Sunday 7 January 2007

moreton bay bug w donut peach salsa

Today’s Weekend Herb Blogging combines two very unique and interesting ingredients: Moreton Bay Bugs and Donut Peaches.

Today I was just going to blog about the peaches and leave it at that, but then Jonas told me it would be much more interesting if I included a recipe. Since I just happened to have a Moreton Bay Bug in the fridge (as you do!), I whipped up this little ceviche in no time.

The sweetness of the peaches contrasted perfectly with the sweet bug meat and a tiny dash of chilli sauce lifted the flavours perfectly (although I warn against too much, both the bugs and peaches are delicate).

Bugs are an Australian icon and featured on the BBC’s list of “50 things to eat before you die”. I love them. They are easy to handle (cut off the head and scoop out the meat from the tail: no fuss, no claw mining, no brain leakage!) and they taste fantastic.

Donut Peaches
These heirloom fruits are making a comeback! Originating in southern and central China, they were once called China Flats – a salute to their origins and the people that brought them to Australia.

In the US they were called Chinese saucer peaches and peento or pan tao, before they fell out of favour with consumers (apparently early Americans preferred the orange fleshed peaches). Their current name “donut peach” was apparently a marketing decision.

They are about 5cm across and about 3cm high with pale yellow fur flushed with a rosy pink. The stone is just a fraction larger than a cherry stone. The white flesh tastes very sweet and juicy, just like nectarines. According to one website I read these peaches have a low acid to sugar ratio making them sweeter than more common varieties.

It is believed that they have been grown in China for over 3,000 years and were eaten wild for a significant time before that.

Moreton Bay Bugs
The Moreton Bay bug (Thenus orientalis) has many names such as bay lobster, flathead lobster, gulf-lobster, mudbug, sandbug, shovelnose lobster, slipper lobster, squat lobster and squilla.

It is found all over on muddy or sandy beds (at 10-60m) from northern NSW to central WA and all over the northern coast of Australia. It is primarily a by-product of the prawn industry.

An average bug weighs around 250g (8.8 ounces) but it’s not unusual for them to weigh between 120g-380g (4.2-13.4 ounces). They fetch a medium-high price (I paid AUD$31 per kilo at the Sydney Fish Market – that’s USD$11 per pound) but I think the meat yield is significantly higher than crabs (apparently a bug meat yield is 30%).

When buying a bug the Sydney Fish Market website instructs you to look for “brightly coloured, firm, intact, lustrous shells, without any discolouration, particularly at joints, and a pleasant fresh sea smell”.

Moreton Bay Bug w Donut Peach Salsa

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 2 as an amuse bouche or appetizer.
2 uncooked Moreton Bay Bugs (approx ½ kg)
2 donut peaches
2 tablespoons coriander, chopped finely
½ teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce (or Tabasco or fresh chilli)
¼ cup lime juice

1. Cook bugs in boiling water for 2 minutes. They will turn bright orange like a lobster. Remove from water and cool completely, allowing bugs to drain.
2. Cut the bugs’ heads off, just where they join with the tail. Scoop out the meat from the tail and the head cavities. If you’re a little obsessive like me, wash the meat and pat dry with paper towels.
3. Shred meat into bite sized morsels with your hands and put into a bowl. Top with lime juice.
4. Dice peaches into tiny cubes and add to the bowl. Add coriander and mix well to combine.
5. Allow to sit for 15 minutes to ‘cook’ a little in the lime juice.
Add Louisiana Hot Sauce and mix well. Eat with gusto.

This is the first Weekend Herb Blogging for 2007 and it’s hosted by the Herb Goddess herself, Kalyn at Kalyn’s Kitchen. Be sure to check out Kalyn’s herbaceous recap.

Another quick note, this recipe was submitted to the Best of 2007: Foodblogger's Recipe Collection. An event hosted by Zorra from Kochtopf and Sandra from Un Tocco di Zenzero where food bloggers from around the world submitted their best recipes from 07. I chose this one because I thought the ingredients were unique, especially the bug, and that people might enjoy reading about it.




  1. The herb goddess! You are so sweet. What an amazing post. Another A+ on your record for sure. I've heard of these Moreton Bay Bugs, maybe it was on Deep End Dining, where Eddie travels around and eats interesting things. Very inventive recipe and both things I haven't eaten.

  2. Seriously...that bug is scary!! hehe Looks tasty though ;)

  3. kalyn - thanks for my top grade. i was so excited to be playing with such unique ingredients.

    jeff - yes, it does look pretty weird. kind of like the face huggers from alien.

  4. How lovely! I've seen the donut peaches here in New York, but can't say the same about the "bugs." I guess I'd have to substitute lobster or crawfish . . .

  5. This post makes me yearn for summer! Yum. Hope all is well there.

  6. So glad you posted this for best of 2007, I definitely enjoyed reading it and wish I had access to some of those bugs. I'm laying down as I read this, so the head on picture came up right in my face at high level -- it really startled me! Perfect way to get your readers' attention!

  7. thanks laurie. i thought it might be something a little interesting and unusual for everyone to try out (if you can get your hands on the ingredients).
    happy new year!

  8. Great sounding recipe. I spent a year in Aus a few years back and tried Moreton bay bugs in Caloundra. I have to say they were great, quite similar to lobster. I'm sure the recipe would taste equally good with North American Lobster.


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