Bad day? Chocolate fish. Good job? Chocolate fish. Just because? Chocolate fish. This marshmallow sweet is a bastion of corner-shops (Kiwis call them dairies), gas stations, childhood holidays, and workplace rewards. In short, chocolate fish are a fully fledged feature of the New Zealand confectionary landscape.
As a concept, it’s very simple: pink marshmallow, with a wafer-thin coating of milk chocolate, in the shape of a fish. The coating must be slightly dappled, like rain on a window, and so thin that the pink interior shows through. Neither element is particularly subtle—this is no artisanal bean-based product, and the marshmallow, which is technically raspberry flavored, essentially tastes like pink sugar. Still, the cheap and cheerful aesthetic, and flavor, is at least partly the point. A gourmet chocolate fish would be a contradiction.
A chocolate fish is the sort of thing you offer in an all-office email to the person who finds your tupperware. In New Zealand, it’s a symbol of token reward. This tradition goes back decades and decades. You don’t buy a chocolate fish for yourself, but you might buy one at the gas station for your buddies in the backseat. In theory, chocolate fish are made by Cadbury, but they’re commonly sold unbranded from a sticky, plastic jar behind the counter with a set of tongs. They’re pure, unadulterated Kiwiana.
Chocolate fish are such a Kiwi tradition that they’ve inspired another culinary staple. In the 1950s, a confectionary manager noticed that pineapple-flavored chocolate fish wasted the most marshmallow during production. He put the leftovers to use by coating them in a thin layer of chocolate and marketing the oblong morsels as Pineapple Lumps. Fifty years later, Pineapple Lumps remain popular. But don’t expect to receive one after doing a friend a favor.
Where to Try It
Chocolate Fish Café100 Shelly Bay Road, Wellington, 6022, New Zealand
They serve their fish on the sides of frothy lattes and hot chocolates at this Wellington waterfront café.