Quick Answer: What Are Opah?
Opah is a large fish with a flavor that compares favorably to tuna and swordfish. That gives it a medium-potency taste that mixes well with many types of dishes and recipes. It is an excellent option for people who want a different type of seafood or who have gotten bored with tuna and want something unique for their next meal.
Opah isn’t just something yelled at weddings but a delicious fish with a medium-potency flavor. They are a very widespread variety that lives throughout many of the warmer oceans.
Many cultures have varying opah recipes that include grilling, baking, and even pan frying.
While opah isn’t a big fish name in America yet, it is becoming more popular. Restaurants are starting to serve this fish with varying opah taste levels.
This increasing popularity means that opah could be coming to a store near you very soon.
In this article, we’ll discuss opah taste, highlight its texture, showcase what it looks like, and even go over some common species.
Furthermore, we’ll include three recipes that you can use with various opah fish. This should give you all the help that you need to enjoy this tasty fish.
What To Know About Opah?
Opah is a large ocean fish that is sometimes known as moonfish, kingfish, redfin ocean pan, and sunfish. They are very large and colorful fish that move heavily throughout various cold- and warm-water regions and are part of the rather small Lampridae family. Many opahs are extinct.
Opah is a unique fish because one species within this family is warm-blooded, rather than cold-blooded.
They are also unique because of their wide-ranging movement patterns, as some species range as far south as Hawaii all the way to California with no difficulty.
Interestingly, opah can live throughout both cold and warm regions due to this unique body type.
As a result, they are commonly found in just about every ocean and are not considered endangered or protected. They are often as heavy as several hundred pounds, with some hitting 600 pounds.
What Does Opah Taste Like?
Opah has a fairly fishy flavor that is not overwhelming in its intensity. They’re fishier than species like tilapia but are still considered a rather mid-level species for intensity.
They compare well to swordfish and tuna and have a creamy taste to its fatty flesh.
This tastiness wasn’t well known until recently and has resulted in the opah being a fairly well-populated fish. Increasing demand may put them at risk of overfishing in the next few years.
However, the hardy opah typically withstands changes well and stays well-populated in most areas.
What Does Opah Look Like?
Living opah looks similar to a butterfish and can be up to six feet long and 600 pounds. They’re a round fish with smaller fins that help keep them warm in colder waters.
Their colors vary depending on the species, with some being fairly neutral and others being surprisingly colorful.
Opah meat is very dense with a pink color that may lighten slightly as it cooks. Most opah steaks retain that rich pink color, which is often heavily layered like salmon.
In fact, opah steaks look very close to salmon but have a denser overall size that helps them retain their juiciness while cooking.
What Texture Does Opah Have?
Opah texture is quite dense and solid without a lot of give to it. The flesh is rather fatty, which is unusual with fish, which gives it a creamy texture when cooked.
However, opah retains its solidity after being cooked and never becomes mushy or soft when properly prepared.
This texture is also quite juicy and retains a lot of moisture, even when cooked. As a result, opah has one of the best textures when cooked and is considered a delicacy by many cultures.
Its rapidly increasing popularity is heavily tied to this juicy and rich texture.
Types Of Opah?
For a long time, most scientists believed that only two living opah species existed. However, a review in 2018 found that six were spread throughout the planet instead.
Most of these opahs live in non-overlapping areas, which means that they are typically served in regions where they’re caught.
Each of these opahs has a fairly similar taste and texture, which helps keep them a relatively uniform fish. However, there are some differences between them that should be highlighted. The six living opah species include:
- North Atlantic Opah – The earliest discovered opah was once thought to be widely spread throughout the planet.
The discovery of four new opah species has limited this to the northeastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. This opah has a mid-level fishiness and thick texture.
- Southern Opah – After this species’ discovery in 1904, no new opahs were found for over 100 years. It typically centers in southern ocean regions and is often found near the Antarctic Polar Front. These cold temperatures give its meat a firmer texture.
- Southern Spotted Opah – This species is present throughout the Southern Hemisphere in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
It has a fairly mild taste compared to other opahs and is commonly used as a meal throughout these areas. It is one of the four new species declared in 2018.
- Smalleye Pacific Opah – The second-discovered opah in 2018, this species is found in the central and eastern North Pacific Ocean.
It prefers colder temperatures and has the same denser meat as the Southern opah. It is most commonly eaten by anglers in its specific regions.
- East Atlantic Opah – This warm-water open is found throughout the eastern Atlantic Ocean near the Mediterranean region and the Canary Islands.
It has lighter meat with a softer texture that makes it more of a delicacy than other opah species.
- Big Eye Pacific Opah – As the only cosmopolitan (widespread) opah, this species spreads to the Gulf of Mexico, Indian Ocean, and even the western Pacific Ocean.
That makes it one of the most common opah and one of the most regularly eaten across the world.
There are two known extinct opah species found in California and New Zealand. The exact size and shape of these species are not clear, though some may have been nearly 12 feet in length.
These ancient fish may have been either predators on smaller fish or eaten by larger, more aggressive species.
Where Does Opah Come From?
Opah species are found in just about every ocean, and they range from cold- to warm-water areas.
Their larger size forces them into deeper waters, which is one reason why four species went undiscovered for so long. Anglers typically find them in open ocean far from the shore.
Is Opah Healthy? Or Dangers Of Eating Opah?
Opah are considered healthy fish because they contain many nutrients at high levels. These include omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, protein, vitamins B6 and B12, phosphorous, and selenium.
They are a bit higher in fat than some fish but do have a lower sodium level.
Typically, opah are considered a low-mercury-risk fish and have minimal parasites when properly cleaned and prepared.
However, rising Pacific Ocean mercury levels may make this fish more dangerous in the coming decades. They are generally not considered poisonous, however.
How Do You Eat Opah? Best Cooking Method?
Opah is prepared using many traditional fish-cooking methods, including grilling, baking, broiling, smoking, and frying.
Their thicker fillets often take longer to cook in pans, which makes baking and broiling a great option. Thankfully, you can slice their fillets thinner if necessary to speed cooking.
You can also serve opah with just about any fish-friendly side dish and get great results. They go particularly well with roasted potatoes, rice pilaf, and broccoli-heavy meals.
Basting the side dishes with the fish’s juices can create a very rich meal.
Steaks may be cooked whole to present a very salmon-like meal. Other restaurants may cut them up into smaller chunks to create a fish and chips meal.
They are best cooked grilled or pan-seared to brown up and firm the flesh.
Can You Eat Opah Raw? Does It Have Worms?
Opah is not commonly used in sushi but may be found in some raw-food markets. Unfortunately, it can have worms and other parasites, meaning it is important to blast-freeze this meat to avoid any potential dangers.
How Can I Store Opah?
Store open in your refrigerator by placing it in an airtight container after wrapping the fish. This wrap and container not only keep the fish from damaging oxygen but also avoid a fish smell in your fridge.
Your opah should be safe to eat for at least three days after initial storage.
Never leave opah on the counter for more than an hour or two, even after cooking it. Leaving it exposed like this increases how quickly it will spoil and quickly ruins the meat.
Try to put it in the refrigerator immediately after preparation or eating to avoid this problem.
Can You Freeze Opah?
Like with most fish, you can easily freeze opah by wrapping it in a protective layer. This may include plastic wrap or even paper, depending on your preference.
Put this wrapped steak in a freezer-safe container and store it near the back of your unit to freeze the fish effectively.
It is important to check your opah periodically in the freezer to make sure it doesn’t have freezer burn. Signs of freezer burn include ice on the flesh and even discoloration throughout its surface.
After six months, you should throw out any frozen opah, even if it is not damaged.
How To Tell If Opah Is Bad?
Opah should have little to no smell when it is fresh. If you notice a bad smell that worsens as time passes, your opah is spoiling.
Try to throw it away before the smell takes over your fridge, a common problem if you don’t eat opah quickly enough.
If your opah doesn’t smell after three days, check the flesh for consistency. If it feels soft or mushy or has odd coloration, throw it away.
Opah should never have black or moldy spots on its flesh and must be thrown away if it shows any signs of spoiling in this way.
Opah Vs. Ono
Opah and ono are two similar fish that live near the Hawaiian islands. They are heavily fished in this region and produce very similar meat.
If you’re interested in either of these fish, it is important to know how they differ before buying or catching any.
Ono has a slightly lighter flavor and is generally less fat-dense than opah. Opah, by contrast, has more protein and more fatty acids, which help with health concerns as diverse as cognitive health and heart strength.
That makes it important to carefully choose which of these fish is right for your needs.
How Do You Cook And Clean Opah?
Opah is typically sold in thick steaks that you can purchase at various fish markets and other similar stores.
People catching opah on a fishing trip may need a professional to help clean and fillet their fish due to the opah’s unique size, weight, and complexity.
You may cook the opah steak without seasoning and get a juicy and tasty flank that serves well. However, you can also season the exterior with black pepper, salt, garlic, and any other ingredients.
Try to keep your toppings minimal to avoid overpowering the fish’s flavor.
You can then cook the opah by grilling, baking, broiling, frying, or even boiling it. Boiled fish works well in soup, and opah can give your fish soups a rather rich flavor.
Cooked opah can be served as a main dish or even broken up into meat bits to top salads and other meals.
You can also deep-fry opah, but that doesn’t quite do this fish full justice. Deep frying tends to obscure the richness of opah and make it less enjoyable.
However, it is an option if you or your family prefers deep-fried fish to baked, seared, or grilled recipes.
Nutritional Value Chart
Quick Table: Delicious Opah Recipes
|Recipes||Calories||Total Preparation Time|
|Sweet And Spicy Opah||70||20 Minutes|
|Seared Opah||180||10 Minutes|
|Baked Opah||425||25 Minutes|
1. Sweet And Spicy Opah
While this recipe is originally for snapper, it works well with opah too! It requires seasoning your fish with salt, pepper, garlic powder, lime, and then flavoring it with sriracha, orange juice, and honey.
Wrap the fish up in aluminum foil with this sauce and cook for 15 minutes at 450-degree temperature.
This spicy meal has a huge kick to it and is perfect for people who want a slightly different taste than your traditional opah meal.
While it takes a little preparation to get the flavors right, it is more than worth it. We also suggest this option for people who want to truly emphasize opah’s flavor.
Total Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
2. Seared Opah
This simple recipe is great if you don’t have a lot of time or have some picky eaters who only eat fried food.
Start by squeezing lemon juice all over the fish and then season with salt and pepper. Sear the fish on both sides for 3-4 minutes and serve with potatoes or rice for the best results.
Try this option on those days when you don’t feel like cooking but would rather not go out to eat. You can take any leftovers you might have and save them for later.
This recipe also works well for making delicious fish sticks for your pickiest kid.
Total Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
3. Baked Opah
If baking is more your speed, you may love this delicious meal. It brings out the softest textures in opah and is incredibly healthy.
Start by carefully rubbing the fish with olive oil and then seasoning it with salt and pepper. Mix cooking wine, lemon juice, olive oil, and Italian seasoning with rosemary and spread it on your fish.
Lightly sear the fish and then bake at 210 degrees until the fish flakes easily. Serve with rice and potatoes, particularly roasted potatoes.
We suggest this meal for those who love the concept of slow cooking or who want a healthier but tasty dish.
Total Preparation Time: 25 Minutes
RELATED: 19 Amazing Crawfish Bread Recipes
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Opah Flock Around Hawaii?
Many opahs are native to Hawaii and come here to feed on various fish and other creatures. In fact, the opah is Hawaii’s state fish and is considered an important food for many of the natives in the region.
It is one of the biggest exporters of opah and other fish of this type.
Is Broiling A Good Option For Opah?
You can broil opah and get a pretty good meal, particularly if you use similar fish-related recipes. Try to add various other ingredients to the broiler to improve your opah taste.
These include veggies and even nuts that may give your fish a more appealing taste.
Should I Be Considered About High Mercury Levels?
Opah don’t have high mercury levels generally, but this has been changing slightly in recent years. Higher mercury levels in the Pacific Ocean and around the planet have made eating opah a little more problematic.
However, you should be safe if you limit your intake to once per week.
Are Opah Related To Tuna?
Opah is a somewhat mysterious fish because they live their lives so much in the deep and open ocean. Their shape and taste make them seem related to tuna, but they’re from a different family.
The idea that they’re related is a common misconception.
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