by Ed Halmagyi


I have always been impressed with our barramundi, but not just because it cooks so well. It’s equally a scientific interest. You see, like only a specialised few fish, barramundi can live in either fresh or salt water. But even that’s not the most amazing thing about the barra.

They’re cross dressers!! Well, sequentially hermaphroditic to be exact.

You see, all barramundi start out in the rivers of northern Australia and through South-East Asia, where they begin life as males. Once big enough to track their way downstream, these juvenile fish will proceed to the brackish stretches where the fresh river water meets the salty sea.

This is the spawning zone.

Once they arrive in this aquatic bordello, the randy young lads set about doing what teenage boys do best, mate awkwardly. And plentifully.

Female barramundi lay billions of eggs that cling to the reeds and weeds. Along come the males and they, um, take care of things.

After this first spawning the barramundi’s male sexual organs retreat, and the fish become females. They then swim into the ocean and return each year to lay eggs. Talk about kinky!

‘Barramundi’ means ‘large scales’ in the language of North Queensland’s indigenous people. Not only does the fish have large scales, but it also has large, moist flakes of fleshy fillet that gives you a predictably delicious result.

You can buy freshwater barramundi, but mostly this is only sport fish, not for the table. Like most river fish, freshwater barramundi has a pronounced muddy flavour that is hard to purge.

But what makes barramundi such a perfect fish for family dinner is that this ancient fish has none of the fine pinbones running along the centre of it’s fillet. It’s easy to cook, and even more deliciously easier to eat.
Poached barramundi with soba noodle citrus salad