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Champagne Lobster

When it comes to eating lobster in the Top End, you probably think of something large and bright red, flown in on ice from WA – in other words, an expensive proposition.

But local champagne lobster (also called peer lobster or barking cray sh) is a delicious and affordable option that remains relatively unknown to many Top End seafood lovers – and it’s in season now.

“It’s not the prettiest of lobsters and not particularly large, although they do come in a great ‘plate size’,” says Rachael Ciesiolka, former Masterchef contestant and owner of Rachael’s Seafood Shack.

The plate-sized, pale orange champagne lobster, caught far northwest near the Tiwi islands, towards East Timor, has a distinctly wild flavour, reminiscent of the ocean.

The overall taste is “something between a bug, a prawn and a lobster,” says Ciesiolka.

“It doesn’t take a lot of time to cook, it has its own flavour.”

There’s no local champagne lobster industry, rather, the crustacean is a by-product of scampi trawling. But it should be better known, says Darwin Fish Market owner Ziko Illic, who praises the region’s pristine waters for the quality of NT seafood.

“We are very lucky here, we are isolated, we are too far from action, industry, pollution and too far from other countries,” Illic says.

Ciesiolka, whose business is in the Fish Market, says the fleshy champagne lobster tail suits both Mediterranean and Asian flavours, but she always removes the head before cooking.

“If you leave the head on it gets very, very wild tasting. But if you remove the head just as it’s thawed and let it sit for a minute, it’s just beautiful. Sweet, firm, it has the strength of the ocean.” 

Simple Barbecued Champagne Lobster

By Rachael Ciesiolka

2 champagne lobster tails, cut down the middle (heads removed) 1⁄2 tbsp sh sauce
1⁄2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger or galangal
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil

Mix all ingredients together until sugar dissolves. Spoon some of the marinade over the flesh of the lobster and put shell-side down onto a hot barbecue grill. Once it is bubbling, spoon on more marinade, turn the tail over until it chars, then remove from grill. 

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