What’s in a name(us)

One of my all time favorite dishes is Ceviche, which comes from Peru. It’s a cold, raw fish salad, where the fish is ‘cooked’ by marinating it in vinegar and lime juice.

3076155281_60dfa3716f

Torres Strait Islanders love their fish and they have a version of the ceviche called namus or numus 

numus

However, I doubt they got the recipe of South America, its more likely it arrived in the Strait with the Japanese pearl divers and their dish of Namasu which is much the same thing as ceviche and numus. It seems the Japanese got it from China around 700AD. There seems to be versions in East Timor and Samoa,I guess great ideas get around.

What’s in a name, it’s a great recipe. I visit to the pier the other night was fruitless for me, but a Priest and his family from PNG who I have become fishing buddies with, hauled about 50 Queenfish using lure and jig lines, so they gave me five.

IMG_7455

I followed the Strait recipe below, but put it on a bed of steamed sliced sweet potato and sprinkled fried corn kernels on top, similar to how the Peruvians serve it. Bloody awesome.

IMG_7459

Here’s an Islander version of the recipe

  • 2 fillets of fish, sliced finely (trevally or other pelagic variety)
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • peanut oil (enough to coat the bottom of a small saucepan)
  • soy sauce (Old Cathay is a favourite but use what you have available)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 chillies (optional, but if your game use birds eye and chop finely)
  • brown vinegar
  • castor sugar
  • 1 orange, chopped in quarters and sliced width-wise with peel still on
  • 1 red & green capsicum, sliced or chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • shallots, chopped (for garnish)

Method:
In a large mixing bowl (use glass or ceramic) place sliced fish. In a small saucepan or wok heat up the peanut oil until hot and pour in the mixing bowl. Stir the oil through the fish thoroughly. To that, add the chopped onions and garlic. Mix well. Stir in the lemon juice and vinegar (about two capfuls). By then the fish flesh should be turning a little white as the acidity of the lemon and vinegar start to “cook” the fish. Mix in the sugar (about a teaspoon), chillies, orange and red and green capsicums. Add a little soya sauce for taste and to add some colour to the dish – remember not too much. You can also add salt and pepper to taste, but you probably won’t need much salt because of the soy sauce. Refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours. To serve: place the namus in small bowls lined with lettuce leaves and garnish with chopped shallots.

Here’s Samoan version that adds coconut cream at the end.

  • 500 g white fish fillets
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 400 ml coconut cream, if it’s not too rich or 1/2 cup coconut cream, if it’s rich

Directions:

Cut fish into cubed pieces.
Sprinkle with salt then lemon juice.
Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight or until fish whitens, stirring occasionally.
Put in onion, coconut cream, tomatoes and cucumber, and garnish with 1/2 lemon slices.
Serve chilled.

Advertisements

Fisherman tails…

OK, so on the fishing front I have totally redeemed myself.

Maybe its because now, thanks to advice from the locals, I study the tides, the moon, the winds, pick my times, use different bait for different situations and have my lucky spot.

Yes it could be a combination of all those ingredients or could be that I have just been dumb-arse lucky.

First I caught a huge Snapper on the late night shift, then the next day on the sunset shift I caught another Snapper, a Jack Fish and a Coral Trout. The local Bronze Whaler shark, a lazy eight footer that lives under the jetty, made an appearance and very nearly robbed me of my Snapper off the line. A heart pumping kicker to the adrenaline rush of hooking dinner.

After the endless frenetic pace of manning a regional newspaper single handedly, dropping a line has become my daily decompression. The salty seabreeze, the blood-red sunsets that drain away to the spectacular big-sky of the Milky Way, while the Strait laps and licks at the legs of the pier, all give me a huge, collective sigh of relief.

Sometimes I catch myself, saying: “Fuck me this is beautiful.”

Beautiful in its simplicity, life reduced to an all-consuming lowest common denominator, that only Mother Nature can dish up. I would insert a photo of the glorious sunset here but I am too busy soaking it up – sorry.

Figured I’d let Otis set the sublimeness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzrXc68gNjQ

My time on the pier also provides for some off-the-cuff networking opportunities. I hear about juicy story leads, island gossip and plenty of ones-that-got-away, fishermen tales. Just the thing for an ever-hungry newspaper hack looking to fill endless inches of column space, just as one paper is filled, another deadline looms…

one of my catch, now on ice

some of my catch, now on ice

A couple of Islander blokes came up looking most envious at my haul, one of them having not caught anything. So remembering the generosity of other fisherman to my empty larder and the Ailan Kustom where nobody goes hungry, I gave him my Coral Trout, despite never having the luxury of tasting one. I just knew karmically it was the right thing to do.

“Cheers Ba’la, my wife will love this.”

I wondered if he told her if it was caught or gifted.

Not long after they left the universe repaid my generosity with a big White Trevally, so now I have freezer full of fish, none of which I have paid for, ready to feed my family when they arrive in a couple of weeks. Now I’m, no Bear Grylls, nor do I wear Khaki or camo print, but there is something ‘bloody’ satisfying  about catching your own protein to feed your clan.

IMG_7451

Done and dusted...

This was a Jack Fish, which is often used as live bait, but I think its a good eater, obviously…

Life is good.

plenty of fish in the ocean

Well I am a lousy fisherman, always have been, but while I am exiled from family for the next ten weeks I intend to to my damnedest to learn. After all there is plenty of fish in the ocean and the Strait seems to have more than its fair share. Plus, apart from drinking and rugby league there is sweet F.A. else to do up here.

IMG_6596

An American mate I meet in the Amazon Jungle a couple of years ago, crashed on my couch a while back and left me a fishing rod, which I hauled up here. But I soon realise I may be under-gunned. My line is 15 pound strength, and the locals tell me 150 pound snaps like cotton. I suspect it’s an old fisherman’s tall tale…

My first endeavour involves sitting on the dock dangling prawn tails on hooks, but not a single nibble – I go home empty handed.

IMG_6541 - Copy

Then on the second attempt a couple of days later I manage to catch what’s known locally as a Monkey Fish, inedible and I was the laughing stock of the other fisherman on the wharf, they were pulling Trevally and coral trout a foot long. You had to be quick as there as a two metre Bronze Whaler Shark snapping the fish right off the lines as they were pulled in, a couple of time it breached clean out of the water. He didn’t go for my fish, it was too small, it didn’t even come out in my photo!

IMG_6726

On my third day I hung out with some local lads, and one guy, who will call G, taught me some local knowledge, firstly how to caste, secondly how to read the tides and most importantly what bait to use.

This may be hard to believe, but they use crayfish as bait up here!

I managed to catch a slightly bigger fish than my previous attempt, and G said it was a keeper. But he felt sorry for me and gave me a couple from his esky from my dinner.

He told me you he makes fish curry using the lemongrass from the community garden on TI (Thursday Island in local talk). He also leaves some fish on ice over night to tender it up.

The following night, using my new found knowledge I managed to pull up a nice trevally, despite the same shark jumping out of the water as I did.

IMAG0357

Panfried with oil, salt and lemon juice, a dinner of champions…

IMG_6727