On just about any restaurant menu in Hawaii, the seafood section will display the names of fish that will be unfamiliar to you. Some people assume the names are simply local translations of “perch,” “mackerel” or “cod.” Nope. They are the true names of fish caught in Hawaiian waters, served locally and even exported to restaurants near you. You’re likely to find their taste milder and less “fishy” than the seafood fare you’ve become used to at home. We’re proud of our seafood here. We eat twice as much as the U.S. per-capita national average.

Here are four of the most common fish served in island restaurants:

Mahimahi

(of which you may have heard) is dolphin (the fish, not the mammal); thin-skinned with firm, light pink flesh. It has a delicate flavor that’s almost sweet. The mahimahi is the fish that’s credited with introducing Hawaii’s fish to the world.

Ahi

— bigeye or yellowfish — is traditionally used for sashimi and other raw-fish preparations and now appears in “blackened” recipes. When cooked, it is usually grilled.

Opah

“Moonfish,” is commonly offered as the “catch of the day.” It’s rich and fatty; usually broiled or smoked.

Ono means “good to eat” in Hawaii. It’s not unlike mahimahi, but it’s leaner. In restaurants it’s usually poached to retain its moisture.

Feel comfortable ordering any of them in any restaurant while you’re here. They’re tasty in their simplest forms, and the chefs at high-end restaurants delight in creating original sauces and accompaniments to enhance their flavors. Your waitperson at such eateries will be well-versed in exactly what you can expect with each dish.

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