One of the stops for my New Zealand research was Not Quite Nigella’s blog posts about a trip she had made there. One in particular spoke about a Queenstown visit she had made to a fish and chip shack, where she tried something called mutton bird.
Despite it sounding a little unsavoury, I was intrigued at a foodstuff I had not eaten before, and hoped I’d get a chance to give it a go.
When we eventually found ourselves standing outside Aggy’s Shack (Marine Parade, Queenstown), staring at the menu, it suddenly seemed less appealing compared to the crispy fish and chips I could see other people tucking into. After much deliberation though, I threw myself on my sword in the name of experimentation and ordered it.
After a short wait, the mutton bird (also known as titi) arrived resting on a bed of golden chips. I eyed it suspiciously. It resembled a bony portion of duck, and did not look very appetising. I poked it a bit with a fork and eventually levered off a shred of meat and popped it in my mouth.
The texture was like duck, as was the fattiness, but the taste was salty fish – very strong like it had been marinated in shrimp paste.
As I nibbled more strands of bird, I racked my brains to think what cooking method would stop my taste buds having kittens (“It’s duck that tastes of fish… Error! Error!”). H and I agreed that it needed to be buried in something, or processed into a form where the texture would not affect the unaccustomed mind’s perception of the taste.
A few weeks later, lolling in bed staring at early morning TV, I was quite excited to see the programme’s cook was due to demonstrate a mutton bird recipe later in the show. Alas I missed it, but as H pointed out, even as they were promoting the spot the presenters sounded a bit dubious.
Not Quite Nigella and many New Zealanders clearly like it, but I think I’d need to encounter it in a different form before I’d be willing to try it again.