Versatile And Delicious Uku


The Hawaiian name is ukupalu, but the common name is Uku. The Japanese name is Aochibiki. Uku is line-caught, mostly with vertical hook-and-line gear. “This is the same species as the opakapaka,” says Darrell Horner, “but not endangered.” It is listed as a good choice on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Type: Hawaiian Bottomfish. In Hawaii, bottomfish refers to the fact that these fish are found close to the seafloor, meaning they live in deep water.

Season: “It’s a fish you can catch year-round,” says Horner, although it’s abundant from May through July. Snappers have several characteristics, including slow growth rates and small habitat ranges, which make them vulnerable to overfishing. Little is known about their distribution or behavior because they live in deep water.

Flavor profile: Uku has a clear, translucent pink flesh with a firm and moist texture and delicate flavor. It is one of the three most popular Hawaiian snappers with a flavor slightly stronger than the delicate taste of opakapaka.

Darrell Horner uses his freshest catch for this steamed uku dish. Daniel Lane photos

Storage: When properly iced, uku has a very long shelf life. At home, fish should be consumed the same day you buy it.

Tip: “Uku is versatile and delicious. Some chefs and fishers say that the uku is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated of the Hawaii bottomfish,” says the Hawaii Seafood website.

Preparation: “You can make sashimi, and this is the best you can get for fish and chips,” says Horner. Uku is also good baked, steamed, sautéed and in soup.

Health benefits: Hawaii Blue-Green Snapper is an excellent source of healthy, extra-lean protein. It is also low in saturated fat and low in sodium. It is rich in niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and selenium. Hawaii Blue-green Snapper is a good source of potassium, and provides about 300 mg of omega-3s (DHA and EPA) per 4-ounce serving of fresh fish.

Darrell Horner’s fresh catch can be found at: Darrell sells his fish to Mama’s Fish House on Maui, and retail outlets on O’ahu. Here on Kaua’i, you can enjoy Horner’s catch at 22 North, and at his own restaurant, The Jailhouse Pub & Grill. Contact Horner at 651-1689.

Darrell’s Sizzling Steamed Uku is a popular party dish. Daniel Lane photos


Darrell Horner is asked to bring this dish to every party and barbecue he attends.

This recipe is in the Chinese style, where the fish is steamed whole and then crisped with smoking hot oil. The preparation is simple: Just make sure you have a deep sink to place the fish in when you pour the oil over because it splatters.

* 1 whole uku, cleaned, scaled and placed in steamer
* 1 4-inch piece ginger
* 1 bunch green onion, thinly sliced, green parts only
* 1/2 cup peanut oil
* 1/2 cup soy sauce, also known as shoyu in Japan

Steam fish for at least 20 minutes, this entirely depends on size. The flesh will turn white and flake easily when done. While fish is steaming, use a vegetable peeler to shave thin slices from the ginger. Stack the slices on top on each other and thinly slice into strips. Set aside with thinly sliced green onions.

When fish is cooked, warm peanut oil until smoking hot. Warm shoyu.

Place fish on serving platter, and layer ginger and green onion strips across the top. Place in a deep sink. Pour hot peanut oil over the length of the fish, followed by the warm shoyu.

Makes two to four servings, depending on size of fish.