Grilled Ehu in Banana Leaf

Isn’t it always the case that when you’re looking really hard for something, you don’t find it? When our friend Maia brought her parents, June & Rob, to visit Oahu last month, we wanted to barbecue a fish that would be new to them, something only available in a Pacific locale. We wanted a parrotfish — large & colorful, with flaky white meat, it seemed the perfect combination of exotic but palatable. Parrotfish are available regularly in the markets and fishmongers, but we usually hesitate to buy one because they are rarely smaller than 4lbs., which is too large for just us two. But on this occasion we had my father and our guests, so it seemed the opportune time. Except that parrotfish suddenly disappeared from the market ice displays. Everywhere. Maybe it was the convergence of the Hawaii presidential primary and the American football Pro-Bowl game in the same week, but whatever the reason: no parrotfish.

Maia leads the post-prandial beach walk

So we ended up with the less exotic, but no less toothsome, Yellow-striped Red Snapper, or Ehu. Once stuffed with herbs and coconut, and grilled in fresh banana leaves, the Ehu were a swimming (sorry, couldn’t resist) addition to our home-grown luau: grilled ehu, pork laulau, kalbi beef, huli-huli chicken, assorted poke, sesame watercress, green papaya salad, poi, and rice. And Ted’s macadamia nut pie after a walk to the beach to see the sunset.

2 banana leaves, cleaned and oiled
2 Ehu (1-1.5 lb each), scaled and cleaned

sea salt
fresh ground pepper
4-5 cilantro roots
8-10 wild (sometimes called kaffir) lime leaves
large sprig of cilantro
1 lime, sliced
1/2 cup grated coconut

! lime, quartered

Ehu stuffed for grilling

Rinse and pat fish dry. Place each fish on a banana leaf, then make 2 slashes on each side.
In a mortar, pound together cilantro roots, salt and pepper. Put a bit of the paste in all the slits.

Season the cavity of each fish, then fill with lime leaves and slices, cilantro and coconut. Roll banana leaf around fish. Oil outside of each packet, then place on pre-heated grill.
Grill about 8-12 minutes each side, depending on the size of your fish. Remove packets from heat, and leave wrapped until service. When unwrapped, squeeze fresh lime juice over whole fish.

The smoky, citrus flavors of this preparation go well with either poi or rice, and a lightly cooked salad such as Sesame-dressed Watercress or Warabi.

Maia leads the buffet line(Thanks for the visit, Maia! Come see us again soon.)