Abalone’s winning way

First published in the Portland Observer, 9 August 2017.

BILL MELDRUM

A NARRAWONG-BASED abalone farm is hoping to make further inroads into its export markets after a record production year and a morale boosting best dish award at a high-profile Japanese cooking event. The farm produced 170 tonnes of abalone for the financial year ended June 30, 2017, with the previous record of 100 tonnes achieved in the 2014-15 financial year.

Yumbah Narrawong, formerly known as Coastal Seafarms until a name change last year, is on a high after the achievements. General manager Tim Rudge said the reason for the record production was the $4.5 million stage two expansion project which was completed in January this year. He said the expansion doubled production capacity at the farm to more than 200 tonnes per annum. The stage two expansion included 224 new tanks stocked with abalone – adding to the farm’s existing 180 tanks. “We export 70% of our product, 30% is domestic,” he said. “The expansion has also resulted in extra employment – we now employ 18 people, up from 12 in mid-2016.”

Yumbah exports product to Japan, China, USA, Canada and the European Union. The best dish award was achieved by a show of hands at the Iron Chef charity dinner in Sydney at the Opera House. Iron Chef was a high-rating cooking competition program in japan during the 1990s that was resurrected in 2012. Mr Rudge said Iron Chef Kenichi Chen’s dish was a “Shisen Hanten style slow cooked Yumbah abalone with iyo no miso and abalone liver sauce”. Mr Rudge said the epic Iron Chef All Stars charity dinner last Wednesday saw four original Iron Chefs – Rokusaburo Michiba (Japanese), Hiroyuki Sakai (French), Kenichi Chen (Chinese) and Masahiko Kobe (Italian) – reunite on stage for the first time since 1997.

They were joined by world-renowned chef Kentaro Chen and Asia’s top pastry chef Janice Wong from 2am Dessert Bar – Cobo House, to deliver a gastronomic experience for the diners. Mr Rudge said the company would definitely be in contact with its customers in Japan to let them know about the best dish. “Iron Chef is very popular in Japan so we will be marketing our achievement,” he said. “We are already well entrenched in Japan, with 30% of our product going there – but we like to keep up and market our achievements.”

Yumbah Narrawong is part of Yumbah Aquaculture – a group of operators who joined forces to produce and market abalone. The other sites are at Bicheno (Tasmania), Kangaroo Island and Port Lincoln (South Australia). The company’s website says that “in the search for a name that spoke to our core coastal values we came across a reference from R.L. Dawson’s Early Recollections and Records of the Clarence Aborigines; describing an Aboriginal word Yumbah as ‘a rough edible shellfish the size of a man’s hand that clings to rocks and is similar to an oyster’.” “After months of research we found and met with Eileen McLeay, Traditional Custodian for the Yaygirr Language group, who granted us permission to use “Yumbah” as our company name,” the website says.