Monday, July 27, 2009

Bluff and the Muttonbird

When I was living in Wellington, I was told to go to Bluff, one of the southern most towns in New Zealand. I was told to have Bluff oysters (reportedly the best oysters in New Zealand) and muttonbird, a traditional Maori delicacy. It is the eating of the baby shearwater bird. We don't eat the adults. There is a season for muttonbird, but like with the whitebait, I hoped to find someone who could allow me to taste some.

From Queenstown, I booked my ticket to Bluff. The very nice woman helping me called a friend in Bluff who told her that it had been a terrible season for muttonbird and that there were very few in the area this year. I was told not to expect to find any unless a local would be willing to part with his or her precious few.

I was a bit disappointed, but figured if I can't have muttonbird, then at least I'll have Bluff oysters. When I got to the backpackers in Bluff, I was the only person staying there. I guess no one really wants to stay the night in such a sleepy little town. It was surprising how empty it seemed. As I walked along the main street, out of the 30 or so storefronts, only about 5 of them were occupied, the rest looked like a ghost town.

I went into a bar to enquire about muttonbird and oysters and was told that the season was so bad for muttonbird that one of the woman's friends had only gotten 12 buckets of them. It sounded like a lot to me, until she told me that last year he had gotten 80 buckets!

Anyway, I spoke to the owner of the backpackers about wanting to try those two things while I was down here. He revealed that he had some muttonbird in the freezer and would cook up some for dinner. I was so excited! I was finally going to taste the mysterious muttonbird!

Below: What it looks and tastes like

Below: Part two...tasting it


Anonymous said...

Bei why is your bird green?? In the first vid? Heoi ano, Lucky you.

L said...

Not green! Probably just the video and light quality. Never said I was an expert with all things technological! Hope you enjoyed it though!

Roland said...

Another great trip. Beautiful Scenes. Very envious.

Tijana said...

haha, quite a suspensful looooong moment after you stuff your first forkful of this muttonbird into your mouth... i was thinking: is she all right? is she going to throw it up? has the video frozen?... i realize now that it's just your very conscientious and professional desire to taste carefully, think about it, and then describe it :-).

L said...

You're a cutie Tijana. Yes, I was trying to figure out how to describe it beyond the very strong saltiness that could easily overpower the palate.

I found the translations for the birds I had named in French.

Ramier= woodpigeon

Pintade = guinea hen

Beneath the saltiness,there were hints of these birds. Yummy!


Thanks for your comment. I'm glad your enjoying the trip!

Anonymous said...

The Muttonbird did look a bit green...though maybe that was the epice, like parsley or pesto or something...anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed I'm not sure what your gonna say when you're tasting stuff...was waiting to see if you spit it out across the table.

Oh and a another curiosity is..why are you so bundled up while inside eating? Is it so cold inside?
IF it is, why is it so cold? No heat? or fireplace or something?


L said...

It was cold inside! Because I was the only backpacker, the owners hadn't bothered to heat up the rest of the place. I only had heating in my room, the rest of the time I was COLD!

I guess the camera and lighting gave the muttonbird a green tinge but it wasn't green in real life!