links to information about weather and fishing conditions in Australia
Birds, Bees, Trees & Things
Organise Eco-fishing trips and traditional Aboriginal fishing trips
The Western Australia Department of Fisheries
Information on Australian aquaculture, conservation and ecologically responsible fishing
By Sarah Rodrigues