I am a great enthusiast of all thing edible as long as they do not contain butter cream or lady fingers. Yukie is similar in that respect except that she loves lady fingers and isn’t averse to butter cream either. If Japanese proverbs are anything to go by, we are a little bit like the Chinese, we eat anything with four legs except tables and chairs. So one of the first stories to spark our imagination since arriving in New Zealand are about rather large and extremely tasty Paua shells, also known as Abalone or as the Japanese call them, Awabi.
When we lived in Tanegashima in Japan one of the best kept local secrets was where to find Nagarame and Anago shells. Both are a shell similar to Awabi but smaller. Tanegashima locals although warm and welcoming are generally not keen to share their hunting grounds with foreigners (meaning non islanders). But they could not resit the enthusiasm of a famously friendly and very popular foreigner like myself. After half a years worth of strategic nagging on my behalf I was finally taken down a mountain track through the bush to the rocky seashore where the promised abundance of Awabi left me with a sense of disappointment. After a couple of hours of crawling around on my knees and looking under random rocks for well camouflaged minuscule shells I came away with a catch big enough to serve as a starter and plenty of bruises and cuts. According to my local guide, as little as ten years ago, the shellfish were much larger and found in greater abundance. I guess years of indiscriminate foraging might explain why the shells are disappearing and why the locals are a little shy and maybe even embarrassed to reveal what is left of their treasured shell picking spots.
The hunt for Paua on the other hand turned out to be more than I could have hoped for and has prompted me to write a simple manual on how to catch Paua in Southland.
- Drive to a rocky coast line with plenty of kelp. Kelp is important because Paua eat it. I like to eat kelp too, even though it has no legs.
- Ask a friendly looking local where the best Paua diving spot is.
- Follow their instructions, take a deep breath and be amazed by the abundance of food available on the sea bottom. Abundance means locals are often friendly and eager to share useful information.
- Take care not to get entangled in the kelp, as that might bring on a mild panic and cause you to lose you weight belt, including the first lot of Paua’s you collected. If that happens just go back into the freezing water and start over. This time diving will be much harder due to lack of weights.
- Try and source a post 1980s wetsuit, preferable with no holes in it and you will not go blue after 20 minutes.
- Make sure you stick to size and number limits. This preserves abundance which in turn means friendly and forthcoming locals. (see point 3) It also stops you from getting your car impounded and incurring a hefty fine.
今 日はパパのアワビ取り初チャレンジ！こちらのアワビは日本のアワビより大きめでなんといっても黒い足が特徴。パウアといいます。穏やかな天気で波もないは ず！と海に向かって出かけるとそれらしき人が潜っているではないか！早速車を停めてパパが情報収集に行く。あわびは取れなかったがうにはとれたらしい。と りあえず先に進むと今度はアワビがごろごろ入ったバケツを前に話しているお兄ちゃんたちを発見。これはいけるかも？！このお兄ちゃんが親切にも「早く入ら ないと満潮になるよ。あそこら辺でもぐるといいよ。」と教えてくれた。パパさん、入水。そしてなんと大きなあわびを4個も取ってきてくれました！ウェイ ト、フィンもなしでしかもアワビを入れる袋もなしでスーパーの 袋をぶら下げていったのだけれど、潜っている最中にわかめにひっかかって何個もアワビを落としてしまったらしい。それにしてもすごい大きさ！