Seafood

When I first moved to Vancouver in the late 1970’s, I was able to buy whole, live geoduck for a dollar each. Nowadays, they are twenty dollars a pound (each one averages between 2 and 3 pounds). In the early 2000’s, I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area and during Dungeness crab season, fresh whole crabs can be had for two dollars each (about 2 pounds). Now, they are around ten dollars a pound pretty much anywhere on the west coast. One of my favorites, Spot prawns had gone up 500% in price over the last 5 years. Another favorite, live Alaskan King crabs are now routinely forty to fifty dollars a pound and with reasonably sized ones weighting in at 8 to 10 pounds each, you might need to take a mortgage out for one.

The astronomical prices of live seafood of late is mainly due to the huge demand in China. Being the factories to the world had made a lot of people affluent with a rapidly growing middle class. Culturally, food is very import to the Chinese and live seafood is considered “high-class” food. With their own supply dwindling due to the high demand as well as an increasingly more polluted shoreline, they look to overseas for their supply. China now imports eight to nine million tons of seafood a year. Over 90% of Rock lobsters from the west coast of Mexico and the United States are exported to China as are 50% of the Atlantic lobsters of Canada. To ensure a continuous supply of Canadian lobsters, Chinese companies now own half of the production and processing facilities of live lobsters in Canada.

A seafood market in China

I was in a seafood restaurant in Guangzhou, China a few years back and saw first hand the love for live seafood of the locals there. This restaurant was five stories high. Second to fifth floor were for dining and the main floor was filled with containers for live seafood. They boasted of having over 200 types of live seafood from over 40 different countries. These ranged from a 5 foot caiman, all types of snakes, 20 types of eel, to many kinds of crabs, prawns, shrimps and fishes. To order your food, you would go down to the main floor with your server and picked out your live seafood, told her how you wanted it done and it would be brought to your table. The whole event was quite an experience.

Next time, after buying a dozen ball-point pens for a dollar at your local Dollar Store, you may wonder to yourself – “how can they make money at this price?”. Don’t worry, they make plenty and they are eating our seafood!

To see a Youtube video of a live seafood restaurant in China, check this out – Seafood Restaurant.

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Fat Equals Flavor

The FDA in the U.S. started preaching the low fat lifestyle a couple of generations ago, claiming that fat consumption would lead to heart disease. Responding to that, low fat diets became in vogue and big food manufacturers started pumping out low fat but highly processed foods with artificial flavorings for the consumers of the world. The masses were deprived of the real flavor of food. The FDA myth has since been proven inaccurate but people’s perception of what food should taste like had been altered.

Fat equals flavor. Think bacon, butter, french fries, dark meat chicken vs white, rib-eye steaks vs filet mignon. Pork chops taste better with a little fat on them. What about lamb and wagyu….yum!

Bacon is added to many recipes and foods to improve flavor. Burgers are often very dry, lack flavor and bacon is one of the most added ingredients to give them more flavor. They are also added to omelettes, salads, soups and many, many others. Even filet mignon is traditionally wrapped with bacon before cooking.

Duck is another fatty food that has lots of flavor. Duck fat is used for that favorite method of cooking, confit. It is used to produce the most decadent form of french fries. Try using ground duck meat when the recipe calls for ground chicken or turkey and you will increase the flavor of the dish by many folds.

Then there is the king of all fats, butter. How can anyone not like the flavor that butter enhances. In classical cooking, there is this saying that if you use enough butter, you can make cardboard taste good. The ever popular whipped potato that is a mainstay in French cuisine is made with half butter and half mashed potatoes. Butter is even added to steaks in the form of herbed butter.

With the current popularity of the Atkins and keto diets, more and more people are no longer adverse to fats and in the meantime also discovering the real flavor of foods.

I will expand on this topic, Fat Equals Flavor in future posts. Stay tuned!