This post is dedicated to my bruddha-in-law, Eric who lives on the Windward side of Oahu. Eric or braddah Rick as I call him is without a doubt one of the most skilled fisherman on the Kaneohe Bay if not island. He is extremely humble and as such will probably not appreciate my saying so but it is true and I have the proof. All of these pictures are fish that he has caught while fishing off the island of Oahu and are just a few of many.
Check out this monster Marlin! The crazy thing about this is that he caught this sucker alone, reeled it in solo, tied it to the side of the boat and hauled it into the pier. I don’t want to make it sound too easy ‘cuz it ain’t, but apparently these fish get so worked up about getting caught they either have a heart attack fighting or dive so deep that they get the “bends” coming back up and die as a result.
This beauty is a tuna that would have been a serious pay day had a shark not taken his share out of the belly as Eric was reeling it in…poor Eric, but his family and friends scored huge on this one.
I was lucky enough to land my first job out of college in Hawaii and ended up living there for 11 years before moving to the desert that is Arizona. One of the greatest parts of Hawaii is the Pacific’s bounty and when your brother-in-law is a fisherman, it wasn’t uncommon to be eating fish that was swimming in the Pacific earlier that day.
Boy do I miss the good ‘ole days…fade to hazy memory effect…ahhh, I remember it like it was yesterday…Eric was generous enough to take my dad and myself out fishing in his boat and we couldn’t have been more excited. It was a typical perfect day in Hawaii as we set out from Heeia Pier in search of some whoppers. I would be lying if I said we were successful that day, in fact I believe we only caught one lowly Kahala aka rubbish fish. What happened next is hard to describe unless you have been there but try and imagine paradise like weather turning into the Perfect Storm in about 10 minutes. What appeared to be a collection of dark clouds far off in the horizon was what I would consider a small typhoon that sent us towards shore in a big hurry…so fast in fact that we forgot to pull up our anchor which literally turned our boat right back around towards the eye of the storm as the rope it was tied to became taunt.
Initially, I had no idea why the boat turned back around and momentarily thought Eric had lost his mind…sorry buddy, I only doubted you for a second…which seemed like an eternity. Once I realized what had happened I felt a little better only to look down at my dad’s foot and see blood pouring from a small cut that must have happened during our abrupt “about face”. My first thought was “perfect…we are total shark bait now” and my second thought was to toss him over board to distract the sharks while I made a swim for shore. Luckily, I pulled it together and Eric dislodged the anchor and saved us from our demise. In all seriousness we were very fortunate to be in Eric’s hands that day as a couple of knucklehead haoles from Ohio would not have been as lucky.
Not only is Eric a great fisherman but also a great cook when it comes to preparing fish…sometimes cooked however, most often raw which is truly the best way to enjoy fresh fish. One of my favorite fish from the Islands is Opakapaka or Hawaiian Pink Snapper, a deep water fish often caught between 30 and 100 fathoms. If you ever get a chance to try it don’t pass it up. I know people who don’t even like fish that love this one.
A relative of the Opakapaka is the Onaga or Ruby Snapper which you will see proudly presented in picture above. Not too much different in flavor or texture however swims even deeper at around 150 fathoms. Onagas are a hot commodity in the islands around this time of year and as such, I just saw a poke shop on Face book selling Onaga for $70 a pound!
On my mother-in-laws most recent visit she brought a cooler, as is Hawaiian-style, chocked full of; Portuguese sausage, Char-siu pork and two beautiful vacuum sealed Opakapakas which I left frozen until a couple of days ago.
Notice how clear the eyes are…this is exactly what you want to see when shopping for whole fish…if they eyes look milky, cloudy or bloody steer clear. I decided to prepare them the same way Eric always does which is Chinese style, steamed whole and finished with a nice splash of screaming hot peanut oil for some crispiness.
Above are the ingredients that are typically used for this style preparation:
• Opakapaka or any fresh snapper
• Oyster Sauce, a Chinese brown sauce that really doesn’t taste anything like oysters
• Shoyu or Soy Sauce
• Ginger, julienned
• Hawaiian Sea Salt
• Cilantro, chopped
• Peanut Oil, heated until super crazy hot (a very high smoking point which is perfect for this)
The first step after scaling and gutting them was to make diagonal incisions across both sides of the fish.
Next, I hit the fish lightly with some of the salt while inserting some of the julienned ginger into the incisions as well as some of the larger pieces into the fish’s cavity.
The fish are resting on a pan that is small enough to fit into a larger pan which contains water about a quarter inch deep.
Once the pan containing the fish is placed into the larger pan you seal the two with aluminum foil which will trap the steam and rapidly cook the fish.
I cooked the two fish for about 10-15 minutes (slightly above medium rare) and removed the foil. What a beautiful site! While the fish was steaming I put about a ¼ cup of the peanut oil on the stove top on high until it was almost smoking. I squirted the fish with a nice drizzle of oyster sauce and tossed the chopped cilantro on top.
Next, I took the peanut oil and drizzled it over the fish which made a sizzling sound giving the fish a nice crisp exterior and amazingly moist interior. Last but certainly not least I lightly poured some shoyu or soy sauce over the fish which combines with the oyster sauce and peanut oil for a magical sauce that is perfect for spooning over your fish once on your plate.
As you will see the steamed fish literally lifts right off of the bone leaving the type of fish you see in the cartoons…FUN! Keep ‘em coming Rick and MAHALOS!