Oct 1, 2015

OPAH, Hawaii's Red Moonfish

World record 181 pound opah caught by Joe Ludlow in Mexican waters
 near San Martin Island at a depth of 190 feet. It was caught in 2014
aboard the Excel, a San Diego luxury long-range sportfishing boat.
Photo courtesy of Excel Sportfishing.
Opah fish, also known as Moonfish, are caught in Hawaii's waters, therefore they are often thought of as being a Hawaiian fish, but they are also found from Mexico to the gulf of Alaska, eastern Australia and New Zealand. This fish can get quite large, as you can see in this world record 181 pound opah caught by 
Joe Ludlow last year.

It's one of the most colorful of the commercial fish species available in Hawaii. Its body is flat looking at it from the front, but from the side it is round like a red moon. It's a combination of silvery-grey with shades of red dotted with white spots. It's fins are crimson, and it's large eyes are encircled with gold. All of the opah landed in Hawaii are caught by longlining in deep water. They are not found in schools, and thus are not caught in great numbers.

The best part of opah is that it is delicious! It is very popular here in Hawaii, especially in restaurants. It has a firm texture, rich flavor, and fortunately for Moloka'i residents, it is occasionally available at Friendly Market. If it is not available at your grocery store, you can order it online from the Honolulu Fish Company

If you ever get the opportunity to fillet an opah, you will find that an average of 35% of an opal's weight is consumable, with the remaining 65% being bone and thick skin. Its flesh has different colors from pink to orange to dark red, but when cooked it all turns white. Opah can be eaten raw as sashimi, broiled, baked, sautéed, steamed, or smoked

Here's a couple of simple recipes to try:

Broiled Hawaiian Opah with Fresh Dill
This recipe always turns out great with a lot of Hawaii's fish, including opah. If you can't find opah, try this recipe with Pacific salmon, uhu (Hawaiian parrotfish), onaga (Hawaiian long tail red snapper), mahi-mahi, ehu (Hawaiian short tail red snapper), or A'u (Pacific blue marlin). They are all a little different in flavor and texture, but you won't be disappointed with any of these fish.

2 (8 ounce) opah fish fillets (try Friendly Market, or order it in advance from PJ in the meat department)
Tamari sauce or soy sauce
2 to 3 large green onions, chopped including green top (Kumu Farms)
4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill (Kumu Farms always has fresh dill)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Cold unsalted butter as needed
Lemon wedges
Whole fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Preheat broiler for 7 to 10 minutes, and put the rack at the level closest to heat source (about 4 inches from the heat). Rub fillets generously on both sides with Tamari or soy sauce. Put on small foil lined baking sheet, and sprinkle with the onion, dill, lemon juice and pepper. Dot with small bits of cold butter. Broil about 5 to 8 minutes, without turning, until flesh flakes easily with a fork and has an even whiteness. Do not over cook. Serve with lemon wedges. Serve with Jasmine Rice Scented with Lemongrass, and Baby Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce. Garnish with fresh dill and serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Note: Always preheat the broiler for 7 to 10 minutes prior to adding the fish. A general rule of thumb for broiling times is as follows, allow 5 minutes for each 1/2-inch of fish thickness. When broiling whole fish, be sure the total weight doesn't exceed 2 pounds. If broiling skin-on fillets, slash the skin a few times to prevent shrinkage and broil skin side up.

Baked Opah with Olives & Orange Zest
This is another simple, Caribbean inspired, recipe for opah, with a zesty tomato sauce.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
4 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
8 ounces thick-cut opah fillets

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Add wine and garlic and simmer for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, olives, oregano and orange zest. Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Season fish with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Arrange the fish in a single layer in a pie pan or baking dish. Spoon the tomato mixture over the fish. Bake, uncovered, until the fish is just cooked through, 10 to 20 minutes. Divide the fish into 2 portions and serve with sauce and yellow rice (Pea Pulao), or Quinoa Hawaiian. Makes 2 servings.

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