A Guide to Hawaiian Fish

Your Handy Glossary of Hawaii's Best Seafood

Brightly Colored Mahi Mahi Or Dolphinfish
Jody Watt / Design Pics / Getty Images

When visiting Hawaii, you will encounter many foods names and terms that may seem quite foreign to you, especially when it comes to fish. Hawaii offers many choices for sampling these seafoods, ranging from upscale resort restaurants featuring Hawaiian Regional Cuisine to food trucks parked at many of the beaches and parks serving up "plate lunches" - a Hawaiian favorite.

Most of these fish can also be purchased at the local food stores and supermarkets in the islands so that you can purchase island foods and prepare them yourself if you are renting a condo or vacation home.

Hopefully when you visit Hawaii, you'll take the opportunity to try many of the exotic foods that you might not be able to find back home. Check this collection of Hawaiian luau recipes to help you prepare many dishes using the local foods of Hawaii.

Hawaiian Seafood Glossary

`Ahi [ah'hee]
A big eye or yellowfin tuna. Ahi is often served raw as poke (chunked, marinated raw fish, Hawaiian-style), sashimi (sliced raw fish, Japanese-style) or sushi. It is also often served crusted and seared as a favorite entree in Hawaiian Regional Cuisine.

Aku [ah'koo]
Skipjack or bonito tuna which is stronger tasting than ahi either served as poke, sushi or cooked. Aku is an important fish to Hawaiian culture, and many local residents prefer it to the more-commercialized ahi tuna for their poke.

Akule [ah koo'leh]
A big-eyed or google-eyed scad fish which is most often served baked, fried, smoked or dried.

A`u [ah'oo]
This Pacific blue marlin or broad-billed swordfish is sometimes used when ahi is not available. It is also known as kajiki in Japanese restaurants.

Enenue [eh'neh noo'weh]
A favorite fish of locals because of the strong seaweed aroma of its flesh. It is usually eaten raw.

Hapu`upu`u [hapu upu u]
Commonly called grouper or sea bass, this fish has a lobster-like texture and mild flavor. Its popularity as a "catch of the day" in non-ethnic restaurants is increasing.

Hebi [heh bee]
This is a mild-flavored spearfish with a meaty texture, and is often served as an entree in Hawaii's more quality restaurants.

Mahimahi [mah'hee mah'hee]
The white, sweet, moderately dense fish is Hawaii's most popular. Out of all Hawaii's local fish, mahimahi is the one most often exported to the mainland.

Monchong [mon' chong]
A somewhat exotic fish with a flaky, tender texture and mild flavor. It is often served broiled, sautéed or steamed.

`O`io [oh' ee yoh]
Ladyfish or bonefish is usually eaten either raw or mixed with seaweed as poke, or used to make a steamed fish cake.

Onaga [oh na' ga]
This mild, moist, and very tender ruby-red snapper is a favorite entree in many Hawaii restaurants. The unique shape and vibrant color, not to mention its delicious flavor, make onaga one of the most sought-after fish species in Hawaii.

Ono [oh' noh]
Also known as wahoo, ono is much like snapper with a slightly firmer texture and is often served grilled or in a sandwich. "`Ono" means good or delicious in Hawaiian.

Opah [oh' pah]
Opah (or "moonfish") has a rich, creamy texture and is often served baked. Hawaiians consider opah to be a good luck fish and often give it away as a gesture of goodwill rather than sell it.

`Opakapaka [Oh' pah kah pah kah]
A pink or crimson snapper, this is a light, flaky fish that is a very popular entree. It can also be served raw in sashimi.

Shutome [shuh-toe-me]
The Hawaii version of swordfish, shutome is most often served grilled or broiled.

Tombo [tombo]
This albacore tuna is considered the lightest and most mild-flavored of Hawaii's tuna species.

Uku [oo' koo]
This is a gray snapper with pale pink flesh. Uku is known for being extremely flaky, moist and delicate when prepared properly.

Ulua [oo loo' wah]
A large crevalle, or jackfish which is a firm-fleshed, flavorful fish also known as pompano.

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