Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Taking a Virtual Trip to the Islands with Monchong

Every once in a while I'll get a message from Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore Products that reads something like this:  If you have time, come by the shop this afternoon, I got a piece of fish that will knock your socks off!

Photo by Rebecca Gardon
Well, who can resist that? Not I! This time Tommy wanted to introduce me to a Hawaiian treasure, Monchong--also known as Sickle Pomfret. This beautiful fish with large scales and fork-shaped fins was line caught in Hawaii, where it's a delicacy, costing up to $45 a pound. Usually ranging from 18 to 22 pounds, the Monchong live in what Tommy calls the "twilight zone" of the ocean at depths 800 to 1,200 feet. Like salmon and mackerel it has a high oil content (and high Omega-3 fatty acids), making it great for grilling, broiling, baking, or sauteing--or to use for tempura. 

The fish came in recently with a catch of big eye tuna--another fish we'll talk about soon. This particular shipment is gone, but Tommy assures me that more will be coming in. He had one last half-pound piece that he gave me, slicing off a filet to saute for me at the warehouse so I could get a taste of what I was in for. His minimalist approach gave me the full flavor of the fish--all he did was put some oil in the skillet then add salt, lemon juice, black balsamic vinegar, and the Salt Farm 73, a smoky custom salt for Catalina Offshore Products made by Salt Farm. 

Back home I sliced 3/4-inch pieces, slathered on some olive oil, and added lemon juice and seven-spice shichimi togarashi seasoning. Then I put it on my stovetop grill. It took about three minutes or so to cook. 

The flavor of the Monchong is sweet and rich. Once cooked it has a white flaky flesh that seems impossible to overcook--a forgiving fish, not unlike black cod only not as oily. And, like black cod, I envision marinating Monchong in a mixture of miso and rice vinegar to broil in my next go-round.

Since I couldn't eat it all at one meal, I've saved a couple of slices to add to a salad or perhaps cut up and use for fish tacos.

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