Kaohsiung's Newly Developed Aquaculture Fish Products
◎English translation: Peng Shin-yi
◎Photos by Pao Chung-hui, Lin Yu-en, Hsu Chih-wei
Kaohsiung's coastline makes it very convenient to access the ocean's resources, resulting in many coastal townships developing aquaculture as their main source of income. Over the years, each district has developed unique fish markets.
A new trend of aquaculture tourism has also blossomed. Kaohsiung City has been further developing its local fishing districts and the development of fine fish products, using local ingredients. Some of these products include Kaohsiung Fishermen's Association's popular Canned Pacific Saury Braised in Tomato Sauce and Yongan Fishermen's Association's Mushroom and Grouper Hotpot Kit. Other popular products include milkfish balls developed in the Mituo District, Mullet Roe Gift Boxes from the Zihguan District and the collagen jelly from Linyuan District. Visitors can now purchase these delicious, local fish products and learn about the industry from the local, friendly fishermen.
※Mituo's Sing Yi Fish Balls
Mituo District is famous for its thriving, high quality milkfish and for 40 years, Sing Yi has been selling this local product. A mouthwatering aroma fills the store, and there are always long lines at the counter. It is particularly busy early in the morning when customers seek the freshest fish, sell out in minutes. Sing Yi Fish Balls are made from the freshest, best local milkfish.
Milkfish has many fine bones, so the back of the fish is the only part suitable to make fish balls. The fish is ground into a fine paste and put on ice to make it chewy. Sing Yi's recipe calls for a unique blend of secret spices. The fish pulp is then stirred until it reaches a pasty consistency. At lightning speed, a team of workers form gigantic balls and toss them into a huge caldron of boiling water. Sing Yi processes an average of one thousand catties (600 kilo) of milkfish balls per day.
Sing Yi's owner has adjusted the fish ball recipe several times to meet customers' feedback. The current fish balls are juicy, with a hint of garlic. They have a fine balance of fish flavor and seasoning and have no artificial additives. The chewy texture comes from the vigorous stirring and ice-bathing process. They can be kept frozen for about three weeks and as long as they are defrosted before they are cooked, they will taste just as good.
Every year Mituo District hosts a Milkfish Festival and the fish balls are the most popular product. Sing Yi also started an online shop, so customers who don't live near Mituo can still enjoy their wonderful fish balls.
※Mullet Roe in Zihguan District
Mullet is a migratory fish and about ten days before and after Winter Solace schools come to the Taiwan Straits to lay their eggs. Mullet season lasts from December to March, peaking in January. The rich in protein mullet roe is extremely labor intensive and time consuming to process. It is due to this expensive process; it was once a delicacy enjoyed only by the very rich.
Ms. Ouyang Fen, a representative from the Zihguan Fishermen's Association, quotes premium grade mullet roe can sell for about 2800 NTD per Taiwanese catty (600 grams, or 1.5 lb) in the current market. However, the less expensive option of Select Grade sells for 1600 NTD per catty and is perfect for people who are buying mullet roe for gifts. Ms. Ouyang also explained, over the past few years wild mullet roe has become extremely popular in Zihguan District where they have been focusing on developing new products. In 2010, the Agricultural Committee released the one hundred best agricultural products, with premium grade, wild mullet roe hitting the top of the list for the best aquaculture products category. This brought significant recognition for the product. The majority of Zihguan premium grade, wild mullet roe is currently exported to Japan. However the association also hopes to further promote these products by targeting high-end retailers in Taipei.
Premium grade, mullet roe is harvested exclusively from the wild. The Association hired 20-year veteran mullet roe specialist, Mr. Liu Hecyuan, to oversee operations. Mr. Liu inspects the fish, allowing only the round and full-bodied ones to be manufactured. They are then processed, salted, and placed between weighted planks to squeeze out water. The roe is then sun-dried and put into subzero freezers where they are put through a dehydration process. The process is repeated several times and the roe gradually becomes firm, yet mildly elastic. The amount of salt and the timing of salting process are constantly adjusted, depending on the size and weight of the roe sacks. It is processes like these that depend on Mr. Liu's extensive experience.
Wild mullet roe is darker and has a greater variety of shape and size, with a slightly uneven fat distribution. They have a great texture, are mildly chewy and a lingering fishy flavor. Ms. Ouyang describes the best way to serve mullet roe is by blanching it in boiling water and then cutting it into thin slices, placing it alongside thinly sliced pears, apples and garlic. The sweetness of the fruit softens the saltiness, whereas the sharpness of the garlic accents the fish's robust flavor. It is truly a gourmet experience to enjoy this multi-layered delicacy.
※Linyuan Fishermen's Association Collagen Jelly
Collagen jelly is a new and popular product currently produced in Linyuan District. Ingredients include fish scales, bones and fins, tail of tuna and giant seaperch roe parts. It is rich in collagen, and has nineteen different nutrients and amino acids and a base component of protein. With smaller molecules, it is easy for the body to absorb. It is an extremely healthy food and in four years it has become one of Linyuan's bestselling products. This great popularity is due to three years of laborious trial and error before the Linyuan Fishermen's Association's R&D team finally perfected the recipe. Currently collagen jelly sales top 10,000 units on average per month and were also among the top products selected by the Fisheries Agency in 2010.
Collagen jelly was created from previously discarded waste such as fish parts and by reusing them, turned them into gold. Nutrients are extracted through a process of boiling and then rapid freezing in a specialized freezer, maintained at -50°C. The freezing temperatures keep the product fresh as well assisting in pasteurization. It takes eighteen hours to transform the fish parts into gelatin; however it does not taste like fish in any way. Director General of Linyuan District Fishermen's Association, Mr. Liu Ruei-ching describes the fishy smell as being the biggest challenge for the R&D unit to overcome. The association tried everything to get rid of it and would not disclose the solution. The collagen jelly invention has meant so much to this district, It has not only brought in a significant and steady income, it has also created nearly thirty new jobs for the local people.
Collagen jelly comes in two options, low sugar or sugar-free. Free of chemical compounds and synthetic materials, it has a shelf life of fifteen days and must be kept at below 5°C. The collagen is also used to produce cosmetic products such as BB cream (blemish balm) and jelly masks.
彌陀區盛產質量俱佳的虱目魚，為國內虱目魚主要產地。製做虱目魚丸已近40 年的興義魚丸老店採用當地生產的新鮮虱目魚，取其具有彈性、沒魚刺的魚背肉，以機器絞肉後打成魚漿，適時以冰塊降溫保持魚肉脆度，並加入調味料等，直到魚漿黏度呈現濃稠狀，再以傳統手工捏成魚丸，下鍋煮熟。一天約使用一千斤左右的虱目魚肉 ，絕大部分製成虱目魚丸，一斤魚肉則可製成20顆魚丸。
每逢冬至前後十天，烏魚必會出現於台灣海峽附近洄游產卵，烏魚由12月到隔年3月都有產出 ，盛產期為十月份，具高蛋白營養價值的烏魚子產量少、製作過程繁複，價格高，是昔日富貴人家餐桌上才可看見的佳餚。梓官漁會歐陽芬表示 ，特級烏魚子一台斤可達2800元，適合一般人送禮的烏魚子禮盒，一台斤約1600元。近3、4年來 ，梓官區漁會所製作的野生烏魚子頗受市場歡迎 ，2010年農委會舉辦的百大精品選拔中，頂級野生烏魚子禮盒即名列水產精品品項之一，足見其品質精良，目前外銷日本，已建立固定客源，並將販售駐點擴大到台北市場。
拜膠原蛋白凍的暢銷熱賣，原本遭廢棄的魚鱗等原料成了典型的廢土變黃金，大片魚鱗經過二次加工處理，在零下50度低溫急速冷凍，以保持原料的新鮮，達到殺菌之目的，製造過程超過18 小時，純天然的膠原蛋白凍嚐起來QQ的，卻沒有惱人的魚腥味，漁會總幹事劉瑞卿坦言，研發之初為了去除腥味可說是煞費苦心 ，當然去腥妙方也被漁會列為最高機密。膠原蛋白產業蓬勃發展 ，更提供當地近30人就業機會。