Food and wine fest features fish
Tuesday started early for Hawaii Food and Wine Festival participants who wanted to see Honolulu’s famed fish auction and visit Tamashiro Market to sample poke.
Chefs George Mavrothalassitis and Lee Anne Wong accompanied the tour and talked story with paid guests, answering questions along the way. They were to conduct a poke demonstration at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, host hotel for the HF&WF Culinary Journey launch event.
John Kaneko of the nonprofit Hawaii Seafood Council led the United Fishing Agency fish auction tour, which started pier-side with an explanation of how commercial long-line fishing boat crews lay their lines while out on the ocean, with hooks at depths ranging from 50 meters to 350 meters.
With some 3,000 baited hooks, the percentage of fish caught each time the line is laid, is 1.1, he said. “Ninety-nine of 100 hooks are empty,” he said, so the boats are out for 11 to 14 days, and immediately process the fish and stow them below deck on ice.
Once inside United Fishing Agency, the auction was in full swing, with pallets of fish being wheeled in as Kaneko explained the differences between the grades of fish, the basics of what to look for when choosing fish at the market, and more.
The fish are laid side-by-side with a portion of the tail cut out, yielding a flat, or fileted cut and a “steak” cut, as well as a cored sample. The auctioneer barks out information about each fish, and fish buyers stake their claims before moving on to the next fish.
For those of us who are not experts, the differences between the big eye ahi flesh from fish to fish was stunning. Color and texture ranged from lusciously glistening and red, to lighter red with pinky, fatty tissue prized by many, to brown and dull, some with space between the muscle tissue. Kaneko described the latter as “gaping,” and said the brown flesh definitely would not be destined for use as sashimi.
Anything at the supermarket that is cherry red and “screaming at you” has likely been gassed with carbon monoxide to enhance the fish’s color, Kaneko said. The council offers fish auction tours via its website.
It was then on to Tamashiro Market, where owner Guy Tamashiro, a regular at the fish auction, is getting a new parking lot at his North King Street shop.
Tamashiro’s is known not just as one of the go-to stops for New Year’s ahi, but for selling reef fish and other seafoods popular with local residents, as well as produce including green papaya, marungay leaves, raw peanuts, and other items not readily found at many supermarkets.
Of the reef fish, Uhu is very popular, Tamashiro said.
They live in “harems,” Tamashiro explained, adding that if the male should die, a dominant female will transform into a male to keep the group going. Males are blue, and females are red, and while undergoing the gender change, the red female will begin to turn blue.
“I only learned that today,” said Mavro, though he loves cooking uhu, and says the female of the species has a superior flavor.