Demand for Opah has risen greatly since the marketing department for Hawaii decided sometime in the mid-1980s that they’d use this overlooked fish in a marketing campaign. Before then, (waaay before) the fish was a symbol of good luck and was given a gesture of goodwill between sailors and fisherman. Most of that goodwill was probably short-lived since Opah is found in the tropics and didn’t store well in desk drawers or glove compartments.
The Opah has four distinct colors of meat that all turn white when cooked, except for a little section that’s off-color and stringy and tough to cut. Nature likes to provide its own warning labels about what to avoid sometimes.
Since Opah doesn’t ordinarily school, it’s often a bycatch by commercial fisheries. That makes consumer availability spotty. Most reported catches occur between April and August, and since it’s a good fish for grilling, it might make an interesting choice to include in a cookout. If you do find it and cook it up, Opah has a distinctive taste, described by some as a cross between tuna and swordfish. The texture is creamy yet firm and is rich in omega 3s, high in protein and low in fat too.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Rating
Care should be taken to not support “internationally” caught Opah, which is often snagged in longline fisheries that also ensnare lots of other sea creatures that shouldn’t be caught. For this reason the Monterey Bay Aquarium gives Opah an “avoid” rating but it’s a “good alternative” for fish caught in the waters around Hawaii.
In Season at the Market
Product descriptions are generously shared and created by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) in San Francisco. CUESA is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Visit CUESA at www.cuesa.org.