Taste Hawaii's Finest Flavors
Guide to Local Fish
Maine has its lobster. Alaska has its crab. In Hawaii, it’s all about the fish. There are more than a dozen local fish you might find on a restaurant’s menu here. It can get a bit confusing. To navigate the sea of Hawaii’s fish, we talked to Chef William Trask about his favorites. "As far as the restaurant is concerned, we run three fresh catches of the day. I try to have an oily fish like onaga (ruby snapper) or opakapaka (crimson snapper) on the menu and hearty fish like ahi (tuna) or ono (wahoo), which are a lot firmer, and then one that’s in between the two like mahimahi (dolphinfish) or opah (moonfish). So we have three different types of textures every night.
Onaga is a moist fish with a delicate flavor. I like to sautee it quickly or broil it on the grill. Its preparation and serving would be real simple.
Opakapaka is a mild, moist fish. It’s real versatile with a subtle flavor. Opakapaka might have light butter sauce on it or maybe a fruit relish—like papaya, pineapple, and mango. You have to be careful what you put on these fish otherwise the sauce overpowers the fish.
Ono is a firmer fish with a distinct flavor. It’s good for grilling. We lightly season it with salt and pepper and maybe brush it with olive oil and then put it on the grill. We might serve it with a quick tomato sauce over it. Or just fresh tomatoes and capers.
The ahi, is a good grilling fish with a hearty flavor. I like to serve it two ways. Grilled medium rare over a salad with Asian vinaigrette. Or grilled and served instead of a New York steak. And, of course, ahi is good raw—for sashimi.
Mahimahi is moister than ono or ahi with a light flavor that is almost sweet. It’s close to being an opakapaka. Mahimahi is ideal for a variety of preparations, although it should be cooked until it flakes and no longer.
The flesh of opah is quite tender while its flavor is robust and its smell aromatic. This is a versatile fish—good sautéed, broiled, seared and, occasionally, served raw as sashimi."