“Wow, sea urchin roe, what a taste of the coast”
“This should definitely be a candidate as a seafood souvenir in the Norwegian tourism market.” That’s roughly how Trude Borch, Scientist at the food research institute Nofima, expressed herself.
This comment was made during a recent event organized by “Taste the Coast” and Nofima where Borch, along with food producers, chefs, research colleagues and others, was served tasty salty-sweet sea urchin roe by sea urchin entrepreneur Øyvind Jørgensen.
Like Russian caviar
Troms Kråkeboller produces the sea urchins from eggs in order to achieve predictable quality. They produce around two million sea urchins per annum, fed with a special feed developed by Nofima. “In this way we achieve gold standard,” says Jørgensen. He emphasizes that sea urchin roe is as close as we get to a Norwegian variant of Russian caviar.
“The price of the roe can vary from NOK 500 to NOK 12,000 per kilo in special cases. These are not meals that are measured in kilos. We’re talking about small appetizers that are measured in grams,” says Jørgensen.
Simple sea urchin trap
When the chefs prepared a table full of seafood delicacies towards the end of last week’s event, they used roe both from farmed and wild sea urchins.
“It’s great that the industry is getting a production facility for sea urchin farming because this can provide stable supplies to buyers in Norway and overseas. However, since such large stocks of wild sea urchins are available, it’s important not to forget that there are alternatives,” says Nofima Scientist Philip James.
He points out that Nofima, in collaboration with private companies and the Norwegian Seafood Research Fund (FHF), has been working to develop a remotely-operated underwater vehicle (ROV) that efficiently harvests wild sea urchins.
There are also low technology alternatives. “Fisherman can easily make a sea urchin trap consisting of a round trampoline comprising of a plastic ring and a tight net. You fasten cod heads or a bouquet of seaweed in the middle of the trap before lowering it down to the seabed on a rope. It’s possible to harvest a full net of sea urchins overnight.”
Conquered Northern Norway
It was during the record warm last week of May at the culinary network ”Taste the Coast”, which until that point had been an organisation for Western Norway, went the whole way and conquered Northern Norway with its distinctive Arctic species right outside the kitchen door.
The arena was Skarven’s Culinary Theatre. Project Manager Alexandra Krage Angell from the Norwegian Seafood Centre and adviser Annbjørg Reiersen from Tromsø invited seafood suppliers, cooks, chefs and four Nofima scientists to a tasty, informative and interesting meeting.
Debut for snow crab
”At this meeting between the seafood industry, restaurant industry and scientists, we have seen several examples of what can be good culinary souvenirs,” says Trude Borch. In addition to the forecast of stable sea urchin production from the coming winter, the Director of Vardø Hotell, Tor-Emil Sivertsen, contributed the first samples of Norwegian-captured snow crab. The vessel Arctic Wolf had caught 27 tonnes of snow crab and the cooks participating at Skarven immediately found superb applications for the new arrival in Norwegian waters.
This crab species is considerably smaller than the king crab, but the meat is particularly tender and tasty. The king crabs circulated at “Taste the Coast” had roe and, at one time or another, the snow crab will also have roe that may be used as caviar.
The secrets of the king crab
The Managing Director of Vertshuset Skarven, Gunnar Andersen, has waited a long time for stable supplies of sea urchin roe. But the king crab also has news to offer.
“As the capture of female crabs is banned in ordinary king crab capture, there has been little commercial utilization of the roe. However, this crab we have here today was captured in the free catch area west of North Cape. The king crab has another hidden delicacy,” says Nofima Senior Scientist Sten Siikavuopio: The medallion of meat that lies inside the tail under the king crab’s body.
Chef Morten Rasmussen from Emma’s Drømmekjøkken says that the king crab roe and medallion will go straight onto his menu.
The king crab is originally a Pacific Ocean species that was introduced to the Barents Sea by the Russians in the 1950s. The crab thrived and in time spread westwards to Norway in search of more food. The first examples of the king crab were caught by Norwegian fishermen in nets in 1978 and, along with cod, saithe and haddock, the king crab has played an important role on the Finnmark Coast and in Norwegian kitchens for 30 years. The most exclusive crabs are air freighted live to restaurants in the Far East.
Food and tourism same story
Siikavuopio informed the gathering about the exclusive Arctic charr – the world’s northernmost and particularly adaptable freshwater fish – that is also supplied from fish farms in Norway, Sweden and Iceland.
“This is very exciting and it is excellent that “Taste the Coast” is coming northwards where we not only have a significant supply of Arctic seafood, but where we actually get new species such as king crab and snow crab,” says Borch, whose research includes Norwegian food souvenirs.
“Food and tourism are two sides of the same story. There is a limit to how many books and souvenirs you can take home from your holiday trip. Food is not only an important aspect of travelling, taking food home is also becoming steadily more important as a way of extending the travel experience,” says Borch. “For food producers, a well formed food souvenir will have double effect. It will provide additional sales and will be a way of profiling Norwegian seafood.”
She credits Hurtigruten, food producers and several restaurants for prioritizing seafood in relation to tourists.
“But we need more of this. Within agriculture, people have been better at thinking tourism. The blue sector must take the challenge and exploit the opportunities that lie in the tourism market. After all, foreigners think of Norway as a coastal and seafood nation, and the cooks here today demonstrate in a brilliant way the enormous opportunities we have,” says Borch.
Halibut must be stored
In his presentation of halibut, Nofima Senior Scientist Kjell Midling made a tremendous effort to ensure the ”Taste the Coast” event did not miss out on the traditional species. For this species, the cooks commented that they are particularly interested in relatively small halibut, from 5 kg up to 10-20 kg.
“After having been a ‘threatened species’, the halibut stocks have experienced an incredible growth in North Norwegian waters over the past decade,” says Midling, who warned the cooks and others against serving fish such as halibut, monkfish and redfish in fresh condition. These species tolerate extremely well being stored on ice for one or two weeks. Cod, saithe and haddock are species that tolerate being served fresh, but also being stored on ice.
Live quality raise
As Head of the National Centre for Capture-based Aquaculture, Midling, on behalf of Nofima and the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, has a central role in raising the quality of Northeast Arctic cod for which Norway and Russia have this year set the total quota at a record high 1 million tonnes.
In brief, it is a quality challenge with abundances of easily accessible cod that graze on herring and capelin through winter and spring. This applies particularly to large catches where the catch is not handled in the optimal manner.
“There are now significant efforts to keep large proportions of the cod alive and store it from the spring fishery until the autumn when the industry has a shortage of raw materials. The price of the fish rises too,” says Midling, who showed photos of cod from capture-based aquaculture that was hung on drying racks as stockfish.
“This was the first time in the 1000-year history of stockfish, and the fish buyer who produced the fish has said ‘it’s not possible to get better stockfish than this’. Via Halvors Tradisjonsfisk, the product will be on the menu of an Italian restaurant that features in the Michelin guide.”