Not all food bloggers have the same aims or motives. Yet I am sometimes surprised by the happy delight so many take in creating and crafting posts and stories about their overseas jaunts. I’m sure many blog readers are prepared to grant a fair bit of leeway to their favourite bloggers in this regard. But nonetheless, blithely assuming that loyal readers who follow on the basis of regular reviews and stories about eats doings in and around Melbourne are therefore interested in one’s holiday snaps strikes me as a somewhat dodgy proposition. Of course, we’ve gone there on occasion ourselves. And here we do so again. I’m putting this up just as a matter of record and because the establishment concerned was such a singularly Kiwi experience. If you’re at all interested or if you’ve followed our whole story – which has seen Bennie graduate from being not much more than a toddler to a these-days rather hulking young man – then please enjoy. If not, simply ignore what follows …
Whitebait Inn, 55 North Street, Mokau, Taranaki, New Zealand.
We’re in New Plymouth for a week of quality Grandma Time.
Nothing special planned – just a simple matter of family and chilling.
But we do head north in our hire care for a feed of whitebait and an evocative reminder of my younger days.
Mokau, about 90 kilometres north of New Plymouth and pretty much on the border of provinces Taranaki and Waikato, is a small coastal town.
It has a year-round population of about 400 that swells to several thousand in peak summer times.
It’s a pretty place and there are Maori fishermen trying their luck on the black-sanded beaches.
Whitebait were a regular part of my childhood diet.
But Kiwi whitebait are quite different kettle of, well, fish from the salt water whitebait we sometimes have a dabble at in Melbourne – such as the chubby, rich ones enjoyed not so long ago at the Croatian Club in Footscray.
New Zealand whitebait are the babes of a handful of native freshwater fish varieties and for obvious reasons the netting of them is tightly regulated.
There may be other ways of preparing them but I only have ever known them as ingredients for fritters and omelettes.
And that’s what we get at Mokau’s famous Whitebait Inn.
Whitebait Inn is done out in classic roadhouse fashion and does double duty as the local post office.
Right next to the coffee machine is a container full of another Kiwi staple – chocolate fish!
As they’re from fresh water and so very small, the flavour of New Zealand whitebait is very, very mild.
Indeed, it could be argued that the flavour of the batter and/or eggs completely overwhelms them.
But there IS something there by way of flavour – tantalising, delicious – and I love what we have.
Bennie goes the fritter sandwich – though he does bulk up with the addition of a corn dog.
I have the fritter meal and love this venerable taste of Kiwiland, even if the chips and salad are just OK.
Grandma Pauline chooses the whitebait omelette.
I suspect the only difference between the fritter and the omelette is about half a cup of flour!