Whitebait – New Zealand's Favourite Fish
It's a small fish with a very big reputation as New Zealand whitebait is regarded as one of the most prized seafood delicacies in the country. Unlike European whitebait – small, whole herrings – whitebait in New Zealand are the sprats of galaxiids (slim narrow fish with forked tails, which as adults live in freshwater rivers and lakes). In this juvenile state, whitebait 'sprats' resemble fat translucent worms.
Catching whitebait can be a lucrative pastime as whitebait is notoriously difficult to catch (in constantly-tended, hand held nets), the season limited (mid-August until late November), competition for the best fishing spots intense and numbers limited. Due to these reasons, whitebait is also the most expensive seafood in New Zealand.
New Zealand whitebait have a delicate taste that is easily overpowered when cooked with stronger ingredients. So the most popular way of cooking whitebait in New Zealand is the whitebait fritter, essentially an omelette containing whitebait. Some purists use only egg white to maximise its flavour. (It's an acquired taste.)
If you want to find out more about whitebait, or sample this very Kiwi dish, then you should check out the following events:
- West Coast Whitebait Season Festival, 9th September - 23rd October
The West Coast of New Zealand's South Island is the heart of whitebait territory and you have the challenge (and the pleasure) of becoming world-famous whitebait judges. Activities in the region will include a photography competition, a whitebait menu challenge, a rugby video competition with airline travel to the Coast and glacier activities as prizes, a history of whitebait competition and lots of chances to sample the delicacy.
- WHITEBAIT! The Story of New Zealand's Favourite Fish, 9th September - 14th November
Find out what all the fuss about this fish is at an innovative and vibrant exhibition in Hokitikia, the 'whitebait capital' of New Zealand. This must-see experience is dedicated to whitebait and its effect on the West Coast's people and culture. Explore the world of whitebait, the people who catch them and the unique culture that has developed around it through stories, photos, videos and recipes.
Throughout Rugby World Cup 2011 restaurants and eateries from the top to the bottom of the West Coast in New Zealand's South Island will be presenting special menus in The Great West Coast Whitebait Challenge - make sure you try the famous New Zealand whitebait pattie (fritter).
West Coast Information
Find out more about visiting the rugged, wilds of New Zealand's West Coast by following the links below: