By Rebecca Gardon
Also known as moonfish, opah (Lampris guttatus) is a rich, full-flavored fish with good fat content and a flesh color that ranges from light pink to dark red. The species has been caught incidentally in Pacific longline fisheries for years. Because opah don’t swim in schools, they are typically caught one fish at a time. Fishermen once thought that this unusually colorful fish brought good luck, and would give it away as a goodwill gesture rather than sell it.
If you follow us on Facebook, you’ve likely seen our posts about this species. Historically, we’ve only ever received a few opah at a time. Thanks to this year’s El Nino – a weather event that causes prolonged warming over the Western Pacific Ocean – we’re bringing in boatloads! The meaty texture of opah makes it a great alternative to tuna, and until recently it has only been available in our fish market. In our effort to bring more of our local catch to our customers outside of San Diego, we are now also selling opah online. We are offering a unique selection, from the standard fillet to more underutilized cuts. Allow us to break things down:
- The opah fillet is a center cut from the tender top loin of the fish. It starts out light salmon-orange to pink-rose in color and cooks up white with a sweet flavor and lean texture between tuna and swordfish. This prime cut is ideal for grilling, broiling, pan searing and smoking. The freshest opah is also excellent for sushi.
- The opah abductor and abductor muscles display a dark red color similar to beef. In fact, when grilled or seared over high heat this meat cooks up and practically tastes like steak! For presentation, feel free to cook these cuts to about medium to maintain the deep red color. Perfect for grilling as well as smoking and grinding for use in burgers, sausage, pasta sauces, meatloaf and more.
- The thick, fatty belly portion of the opah is near white to pearl pink in color. Full of great fat content, it cooks up white and firm and crisps quickly without the need for additional oil. Try using it for fish sticks, fish “fries” and even opah “bacon”!
Our chef customers in San Diego and beyond have been serving these different cuts of opah, and to rave reviews. We encourage you eat outside the box and try this delicious fish!