Mutton bird

The sign was half hidden behind cartons of free range eggs and it said “Mutton bird for sale here!” What is that? I as told it was a wild bird and all I had to do was to boil it in water for 15mins and chuck it in the grill. So did curiosity kill the cat?

Mutton bird or titi is a seabird and one of traditional food source of the Maori. These young birds are usually preserved in their own fats or brined. It is also said that this bird feeds on fishes, squids and krills (looks like little shrimps). Some sites stated that it tasted like preserved lamb and hence the name and other said it tasted like fish! I had to cook and eat it and decide for myself.

There was a heavy briny smell when I took the bird out of the bag. Mister was shaking his head from side to side. Didn’t think he was too impressed with me or the bird. To get rid of the salt, I had to boil and change the water constantly. The bird in water, brought it to a boil, turned the heat down and allow it to simmer. I kept changing the water and did that for about 2 hours. During this time, so many random thoughts were running through my mind. Make a curry to mask whatever taste it might have? Chuck it away and grilled real lamb chops instead? I was quite lost.

Mutton bird or titi

Mutton bird or titi

Hoping that the salt and fats from the bird will season the capsicum and potatoes, I placed them together in the baking tray. So how did it taste like? Was it a disappointment? Did I fail?
It had a firm texture and tasted like meaty anchovies. The skin was nicely browned and crispy. I guess I should had washed and boiled it longer than 2 hours. Plus a sauce will be nice. Maybe I should have made a simple curry with it. And as Mister pointed out, it had a taste and texture resemblance to the chinese cured duck. So if I had done it right and now that I know how to, it would taste much better.

Mutton bird with steamed asparagus & roasted capsicum & potatoes

Mutton bird with steamed asparagus & roasted capsicum & potatoes

Will I try it again? Yes. This time, I will treat it as I would with the cured duck. I am very intrigued with this bird. It has a nice meaty texture and I am sure if the salt was washed to a decent standard, it would have tasted less pungent and less salty.

I am no cat so curiosity didn’t have any chance!