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Planet Food Special: Shellfish


Shellfish are not a kind of fish, but are simply water-dwelling animals. Many are actually closely related to insects. Nowadays, shellfish such as oyster, mussels, clams, scallops, crabs, and the all-time favourite lobsters are a common part of the indigenous cuisines throughout the world.

In this Planet Food special, we join Merilees Parker, Bobby Chinn, Angela May, Brianna Barnes, and Zoe D’amato as they travel worldwide fishing for some of the most mouth-watering shellfish recipes.

We begin our journey in Asia, in Bangkok, where seafood consumption continues to increase at an exceptional rate. In countries like Thailand, seafood including shellfish has become a staple diet for the locals. The use of herbs and spices is common throughout Asia and in Thailand, the juxtaposition of sweet, sour, hot and salty flavours is what it makes Thai cuisine so distinct. Nowhere is it more noticeable than in their national soup tom yam goong which uses local fresh prawns.

Crab-Curry-by-Roberto-Verzo,-FlickrIn the Greek Islands, a local delicacy is octopus, as Angela May finds out in the beautiful fishing village on the Island of Lesvos.  Crabs make up 20 percent of all shellfish caught, farmed and consumed world-wide. They are found in all of the world’s oceans. While many crabs live in fresh water, there are some that live on land, particularly in tropical regions. While in Sri Lanka, Bobby Chinn cooks up a Sri Lankan crab curry.

Another relative of the crab which has been turned into a seafood delicacy are barnacles, as Bobby finds out on Portugal’s south west coast from a local barnacle enthusiast.  An old time favourite shellfish food has to be clams which are eaten raw, steamed, boiled, baked, or fried and Zoe D’amato goes fishing in Eastern Canada for some very large species.

Scallops-by-Annie-Eats,-FlickrScallops make another delicious shellfish. They have a sweet-flavoured muscle that is often served lightly cooked, but can be eaten raw as bobby finds out form Japanese world-class chef, Toshiro Konishi.  Toshiro has lived in Peru for over 30 years and he’s been fusing Peruvian and Japanese flavours to create some of the most incredible taste sensations.

One highly-prized shellfish is oysters, but in the 19th century, they were plentiful and cheap and were considered the poor-man’s diet. Oyster lovers will insist that they’re best eaten raw, with a squeeze of lemon juice. In Ireland, Bobby Chinn samples some with a pint of Guinness.

Another shellfish enjoyed by fish enthusiasts is the lobster. Eating lobsters was also once considered a mark of poverty.  Nowadays, lobster delicacies are enjoyed throughout the world. In the coastal town of Brunswick in Canada, Zoe D’amato finds out how to catch, cook and crack the lobster.



Southern Spain Recipes - Paella



Paella is Spain’s most famous dish. Paella is Spain’s most famous dish. A rice-based speciality is laced with saffron or paprika and contains seafood, meat and vegetable. Every region of Spain favours particular ingredients and has its own distinct method of preparation.

Paella is often served at lunchtime on Sundays and holidays, and is particularly tasty when cooked outdoors over a wood fire. Huge pans of paella are cooked up on the beaches of Southern Spain, catering for masses for hungry holiday-makers in authentic Spanish style.

Origins and History

The dish evolved when the Muslims first came to El Palmer in Valencia, in the 8th century. They brought with them sacks of a strange white grain now known as rice, and the locals learnt to combine what ingredients they had to hand – such as seasonal vegetables, wetland wildlife (frogs, ducks, snails, eels, partridge) and spices – to this otherwise bland new staple.
Interestingly, Valencian paella doesn’t usually contain seafood, an ingredient strongly associated with the dish.

In other regions variations have grown up which include locally available produce: in the areas around Seville and Cadiz you’ll find big prawns and maybe lobster, and along the Costa del Sol mussels, prawns, red peppers and lemons are favoured ingredients.

Though original recipes used saffron to spice up the dish, these days it’s worth more than its weight in gold and unless you’re eating at really classy joint in La Mancha, the prime saffron growing region, it’s likely that paprika will be used as a cheaper alternative.

Serving Suggestion – Serves 4

The secret of cooking up a good paella is in getting just the right rice texture after cooking – it should be loose, dry and soft, and be tinged with the combined taste of the other ingredients. Follow our simple recipe to cook up an authentic paella storm:


• 3 tbsp of olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, crushed with a little salt
• 6 chicken thighs
• 1/2 green pepper, de-seeded and diced
• 1 large ripe tomato, skinned and finely chopped or grated
• 8 king prawns, keep their shells, heads and tails on
• salt (to taste)
• 2 cups of risotto or pudding rice / Spanish short grain rice
• 10 threads of saffron, soaked in a little boiling water
• 1 cup of sliced calamari
• 8 cups of fresh chicken, vegetable or fish stock


1. Heat the paella pan of the right size for 4. It should be wide enough to cover the dry rice in a thin layer. As soon as the pan is hot add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, let it heat up. Then add the chicken thighs, a pinch of salt, and let them brown slightly, turning them patiently.

2. When they are cooked through, (no juices run pink), add the green pepper and tomatoes.

3. Add the rice and stir in until translucent. Add the saffron with the water it has soaked in and stir well. Then add the stock, half first and then submerge ingredients. Add the king sized prawns.

4. Bring to the boil and leave to cook without stirring for 12 minutes adding more stock if the surface dries out. After 12 minutes the rice should still look succulent and juicy. Remove from the heat, cover with a thick cloth and leave to stand for a further 10 minutes for the rice to finish soaking up the remaining juices.

5. Feel welcome to dress the paella with thick slices of lemon, salt and a touch of olive oil.

Black Pepper Crab

Bobby Chinn introduces a dish that is very simple to make and fiery hot. It uses a native ingredient of Asia – pepper – which is the most widely traded spice in the world in monetary terms. This dish uses black pepper instead of chilli pepper, punctuated with fresh ginger which also imparts a bit of heat. While most people equate spiciness with chilli – especially in Asia – chilli pepper is not indigenous to the East and was in fact introduced to Asia by Christopher Columbus in the 1500s. However, black pepper is native to India and has been used as a spice since pre-historic times. It was the main ingredient in making a dish spicy-hot, way before chilli pepper found its way to Asia.


• 2lbs large mud crabs or prawns, claws cracked, shells removed and cleaned. Drain to dry.
• 4 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
• 3 or 4 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
• 4 tbsp butter
• 10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
• 10 slices young ginger
• 1 or 2 tbsp oyster sauce
• 2 tsp dark soya sauce
• 2 tsp sugar (optional)
• Coriander leaves to garnish
• Oil for deep frying


1. Dry-fry* black pepper in a wok or frying pan till fragrant. Remove and keep aside. The crabs taste best if they are deep fried in very hot oil first – deep fry on all sides till the crabs turn red. Drain and keep the oil aside. For soft shelled crabs, pat the crabs dry, cut each crab into 4, coat with flour and deep fry till golden browned and crispy.

2. Heat a wok, add the butter and when it melts and is hot, add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir fry for 3 minutes till the mixture is fragrant.

3. Add the oyster sauce, soya sauce and sugar and stir well before adding the pepper. Stir fry a few seconds on high heat, then add the crabs and stir fry one minute.

Serve with the garnish.

* Dry Frying: is an old fashioned cooking method where food is stir fried till fragrant in a wok or frying pan without oil.

Thailand Recipes: Tom Yum Goong (Thai Soup with Prawns)


• 1/2 lb. prawns, or medium- to large-size shrimps, shells removed and butterflied
• 2-3 stalks fresh lemon grass
• 3 cups water, or mild soup stock
• 3 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves (bai ma-gkrood)
• 8-10 whole Thai chillies (prik kee noo),
• 1-2 Tbs. roasted chilli paste (nahm prik pow)
• 3-4 Tbs. tamarind water:
• 1/2 cup cilantro leaves or short cilantro sprigs


1. Cut the bottom tip off the lemon grass stalks and discard the loose outer layer(s). Then cut each stalk into 1-inch sections at a slanted diagonal all the way up to the greener end, near the start of the grass blades, exposing the inner core. Smash each piece with the side of a cleaver or the end of a large knife handle to bruise, releasing the aromatic oils.

2. Place the cut lemon grass along with the prawn or shrimp shells and the water or stock in a soup pot.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer with a lid on for 15-20 minutes to draw out the flavors.

4. Strain out the shrimp shells and some of the lemon grass.

5. Add the sliced galanga, kaffir lime leaves, bruised Thai chillies (or substitute) and sliced onion.

6. Simmer a couple of minutes, then add the roasted chilli paste (nahmm prik pow), tamarind water.

7. Heat stock to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.

8. Stir in the tomato wedges and prawns or shrimps.

9. After 20-30 seconds, turn off heat, add lime juice to the desired sourness. Do not let the prawns or shrimps overcook. Serve immediately.

Zanzibar Recipes - Ceviche


Watch Bobby preparing this fresh and zingy seafood dish here:
(Courtesy of Director Ian Sciacaluga)


  • Fish (Grouper)
  • 2 onions
  • 3 bell peppers
  • limes
  • coconuts
  • pamelo


  1. Cut grouper thin to marinate quickly.
  2. Citric acid of the lime which actually cooks the fish by a process called denaturation.
  3. Leave for 5-10 minutes, then onions.
  4. Chop the onions and sprinkle them in.
  5. Let them mix with the juice.
  6. Add 3 bell peppers, but also apply the pomelo to cut the acidity (Tip: Pomelo is a mildly sweet grapefruit from South East Asia).
  7. Add in grated coconut, but be sure to drain the juice.
  8. Lastly, peel off the outer layer of the nutmeg, which in itself is a tasty spice called mace.
  9. Mix it about a bit, and the ceviche is ready!

Africa Recipes - Octopus Masala


  • Fresh Octopus
  • black peppers
  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • chwale (sea snails from the shore)
  • coconut milk
  • lime juice
  • turmeric.


  1. Boil the octopus for about 30 minutes in a heavy pot.
  2. Add in black peppers and tomatoes.
  3. Douse olive oil into a pan and add in a half kilo of chopped onion.
  4. Cook the chwale—sea snails from the shore
  5. separate the sea snails in fresh boiled coconut milk mixed with lime juice.
  6. Sprinkle on several tablespoons of turmeric onto the chopped, now caramelised onions.
  7. Cube the tomatoes and cook them with the spicy, sweated onion until they break down.
  8. Pour the coconut milk and chwale into the pan of caramelised onion and the masala sauce will be finished.
  9. Lastly, once the octopus is well-boiled for 30 minutes, pull the octopus from the pot and add your masala sauce!

Chwale sea snail women

The Chawle Sea Snail women in Zanzibar

Vietnamese Crab Salad


• ½ cup crabmeat
• ½ cup cubed cooked chicken breast
• ½ cup julienned carrot
• 1/4 cup sliced cucumber
• 1 medium pomelo fruit
• 1/4 cup fish sauce
• 1 tbsp finely chopped mint leaf
• 2 tbsp coarsely ground peanuts
• 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
• 1 tbsp fried shallot


1. Steam the crab and remove the crab meat.

2. Peel the pomelo – extracting the segments as intact as you can – and separate into small 3/4″ pieces.

3. Combine all ingredients except cilantro and peanuts. Toss gently in a mixing bowl.

Serve lightly chilled with cilantro and fried shallots if desired.

Places Mentioned - Greece and the Greek Islands, Portugal, Sri Lanka

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