It is going to be a seafood lover's Christmas this festive season with record low prices on some species combining with unprecedented access to delicacies we normally air freight to Europe and Asia.
The ongoing Chinese import ban on Australian lobster sees the local market flooded with these freshly caught crustacea from around the nation. Western Australian lobster, weighing about 400g, are already in supermarkets under $25.
Victorian southern rock lobster, considered some of the finest on the planet, once sold for prices greater than $160 a kilogram. This year it is possible to see find a large frozen specimen for under $70 per kilogram with freshly caught lobster selling this week for $90 a kilogram.
"The collapse of the Chinese market for a number of major exports is delivering some of the best value in other luxury Australian seafoods, including live coral trout," says seafood expert John Susman. The highly prized firm white fleshed fish is a beautiful specimen with pink skin and incredibly versatile in the kitchen from grilling, steaming to baking.
"The quality is outstandingly good," says Susman, "And, despite the lack of exports the fishers need to keep fishing, so the (domestic) price is keen." Prices have dropped from $90 per kilogram to some fishmongers offering fillets for $56 per kilogram.
The seafood bounty continues with new scallop grounds off Victoria's East Gippsland opened to commercial fishers for the first time supplying the market with large, plump sweet scallops.
Traditionally, our best scallops are air-freighted to France. But COVID trade disruptions has seen these exports curtailed, meaning the best scallops from Victoria and Tasmania are staying home this Christmas. Prices are about $35 per kilogram for shelled scallops.
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The scallop bounty will offset the dearth of bugs and wild prawns that are at record high prices due to reduced quotas and increased demand.
It will, however, be a roaring season for tiger prawns, farmed on the Queensland coast. The big supermarkets have their orders in with the farmers and we are already seeing prices as low as $20 per kilogram for medium tiger prawns.
Larger, festive sized prawns will sell for about $35 per kilogram compared to wild-caught Mooloolaba king prawns are already pushing up to $60 per kilogram.
While South Australia's Coffin Bay oyster producing region was still closed for harvest this week due to a gastro outbreak, other regions are producing quality oysters with the Sydney Rocks from the NSW South Coast fat, plump and ready for the big day.
Farmed mussels will still be a bargain at under $10 a kilogram while yabbies, native freshwater crayfish, are perfect for an all-Australian seafood table and offer good value. "I love their sweet flesh," says Melbourne chef Alejandro Saravia from Farmer's Daughters. "They may be a little bit of work in the kitchen, but when the meat is cooked right there is way more flavour than a lobster, bugs and crabs. I love them cooked on the fire. They are king of crustaceans but so under rated!" Farmed yabbies are in the market for about $35 a kilogram.
Good Food Christmas, starring Adam Liaw, airs today at 5.30pm on Channel 9 and 9Now.
The Good Food Guide 2022 magazine, with 350 reviews of Victoria's best restaurants, bars and cafes for summer, is on sale in newsagents and supermarkets from Tuesday December 7, $9.95