Handling King George Whiting

King George Whiting - Sillaginodes punctata

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Region of Origin

Found in the intertidal seagrass areas throughout the Eyre Peninsula, especially in the shallow, estuarine areas of the inlets and bays.

Sustainability

Good – they are a fast growing, frequently spawning fish, which combined with the artisan harvest methods (predominantly hook and line) and strict fishery management systems in place, make it a sustainable fishery.

Feed

Most King George Whiting taken on handlines are caught during the day, indicating that they are visual feeders. Their mouths are relatively small and are adapted to sucking up such bottom organisms as polychaete worms, bivalve molluscs (cockles) and small crustaceans, accounting for their succulent, sweet flesh.

Harvesting Method

The King George Whiting is caught mainly by single fisherman via hook and line and small seine netting operations.

Seasonality

Caught year round, peak catches are caught in winter June to September, although the largest fish are caught from November to February. Size Winter – 145g-1.5kg (31cm-60cm) Summer – 145g-2kg (31cm-70cm)

Methods to market

King George Whiting is mostly sent to market in a whole round form, fresh, where processors mostly fillet (sometimes butterfly fillet, where the two sides are attached at the collar) the fish, leaving the collar on and pin bone in. As much of the catch occurs in winter, it is common for the fillet to be packed in 1, 1.5 or 2kg blocks, fresh or frozen.

Handling and storage

King George Whiting has a delicate flesh and contact with water should be avoided at all times. Whole fish should be gutted, scaled and wrapped tightly in freezer liner. Fillets should be similarly dried before wrapping tightly and placing on a rack over ice, in a sealed container to avoid absorption of any flavours or aromas.

Fresh v frozen

The ultimate experience is fresh whiting. In particular the clean, fresh iodine zing it is renowned for is more pronounced, however, the processing industry has been established for a long time and is well geared to same day processing and freezing, delivering a high quality frozen fillet. Frozen fillets should be thawed in a cool room, over a drip tray in a sealed container.

Flesh Colour

The flesh colour of the raw King George Whiting is a translucent grey/white, sometimes with a slight yellow bloom. The cooked flesh is brilliant pearl white, sometimes with delicate dark veins through the flesh.

Bone structure

The King George Whiting has fine rib bones and pin bones, which are frequent through the upper body but are easily removed.

Flesh Fat Content

Winter – relatively low Summer – relatively low

Flavour

Mild, delicate and sweet, with a unique iodine burst of flavour on the back palate. When cooked, the aroma is piquant and savoury and the flavour is rich and mouth filling with an almost hazelnut sweetness and depth.

Flesh Texture

Soft to medium –can retain a firmness when raw but softens on cooking.

Yield

Medium – skin-on boneless fillet approximately 45% net yield.

Culinary applications

The King George Whiting is a unique Australian fish experience. Its incredibly sweet flavour and firm, moist flesh give it Dover Sole characteristics. Delicious cooked on the bone, it is more commonly found as a skin-on boneless fillet which is ideally suited to simple preparations using plenty of moisture and medium heat – pan frying, poaching, steaming, deep frying, roasting are especially good with this fish.

Master Class

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1. Check King George
Whiting for quality –
clear, protruding eyes;
bright red gills; a fresh
sea slim

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2. Scale the fish by running
the back of a knife from
tail to shoulder of the
fish, from top to belly on
both sides

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3. To gut Fish, run knife from
base of tail to gills and
pull entrails from body
of fish

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4. Cut gills from base of
head and pull firmly to
remove

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5. Using a pair of kitchen
shears, trim the fins
from the fish

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6. To store whole fish, place
on a tray over ice, in an
air tight container

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7. Fish should be stored at1-3°C

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8. Remove the rib cage
by running knife from
shoulder to belly,
following the ribs as a
guide

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9. Remove the central
pin-bones by V cutting
them from the main fillet