Nick Travels to China
At The Big Prawn Company, we are always looking into the development and improvement of fisheries around the world. With our constant endeavour to always improve and deliver excellence in seafood, we take a personal approach to this. We travel across the world in order to find the best products. Recently, our Sourcing Manager, Nick Neeld, journeyed to China.
Why we travelled to China
Nick travelled to China in search of the best fishery for Japanese Flying Squid. The Japanese flying squid is a short lived species of squid that lives in the Northwest Pacific around China, Japan, and Korea. Able to survive freezing temperatures, they are a migratory species that moves around the East China Sea and Sea of Japan. The Japanese Flying Squid is named after its incredible ability to propel itself 30m in distances, to avoid their predators.
The Japanese Fly squid is an exciting prospect for us at Big Prawn. This particular type of squid has a delicately soft texture and a light seafood flavour, making it utterly delectable. It is the ideal type of seafood for tapas as the squid takes on robust flavours perfectly.
Suitably tempted with adding Japanese Flying Squid to our culinary repertoire, we went in search of the best fishery. We’re looking for the tastiest products on offer, with a fishery that ensures the sustainability of the harvest. This quest took Nick to two different areas in China: Zhoushan and Shadong, as he tell us below.
Arrival in Zhoushan
Zhoushan was the first step on the trip, following a journey that was no less than 24 hours! Located south to the Yangtze River mouth, Zhoushan is the coastal area in the fringe of Hangzhou Bay. Zhoushan is actually the only city established on the basis of a group of islands. The whole city consists of over 1,000 islands, with only 98 of them being inhabited. Zhoushan was one of China’s largest seafood landing pots in previous years. Although this has now declined, the island still hosts a fishing fleet of 1,000 vessels. Naturally, considering the geographic landscape of the area, the fishing industry is integral to this area.
Zhoushan offered us an array of interesting delicacies along with a promising outlook on the work front. I travelled across many different islands during my stay in the area. Visiting both the local port and a processing facility, we were looking specifically for vessels that have the ability to freeze directly after catch. This ensures the best quality in terms of freshness.
My taste buds were certainly challenged in Zhoushan, from the local delicacies to attempts at Western cuisine. The traditional fast food of China seemed to be noodle bars that seemed to populate much of the area. These restaurants offered healthy, quick, and delicious meals. You simply choose your various preferences, from vegetables to seafood whilst the chef brings it all together in a flavoursome meal. Some of the more interesting gourmet choices included combinations that are definitely new to our typical palates. To the surprise of many, I discovered new tastes I loved, including raw brined crab with a vinegar dip and raw conch. We were treated to warm rice wine with a raw egg, followed by a fortified wine made from sweet red bayberries – a fruit which can only be harvested for two weeks in the year. This night opened up my understanding of Chinese cuisine with new flavours and textures.
Stage 2 in Shangdong
My trip to China then headed north to Rongcheng City in Shangdong. A short flight led us to a radical temperature change, down to at least -10˚C plus the added sea breeze. Adjusting to the new temperature and following the travel, I retreated safely to the hotel to prepare for the next day of working.
Shandong boasts beautiful landscapes and is often considered the centre of Chinese civilisation. The area is steeped in a rich culture and alluring agricultural land. The Shandong Province is actually China’s largest marine fisheries economy so we were very excited to see what the area offered us.
I was visiting a very modern facility that only opened in 2016. Omitting the freezing temperatures, this second audit was extremely successful. We were very impressed with the level of care demonstrated by this company. Not only is a very good processing plant for the squid, but they also offered accommodation, sports facilities, and a large catering building with free meals for the staff there.
In terms of ability, this plant has great benefits for The Big Prawn Company, with its own fishing fleet featuring over 40 vessels. This gives full traceability of the squid back to the fishing grounds – something we are particularly stringent about when it comes to our products. This company’s fleet operates in Chinese waters, therefore under the jurisdiction of Chinese Fishing Authorities. They also have ambitions to become involved with the Fishery Improvement Project in order to help ensure sustainable squid fishing for the future.
Whilst in China, I had the opportunity to meet a member of Ocean Outcomes – a non-government Organisation working on the implementation of the Squid Fishery Improvement Plans (FIP). For this, I headed up to Qingdao. The journey showed the wondrous and interesting landscape of the area with the juxtaposition with natural landscape and the growing urban climate in the area. The meeting with Ocean Outcomes was extremely positive and constructive in terms of future development. With Squid FIP set to start for 2018, we are hoping with our involvement and support from The Big Prawn Company, we will be able to move things along.
Following this eye-opening trip to China, Big Prawn has decided that we will introduce Japanese Flying Squid to our culinary repertoire. We will be most likely sourcing this squid from the Shandong area following our audit of their company and fishery standards. The squid will be caught in the Yellow Sea by Chinese fishing vessels using purse seine fishing nets. Working on the development of fishery improvement together with this company, we will support the ethical sourcing of squid.
Look out for our delicious new squid products which will have a unique marinade so that they’re beautifully tender and ready to eat straight away! We’ll always be showcasing delicious new recipes using our squids, including salads and starters.