One of the most exciting things that my husband and I did while home in the Islands was to go to the Honolulu Fish Auction. I was really looking forward to seeing this!
I knew about it, but I had no idea that anyone could just walk in off the street and not only to watch the action, but purchase any fish that you like, for the right price of course. Prior to leaving for Hawaii this past May, we had read in a magazine that there were day trips available through tour companies.
We figured, we knew our way around our own town, why pay to be led by the hand down to Pier 38 or The Fishing Village.
We set our alarm clock for EARLY AM and gulped down very strong coffee; we were off. I wanted to get down there long before the opening bell and be able to look freely at the days catch as well as chat up the crews.
I was impressed that the Hawaii Seafood Council had representatives there, handing out printed information not only about the Auction, but also sustainability.
Only a small portion of what is caught in Hawaii actually stays in Hawaii.
There are many different countries buying fish and then shipping
the product out.
Because of the quality and seafood safety.
I watched as a load was brought in and inspected, some fish had to be rejected.
I was fascinated, to be able to interact with the guys and ask a boat load (pardon the pun) of probably stupid question in their eyes.
A small catch of Tombo or Albacore Tuna didn’t sell because there was no call for the fish on the market; it didn’t look too nice either, not that the fish was bad, just not worthy as the guys put it to me.
So the bell rings and we’re off to the races!
It was nothing like I thought, very subdued, no yelling, no shouting,
but then folks from Hawaii aren’t like that.
It was mostly nods of heads, guys throwing down their markers, slips of paper with their company or just their names. I was looking at some of them after the crowd moved over to the next row of fish, and who’s standing next to me? Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa.
What a nice guy!
He asks me where I’m from, if I had been to the Auction before, explaining what he was looking for in the fish that he wanted for the night's catch of the day. WOW! No really, WOW! (I'm just a little girl from Kaneohe)
I had read that as the fish are prepared, a small portion is cut away so that perspective buyers can inspect the meat quality. As the group went on, behind them is a small army of worker bees. Two guys have handheld receipt type machines is the best way that I can explain it. They’re tagging each fish that was purchased with the buyer’s name, and all of the particulars, total cost, weight etc.
After them, is this nice man with a bucket, collecting those bits of tail meat.
I asked him what he was doing to do with that, he tells me he makes Poke or Raw Fish Salad, and they sell it at the local markets.
No waste Braddah!
Some types of fish I had never seen, other than on my plate.
Above is Opah or Moonfish. What a beautiful fish.
Can you read the tag? 138 pounds!
That’s my shoe next to it, I wear a size 5 ½ US !!
Monsters, some of these fish.
And you know, there was no fishy smell, well of course not.
These beauties are kept on ice from the time they are landed just a few short hours prior to the Auction, up until they are carted away.
It’s spotless in there!
As you walk in the door, you have to wash your shoes in a shallow trough filled with some type of disinfectant. There’s a big handwritten sign, NO SLIPPERS (flip flops) over the doorway. It was too dang cold for that!
As one row of fish was sold and processed for the customer, taken off the floor, it was backfilled by handcarts and small forklifts with more fish. We were already a couple of hours into it, and it was clear that they weren’t done.
My husband gave up long ago and went to sleep in the car. I didn’t even notice he was gone.
I was starting to get cold though, so I stepped outside to watch the buyers make off with their bounty from the Sea. One local family had bought an Ahi or Big Eye Tuna for the Graduation Party they were having at their home. They invited us to come,but we regretfully declined.
What a treat!
In my old backyard, there it was, and I had never known it because I was too busy with my own wrapped up world. There’s so much more to life, don’t let it pass you by. Get out there and explore your culinary backyard.
A Hui Hou, until we meet again
Aloha, Good Bye