Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Contents SCOOP AUTUMN 2010 191
Atiny crustacean that s thrown a
financial lifeline to WA farmers
is becoming a "must have" dish
around the world.
Not that the yabby s deli-
cious taste is anything new -- Indigenous Austral-
ians have feasted on the sweet flesh of the spindly
freshwater crustacean for centuries.
Originally hunted with a vine net and prod-
ding stick, yabbies (brought into Western Australia
from Victoria in the 1930s) are today widely
trapped by campers and hobbyists in muddy dams
across the state. They re also commercially farmed
and processed for an expansive global market.
Kukerin-based Cambinata Yabbies is a pioneer in
the yabby farming industry. Starting out as a back-
yard operation in 1990, the family business now
sources from more than 700 farms across regional
WA, and in a good year sells up to 75 tonnes of the
crayfish species, 70 percent of which are exported
across the world -- from France to South Korea.
Before they found themselves arm-deep in
claws and feelers, owners Michael and Mary
Nenke were farming wheat and sheep on their
Kukerin property, 300km southeast of Perth.
Struggling to keep up financially, with a
global recession taking its toll and four of their
six children being educated in Perth to support,
the couple considered selling the yabbies that had
inhabited the dams on their farm for years.
"Our eldest son went out and caught 50kg,
only to find that the wholesalers were oversup-
plied," says Michael. "So we threw them back and
thought nothing of it.
"Then literally an hour after that some friends
called us to say they had relatives at a Northbridge
restaurant who wanted 20kg of yabbies a week.
Mary said yes we would do it , I was a little more
reluctant, but we went with it in the end and I m
glad we did. From there the orders came."
After a couple of months selling their freshwa-
ter crustaceans to restaurants, the Nenkes identi-
fied a missing link in the equation: while there
were numerous yabby farmers in the region no-one
was out there marketing them.
"Our friends and neighbours started coming to
us saying, while you re selling your yabbies, how
about selling ours? " says Mary.
And so the family applied for licences to both
buy and sell the region s keep.
With little experience farming yabbies on a
large scale (aside from their annual Easter cook-
ups), the Nenkes were taken by surprise when the
business grew like Topsy, leaving them to learn the
hard way from mistakes made on the run.
But Michael is quick to attest the value of
falling face first in a muddy dam.
"Our knowledge was lacking," he says. "Par-
ticularly when it came to handling the yabbies. In
those early stages we kept them in warm condi-
tions, but yabbies are temperate crustaceans, living
in waters around 10 degrees, so they must be kept
YABBY DABBA DOO!
A few quick pointers for the yabby enthusiast:
• When you buy your yabbies fresh, chill them
right down in the freezer and put them to sleep.
Then when you're ready to eat 'em (they'll keep
for up to seven days), pop them in a Chinese
steamer for approximately five minutes.
• Most of the yabby's flesh is in the tail. When
cooked right (steamed, not boiled), they'll
have a delicate, sweet flavour and firm texture.
There's also some joy to be found in the claws.
• You can use the yabby's shell to make seafood
stock: just fry them up with some onions, garlic
and olive oil, add water, cook for five hours and
strain the shell out.
Enjoyed by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years, the little
ol' yabby is now making big waves on the local and international
cuisine scene. text nathan scolaro « images craig kinder
GRIPPING TALE: Since diversifying into
yabby farming, Kukerin's Michael and Mary
Nenke (left) haven't looked back.
Links Archive Scoop 50 Summer 2009 Scoop 52 Winter 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page