6 Different Delicious Local Fish to Try While in Hawaii
Those long days spent exploring the Big Island – snorkeling, hiking, sunbathing, surfing – will certainly work up an appetite. But if there’s one thing better (or at least on par) with all the memorable activities you’ll be doing, it’s the day-caught fresh seafood available around nearly every nook and cranny.
The Big Island is a fisherman’s paradise, with a massive deep-sea fishing zone located within view of the island itself, making the local restaurants and eateries some of the finest places in the world to try fresh seafood. But with so many options, it can be difficult to know what to look for during your next meal. Plucked fresh from the waters off the Big Island, here are a few of our favorite fish to try during your stay.
Referring to two different species of tuna (yellowfin and bigeye), ahi is a very common option on the Big Island. Because the fish can grow up to 200 pounds, there’s a lot of ahi to go around. Try it on fish tacos, nachos, grilled, baked, or seared. Ahi is also used in sashimi, sushi, and poke, so there’s plenty of opportunity to check out one of the most abundant and sustainably-fished animals in all of Hawaii.
The Hawaiian name for sea bass or grouper, hapu’upu’u are known to change their skin color to blend into their natural habitats. It’s an endemic species to Hawaii, so you’ll only be able to find it during your island stay. It’s mild and pretty delicate, making it ideal for steamed, baked, deep-fried, or soup-based dishes.
A surface-dwelling fish common to warm and tropical waters worldwide, mahi mahi is a must-have fish on your visit to the Big Island. Found in nearly every seafood restaurant worth its weight, mahi mahi can be served grilled, marinated, and baked, but the delicate nature of the meat means preparation is key. If you’ve never tried it, seek out a chef with enough knowledge to know how to cook it without going overboard.
Commonly known as moonfish, opah has three different colors and therefore, three different flavors depending on the part of the fish.Versatile and easily prepared, opah makes for great steaks or fillets, tacos, or chili. Opah can be grilled, pan-fried, seared, poached, or stir-fried as well as served raw in sashimi, cured for pastrami, or ground for burgers or fish sausage.
An oily deep sea fish that’s also known as a sickle pomfret, monchong has a firm texture but light appearance. Its natural oils make for great grilling, frying, or broiling and you’ll often see monchong on the menu as part of a pasta dish or served as fillets atop a bed of greens or fruit. If you can find a place that serves it with a macadamia nut crust, you’ll have a meal you’ll never forget.
A fish caught year-round in Hawaii, uku is a great source of extra lean, healthy protein, yet is underrepresented on most Hawaii menus. Delicious as part of a sashimi dish, baked, steamed, sauteed, or used in a soup, uku’s clear pink meat is tasty, moist, and firm. Look for it in upscale restaurants on the Big Island and you won’t come away disappointed.