In late April, the European Union (EU) authorized the live importation of bivalve molluscs – including clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other shellfish – from Chile to Europe.
The announcement comes after an EU delegation found that Chilean producers meet all of the strict health checks and certifications that are required for this highly sensitive food product.
The decision is expected to add significant value to an already well-established industry – from January to September 2011, Chile exported 48288.73 net tons of bivalve molluscs to the EU, despite the fact that only frozen and processed bivalve molluscs were permitted.
It also comes as Europe’s local oyster industry – devastated by a rampant herpes virus – is seeking to strengthen ties with its counterpart in Chile.
Also included under the green light are echinoderms, like sea urchins and sea cucumbers, tunicates, sea squirts and sea pork, and gastropods, including sea snails and sea slugs.
Spain, France and Italy are expected to be the principal destinations of the Chilean shellfish – in 2011 they accounted for 42.5 percent, 21.9 percent and 18 percent, respectively, of Chile’s bivalve molluscs exports, according to Chile’s National Fishing Council.
Currently, Chile’s number one shellfish export item to Europe is the Mytilus chilensis, known locally as choritos, and exported under the name of the Chilean blue mussel – in 2011, the chorito accounted for a whopping 90.12 percent of all exports.
Native to the cold southern waters around the Chiloé archipelago and Puerto Montt, choritos are known for their pure, almost sweet taste, and are typically used in traditional seafood broths – such as paila marina.
Another bivalve mollusc native to the Chilean shores but not found in Europe is the richly flavored Ensis Macha, known locally as machas, and exported abroad under the name of “Chilean razor clams.”
A classic Chilean recipe using these firm, tasty clams is machas a la parmesana, in which the clams are served in half of their shells and baked in parmesan cheese and white wine.
Meanwhile sea urchins, or erizos, are considered a delicacy in Chile, and are generally eaten fresh, accompanied by lemon juice and sometimes a cilantro and chili paste.