Opah is a Hawaiian fish that grills beautifully thanks to its meaty texture, but has a mild flavor that even hesitant fish eaters can appreciate, especially when topped with a fresh tropical fruit salsa with creamy avocado. I don’t know about you, but I sure could use a mental vacation right now, in lieu of real one, which would require too much money and require boarding a plane with my toddler.
I’ll never forget our last spring break in Japan in 2008 when we met my family in Kauai for several days. On our second evening there, my dad barbecued mahi-mahi and opakapaka (Hawaiian pink snapper) and we ate on the ocean-view porch of our Waimea Plantation Cottage. The combination of the grilled local fish, the mai tais, and the sunset was heaven, and it fully rejuvenated us to return to Japan to finish up our semester of English classes.
Dustin was recently given two types of Hawaiian sea salt as a gift from a co-worker. When we saw the beautiful Opah fillets at the fish counter, we remembered our Kauai vacation and knew they would be a perfect match for our Hawaiian salt. The first one is “Black Lava” and is a mixture of flake sea salt and charcoal, hence its pitch black color. The other is “Alaea Red” and is a coarse sea salt that gets its color from ‘Alaea or Hawaiian red clay.
When we took the Opah off of the grill, we let it rest like you would with any thick cut of meat, then topped it with generous spoonfuls of our colorful mango-papaya-avocado salsa, and served it next to a scoop of white rice, sprinkled with a little of the black lava salt. Some arugula lightly dressed with fresh lemon rounded out this healthy summer dinner. If you don’t have a Hawaiian vacation coming up (I can sympathize), make this for dinner, fix yourself a mai tai (or pour yourself a glass of beer – beer pairing suggestion below), enjoy the lingering daylight, and give yourself a break. You deserve it. Sunset not included.
Grilled Opah with Hawaiian Sea Salt and Mango-Papaya-Avocado Salsa
2 lbs. Hawaiian Opah*
Extra virgin olive oil
Hawaiian sea salt (check out www.alohaspice.com for the varieties I mentioned) or just sub coarse salt or Kosher salt
1 mango, pitted, peeled, and diced (don’t know the best way to cut a mango? Here’s a hint)
1 small papaya, peeled, seeds removed, and diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
Juice from 1 small lime (or to taste)
Agave nectar, to taste
A pinch of chili flakes (optional, but tasty)
Accompaniments: steamed rice; arugula tossed with fresh lemon juice
*We bought one huge piece of Opah that we later cut into individual portions, but you can also buy 4 fillets, about 1/2 a lb. each
- Take the Opah out of the refrigerator rub with olive oil. Season lightly with sea salt (we used a little of each variety of Hawaiian sea salt) and set aside (at room temperature). Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill (or a gas grill on high heat).
- In a small bowl, combine the mango, papaya, and avocado. Add lime juice, a drizzle of agave nectar, the chili flakes (if using), and a little salt and pepper. Gently stir everything together, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary. Cover and refrigerate.
- When the grill is ready, oil the grill grates. Add the Opah and grill until just cooked through, but not overdone, about 3-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your fillets (ours were about 2-3 inches). Let rest for a couple minutes, then cut into 4 pieces.
- Place the Opah on plates and spoon some salsa over the top. Serve with steamed rice, and a handful of arugula tossed with some freshly squeezed lemon juice. Go ahead and add a little sprinkling of sea salt too!
Beer Pairing Suggestion: We opened up a bottle of Tiger Baby: Open Windows Open Hills (how’s that for a name!? – it’s actually named after a Danish electro-pop group) by Mikkeller. To quote one fan from Beer Advocate: ” In the aroma, citrus notes of island fruit. In the taste, sweet to dry fruitiness and citrus, especially mango. A small fruit bite and a medium bodied mouthfeel, with a small citrus fruit skin in the aftertaste. Big fruity presence, almost chardonnay like, quite superb!” We happened to agree. It went especially well with the mango-papaya-avocado salsa.