Gimme That Fish, Just Gimme That Fish

by Chef James on November 11, 2009

For my inaugural blog, I tossed around a few ideas on what to discuss, but ultimately decided on sharing my undying love of island fish. I just can’t get enough of any particular species (and I am in a position to see and eat many different species mind you).

The Nabeta is a deep water parrotfish usually kept out of the commercial markets - fishermen keep them and share them with their friends! When Chef James was offered a Nabeta, he surprised some of his favorite foodie friends - including Bev Gannon - with a meal based on the succulent, white fish. Ono!

The Nabeta is a deep water parrotfish usually kept out of the commercial markets - fishermen keep them and share them with their friends! The succulent, white fish is ono (delicious).

Most people can eat the usual suspects at any restaurant: Mahimahi, Ono, Ahi, and Opakapaka. I, however, am privy to more obscure species such as Nabeta, a prized local deep sea parrot fish usually only shared among friends. That’s a great steamed fish as it has moist, succulent white flesh.

Rainbow Runner or Kamano the Hawaiian salmon sneaks in occasionally. It has a robust flavor that I’ve cured many times to make an in-house Gravalax. I have served whole crispy fried Taape, which is an invasive Sea Perch introduced from Australia. It can be a little bit boney, but it’s tasty.

Kaku, the Barracuda doesn’t come around much to my kitchen these days. I think the fishermen are afraid of it carrying ciguatera and that no one would buy it, but I have had deep water Kaku which I trust completely. I’ve had it grilled and it is excellent and firm with a full flavor profile. But man the teeth are insane! They look like canine incisors jutting out of the jaw. I think the one fish that really sticks out in recent memory is the Hoggy, which is a deep sea Trigger fish, similar to our state fish the Humuhumukunukuapuaa, only it’s black.

Clockwise from the top: Hawaiian fish Opakapaka, Nabeta, and Lai, all caught off Maui's shores for Chef James McDonald of Pacific'o, I'o, and The Feast at Lele.

Clockwise from the top: Hawaiian fish Opakapaka, Nabeta, and Lai, all caught off Maui's shores for Chef James McDonald of Pacific'o, I'o, and The Feast at Lele.

I was given just a Hoggy by a fisherman and I served it to my friend and celebrity chef Beverly Gannon and 7 other ladies as a “Mystery Amuse Bouche.”

I challenged them all to eat and ponder and I would solicit their guesses at the end of the meal. Hoggy is what I would term the “Poor Man’s Hapu’upuu” or Sea Bass. It has a slightly firm white flesh that steams up superbly. Coated in a fresh cilantro pan sauce made from the bones, it was Richter, or off the charts good.

None of the ladies did guess. I thought it was a great treat and I am so happy to have been able to share it with a friend and renowned chef. I suppose I could go on and on, but will end here with this note; when you have the opportunity to experience an unknown island fish, don’t be afraid to give it a go and get your eat on!

About Chef James

Chef James McDonald contributes 4 post in this blog.

Born in Philly and still an avid "all teams PHILLY" fan. Has a classical culinary training background and specializes in seafood with heavy emphasis on Farm to Table dining. Chef/partner of pacific'O, i'O (beachside eateries), The Feast at Lele (gourmet beachside luau), O'o Farm (organic Kula farm) and aina' gourmet market (@ Honua Kai Resort) all located here on Maui. "I'm still amazed at the quality of local fish and produce that we continue to bring into our restaurants and I encourage you to GET YOUR EAT ON"!

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