Nov 10, 2017

Striped Hawaiian Mullet

Striped Hawaiian mullet,‘Ama‘ama, were one of the most important fish species in traditional Hawaiian culture. Young fish were caught in nets along the shoreline, then raised in the many fishponds throughout the islands. After being fattened in the fishponds, they were harvested and eaten raw with seaweed added, or wrapped in ti or ginger leaves and broiled or baked.

There are three species of mullet in Hawaiian waters but the striped Hawaiian mullet is the largest, reaching 18 inches in length and weighing about 3 pounds. After December 1st the striped mullet starts its spawning season which puts them off-limits until April 1st. The annual winter closure is designed to help the fish reproduce successfully and protect the species from overfishing.

Mullet has a relatively high oil content that keeps the meat moist in a variety of preparation methods. Steam or bake whole fish or sear fillets, skin-side down, in a pan. Moi can also be grilled, broiled or pan fried and served raw as sashimi. The oil in the flesh makes smoking an option as well.
I was fortunate enough to be gifted a large striped Hawaiian mullet by a friend who loves to fish in the waters around Moloka'i. He told me that he and his wife like to cook this delicious fish very simply in a soup seasoned with just lemon juice and soy sauce. I took this concept and developed my own recipe for Moloka'i Mullet Stew, which follows:

Striped Hawaiian Mullet
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Moloka'i Mullet Stew
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Moloka'i Mullet Stew
2 tablespoons canola oil, plus 2 teaspoon sesame oil
3 inches fresh ginger, sliced into thin strips
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large mullet filleted and cut into 4 pieces (remove the skin), saving the bones for the broth
4 tablespoons soy sauce, plus 4 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or chili oil
4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, cleaned and stems removed
6 cups water
2 lemons or limes, juiced, or to taste
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Heat the canola oil and sesame oil in a deep pot.

Saute the ginger, onions, and garlic for 2 minute.

Pour-in water and bring to a boil.

Add fish bones and simmer for 1/2 hour, then remove the bones and strain the broth to remove any stray bones. Add the fish fillets, soy sauce and fish sauce, potatoes, and lemon juice to the stock. Let the liquid re-boil and then simmer for 8 minutes, then taste the broth for additional seasoning if needed.

Put the fresh spinach leaves in 4 soup bowls. Gently place the fish and potatoes on top of the spinach, breaking the fish into 2 pieces. Now pour the hot broth over everything and garnish with sesame seeds, serve.

Makes 4 servings.

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