Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Krill Meal


You remember how in Biology you were told that all forms of marine life exists because of microscopic plants--phytoplanktons--that can photosynthesize and become food for the next level in the food chain, the krill? Those little shrimp-like crustaceans that the biggest mammal--the whale-- feeds on?



I've always wondered if these are krill. They are shrimp-like. They come in swarms once a year, around Feb to March. They don't grow any bigger, I'm told. And they taste great. Let's just assume they are krill.

Krill used to be abundant in our fish markets. I remember eating them in scrambles eggs. A Filipino maid, Betty, who used to take care of Ming as a toddler, once fried little krill pancakes that were so good Yi still remembers them. The freshness of the krill gives a terrific savory-sweetness and crunchiness (since they are mostly shells) and when fried in oil, the flavor and taste are truly a gastronomic delight. Only thing is, the tiny black dots, the eyes, bother me. I imagine them as black pepper.


Another more common way to eat krill is in the form of salt-pickled cincaluk. I didn't grow up eating cincaluk, so the only way I eat it is the way Linda taught me, as a dip with some lime juice and chili padi. Slurp! I didn't eat cincaluk for a long time because they tasted more of salt than anything. Then Linda gave me a bottle made by her friend in Miri, and man, I was hooked. I still have half a bottle. There's no expiry date I hope...

Do I feel guilty competing with the whales and fish for food? I used to but then I think it is necessary to decimate the krill population too, because each year when the krill come, they are so abundant they usually cause red tides (probably due to depletion of oxygen, a condition that is favorable to the growth of certain algae), harmful algae blooms that kill marine life and humans who eat them.

Krill are now hard to come by. I'm not sure why, but I think it's probably due to the fact that they are not in demand and they don't keep very well. I've always imagined going out to the sea during krill season and scooping the krill with mosquito nets, or my long Bohemian skirt, because I was told krill are too fine for ordinary fishing nets. I've only seen patches of these shrimps once, long ago, in Tanjung Aru Beach before it became the polluted grey sea that it now is, with all the dirt from those stalls.My friend Su was out to sea with her family last Sunday and they spotted some fishermen harvesting krill. Lucky me, Su lives less than 5 minutes away.

I tried to scrimp on the oil and made pancakes instead, but Wey complained that the pancakes weren't crispy so I made some fritters too. The amount of ingredients are an estimate, as I added water and flour to get the right consistency. Su said the fritters are best made from self-raising flour with some chopped cilantro/coriander leaves, which I didn't have, so I added chives and spring onions from my garden. The pancakes/fritters go very well with a Korean pa jon (Korean pancakes) dip or a sour-sweet chili sauce.


Krill Fritters
300-400 g krill (I prefer more)
1-2 cups chopped chives or cilantro or spring onions, or mixture of
1 1/2 -2 cups of self-raising flour
1/3 t salt (or to taste)
shakes of white pepper
1 egg
1 1/2 + cups water

oil for frying

1. Mix all the ingredients together (except the oil) until smooth. The batter should be thin enough for a spoonful of it to drop easily.

2. Heat up oil for deep-frying, or shallow frying if oil-conscious. Drop a large spoonful of the batter into the hot oil, pulling the spoon horizontally just as the batter drops into the oil so that the batter spreads out to make thinner (and crispier) fritters.

3. When golden brown, remove onto kitchen paper and serve hot, with a spicy-sour dip made of white vinegar, light soy sauce, chili flakes, minced garlic, toasted sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.


Precious Pea said...

I can imagine how sweet those krills are. They use these to make dried shrimp??

chumpman said...

I assumed the dried tiny shrimps I had was krill. I bought both salted and unsalted. I like steamed egg custard with unsalted and salted for fried celery and black fungus, so yummy. Love to try to make fritters, must be delicious

rina said...

wow those krill r so tiny! can u actually taste them...and feel the eyes popping in ur mouth? r they kinda like poppy seeds? just CURIOUS!

Anonymous said...

interesting! nvr seen them b4.

nice photos ^_^

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

wow..no wonder whales dig this (or was that plankton?)..esp if it looks this good after its cooked!

Agnes @ rB said...

Mmm~ it looks good.

I hardly see these little fellas. Are they much much more smaller than Ikan Bilis?

Heather said...

Red tide isn't caused by krill, it's caused by dinoflagellates. They're a tiny organism upon which the krill feed. So you SHOULD feel guilty about it! (Just kidding, those fritters look delicious.) (*^_^*)

terri@adailyobsession said...

pp: hm, u mean those tt r very fine n papery? could very well be

chumpman: frankly i've never eaten dried krill but i'll look out for them

rina: yes, more like poppy seeds!

anon: tq :)

joe:i'm not sure. i need to watch more national geographic

agnes: u haven't eaten krill b4?? they r the size of the smallest ikan bilis

heather: tq for the explanation. what i meant was when we get krill, we also usually get red tide. hey, u have a great blog there:)

ekeng said...

love the 2nd picture.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of home when I was a kid we use to catch these with our skirts by the ocean. Thanks for this lovely reminder.


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