An adventurous vacation surely does make one very hungry. There is nothing better than good local food to say “chow” to an adrenaline pumping day on Kauai.
Kauai is a hot destination for seafood enthusiasts and it can be overwhelming to choose from a plethora of options, most of which might be new to you. Monchong is a name that is rarely heard, yet, pops up on almost every restaurant menu on the island.
About Kauai’s Monchong
Also known as the Hawaiian large scale pomfret, Monchong is a Japanese name for sickle pomfret. For your information, it is scientifically called Taractichthys steindachneri, and as Mukau by the locals. This species is characterised by fork shaped fins and large scales.
Monchong’s interior is in stark contrast to it’s tough and ugly exterior. Its flesh has a pinkish tone, which turns white when cooked. The fish is high in oil content and is best suited for grilling. However, monchong goes well with all types of recipes and you can also find the broiled and sauteed versions in some restaurants. The flesh is moderately sweet and buttery in flavor.
Monchong are found in deep waters of Hawaii, Okinawa, Fiji and in some parts of the Indian ocean. They are usually found at a depth of more than 900 feet and are accidental catch while fishing for tuna and other fishes by longline fisheries.
This breed of fish has no seasonality and can be found all year round. They are mostly purchased in auctions, where restaurants are the major buyers. The increasing popularity and scarce availability of Monchong explains the premium price charged by restaurants.
They come in variety of sizes averaging between 12 to 24 pounds. Some pomfrets can be as heavy as 40 pounds. Monchong is a rich source of lean protein and omega 3 and is low in sodium and saturated fat.
Monchong are known to have a good shelf life. They’re stored in ice to preserve the moisture in the flesh. When fresh, the fish smells like seawater. If you find it releasing a strong odor, it is likely that the fish is more than 3 days old and getting stale.
If possible, get your hands on freshly served monchong as it tastes best when it is not frozen and not overcooked. The less it is cooked, the more tasty it is.
Popular Monchong Recipes
Risotto Crusted Monchong
Prepare risotto with chicken steak, white wine, parmesan cheese and heavy cream. The heavy cream makes the mixture stick to the fish.
Now spread the risotto crust over the sliced Monchong so that it’s evenly distributed. Place it on a pan layered with olive oil. And sprinkle salt to your liking.
The risotto gives the fish a nice bit of creaminess and a little bit of crunchiness to the flesh. Pan fry the fish on both sides until it turns brown. Then place it in the oven along with some potatoes and vegetables of your choice for 6 to 8 mins to ensure that the flesh is properly cooked.
Our next job is to prepare butter sauce. Place sliced onions in the pan and top it with adequate amounts of white wine. Adding a little butter goes well with the moist Monchong flesh and makes it creamy. Add salt and pepper to your liking and stir fry the contents on low flame.
The final step is to place the baked vegetables and fish on a plate and season it with the butter sauce and a little pesto as it adds nice flavor and colour to the dish. Top it with lemon cream and your Risotto Crusted Monchong is ready to be served.
Hawaiian Style Steamed Monchong
Place thin, neatly sliced Monchong in a pan and drizzle it with chile oil or sesame oil. Cover the pan with a plastic wrap for steaming and steam for 5 mins (or until the pinkish flesh turns white.) Top it with sliced onions, jalapeno and minced ginger. Add butter if you desire more creaminess.
On a separate pan, heat peanut oil until it begins to smoke. Pour about 1 tbsp of this oil over the steamed monchong so that it gets the required finishing and taste. Your Hawaiian style steamed Monchong is now ready and can be served with rice.
This is a quick and easy recipe to prepare and is absolutely delicious. Try experimenting with different varieties of oil, spices and toppings depending on your taste and their availability. Feel free to try this recipe with different types of fish as well.
Ask the locals and scout for restaurants that serve the best Monchong on the island. If you are travelling to Kauai for the first time or are a frequent visitor to the Garden Isle, there’s a good chance that you haven’t tried Monchong so far.
This time, get ready to experience both joy and sorrow during your time on the Garden Isle- the joy of having tasted the delicious Monchong and the sorrow of seeing your empty plate after you finish the dish!