On my recent cookery course in Chiang Mai, one of the other participants, upon hearing our travels would take us to New Zealand, recommended we try the green-lipped mussels.
I am erratic in my feelings towards molluscs. I will excitedly order Moules à la crème (yay for fattening sauces!) and yomp it down, but sometimes my brain turns on me, forcing me to look at the mussels in detail or insisting they taste a bit too fishy this time, and I instantly start to go off them.
Thus when we ordered some plain, steamed, green-lipped mussels (with a side of sweet chilli sauce) from Aggy’s Shack (Marine Parade, Queenstown) alongside our mutton bird, I was a bit hesitant.
As it turned out, they were delicious. Giants compared to the little fellas back home, the taste was mild and the mussels succulent and meaty. On the downside, the size of the portion led to us getting mussel-fatigue (yeah, I know, complaining about too much food verging on crazy-talk), and I didn’t think the chilli sauce worked as an accompaniment.
My second encounter was at the Boat Shed Café in Nelson (pictured). More lovely mussels, this time cooked in a more traditional style, and served with some excellent bread and butter. There were a few dangerous moments when a mussel or two was reluctant to come out of its shell and I ended up clumsily tearing it to pieces in a horror of strandy bits and strange-coloured quivering things, but I pushed on through and am firmly on the side of mussels again. For now.