Big Island Eats: Roy's Smoked Marlin & Smoked Ahi

Upon my usual Saturday morning stroll through KCC Farmers’ Market this past weekend, I came across an absolute TREASURE CHEST of dried and smoked fish at the Tropic Fish & Vegetable tent.

You may remember Tropic’s Market, who was a prominent anchor tenant at the Ward Farmers Market for decades. While they no longer have a retail store, they’re alive and well, located in the same Ward warehouse area behind the Farmers Market, where they continue to operate a fish and produce wholesale distribution business to local and overseas markets.

Getting to the ono ‘kine smoked fish grindz we’re reviewing today, come to find out, according to the girl working at their booth, Tropic’s is a partnership business with Hilo Fish Company on the Big Island. It’s through them that Tropic’s brings in these Smoked Ahi and Smoked Marlin products, which are manufactured by Roy’s Fishery (no affiliation with Roy Yamaguchi the restaurateur), also located on the Big Island at the south tip in Na’alehu, near Ka’u.

So let’s check out what we’ve got here, beginning with Roy’s Smoked Marlin…

As you see on the label, that’s a 5 oz. package, which costs $2.79 (great price!), vacuum-sealed for maximum freshness and shelf life. The ingredients are: Marlin, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, Salt, Garlic Powder, Canola Bean Oil and Red Crushed Pepper.

Hmm, interesting that they use Brown Sugar. I’ll have to try that next time I make my Big Island style Smoke Meat (pork). Usually I use unrefined cane sugar, which has a natural brown color, but doesn’t taste quite as molasses-like as brown sugar. I also notice the absence of Ginger, which I use generously in my Smoke Meat recipe, and after tasting this Smoked Marlin, I really think it would benefit with the addition of Ginger in Roy’s marinade.

Let’s unpack it and take an inventory of all pieces included in this 5 oz. package…

That would be 9 sticks of Roy’s Smoked Marlin, with each one measuring on average 5½” long x 5/8″ thickness. They were also mostly center cuts, with only a couple that were from the more stringy tail end.

As in usual Tasty Island fashion, let’s have a look at a cross-section cut…

How does it taste? Oishii, broke da’ mout’ winnnahz! I found it tasted even better after letting it get to room temperature vs. being refrigerator-cold. Like eating fine cheese, letting it get to room temperature allows the fats to “melt” out of their congealed state, providing maximum flavor impact. And man, are these packed with flavor. It has the perfect balance of marinade penetration, without the marinade taking away from the natural “meaty” flavor of the inherently-lean marlin.

That leanness makes most smoked marlin waiver on the dry side, and this one is like that as well, yet I think Roy’s reaches just the right dry-to-moist ratio. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being raw to 10 being “jerky” dry, I’d put Roy’s Smoked Marlin at about 6½. Which is perfect, as if I want Fish Jerky, I’ll buy fish jerky. When I buy Smoked Fish, I want it to still have some moisture and tenderness and not be so tough, and Roy’s NAILS it. This is EXACTLY how Smoked Fish should be on the dry-to-moist scale.

Back to the flavor profile, it’s kinda’ shoyu-ee-sweet, but not where it tastes like I’m eating Teriyaki, yet just enough where the Shoyu and sugar brings out the “Umami” factor in the smokey, meaty Marlin. It says there’s Chili Pepper Flakes in it, but I detected practically no heat whatsoever, where this would probably wouldn’t even register a single unit on the Scoville Scale.

The smokiness of it is at just the right balance as well, where you know this marlin has been smoked, yet not to the point like you’re biting into a piece of burnt Kiawe wood, if you know what I mean.

Summing it up, I give Roy’s Smoked Marlin a very solid, supah’ ono 4 SPAM Musubi. WINNER! Add some ginger and crank up the heat from the Chili Pepper Flakes in the marinade a couple notches and this would definitely earn the top 5 SPAM Musubi prize!

Next up we have Roy’s Smoked Ahi…

Roy’s Smoked Ahi costs about a dollar more than the Smoked Marlin at $3.79 for this 5 oz. vacuum-sealed package. The ingredients are: Tuna, Soy Sauce, Brown Sugar, Salt, Garlic Powder, Canola Bean Oil, Artificial Food Coloring and Red Crushed Pepper.

Let’s unpack it and take inventory…

These were cut a bit smaller than the Marlin, with each strip of Smoked Ahi measuring on average about 4″ in length x 1/2″ thick. They were also mostly cut towards the tail, with only two pieces that were more forward on the fish in the center area. Also notice the second one from the right is cut from the dark meat near the bone of the fish.

Let’s check the cross-section cut…

How is it? Roy’s Smoked Ahi’ marinade flavor profile was totally identical to how I described the Smoked Marlin above. Where it differed in was of course the fact that it’s Ahi, which is inherently a fattier fish, hence the Smoked Ahi was considerably more moist and less dry than the Smoked Marlin. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being raw to 10 being “jerky” dry, I’d put Roy’s Smoked Ahi at 4½. Like the Smoked Marlin, I also think this would have benefited by having more heat factor from the Chili Peppers, as well as some added pizazz from the ginger.

Its considerably more moist texture was certainly its best attribute, as was the freshness and clean taste of the Ahi itself, where it didn’t taste “fishy” at all; surprisingly even that dark meat piece didn’t taste fishy like it does in raw form, but fairly neutral. And even though the cuts were predominantly from stringy areas of the fish, it didn’t have any stringy attribute at all when chewing it.

Summing it up, I give Roy’s Smoked Ahi, again, 4 SPAM Musubi, again also noting more kick from the Chili Pepper along with some ginger in the marinade would elevate this easily to 5 SPAM Musubi.

Oh, did I say these go GREAT with an ice cold beer? Well they do! A St. Pauli Girl to be exact, wheah’, ho brah, whack one piece smoke fish, den’ chase em wit’ one sip of da beeah, buggah stay so ono! The smokey, mildy salty “meaty” flavor of the fish when combined with the hops in the ice cold beer are like peas in a pod. I GUARANTEE you one thing: you put a plate of this Smoked Marlin and Smoked Ahi on the table at a party and GAURANZ’ that’s going to disappear first, before everything and all else on the pupu spread.  GUARANZ. Well, at least it would get wiped out if I were there! lol

With Christmas 2010 quickly creeping up on us, surely most of you have already made your gift wish list for Santa. Well here’s mine: “Dear Santa, please get me a whole box just like this from Tropic’s”…

That’s like several POUNDS of Smoked Marlin, Smoked Ahi and Dried Aku. Truly a treasure chest of da’ most ono kine grindz! “Ho Om Nom Nom Ho, Merry Christmas! Om-nom-nom-nom-nom-Ho”. lol

Before we leave Tropic’s KCCFM tent for some Tasty Island bonus content, here’s a few cases of Kahuku Papaya they had for sale…

Moving along to some bonus content for this post, it isn’t uncommon to run into local celebrity chefs and movers ‘n shakers of Hawaii’s culinary scene at the KCC Farmers’ Market, and this weekend was no exception, where Honolulu celebrity chef Alan Wong set up a booth to promote his new cookbook ‘The Blue Tomato‘…

Here’s a video by Watermark Publishing on Chef Wong’s new cookbook…


Ironically, he was also selling his signature Li Hing Mui Dressing, which I featured here in the form of Alan Wong’s Hamakua Tomato Salad a while ago in my write-up of my Godmother, Aunty Nalani’s 75th Birthday at Washington Place

According to Chef Wong, his Ling Hing Mui dressing is only available exclusively at his restaurant, and currently not available for retail sale in stores. Foodland? Tamura’s? Don Quijote? Times? Safeway? Costco? Hello?!!!

They were giving out samples of the dressing drizzled on Yellow Grape Tomato halves…

This is how Chef Wong serves his Li Hing Mui dressing in the restaurant…

Alan Wong’s Hamakua Tomato Salad with Li Hing Mui Dressing

I LOVED this dressing so much when I tried it the first time at my Aunt’s birthday party several years ago, that I went as far as recreating it myself at home, which is really easy to do. Check it out…

Learn how to make Alan Wong’s Li Hing Dressing at the post, “Li Hing Everything“. Or better yet, buy a bottle of the real deal at his restaurant!

Man, just saying “Li Hing Mui”, let alone looking at the red color of that dressing always makes me slobber and drool. lol

Finally, in honor of loyal Tasty Island reader Debbie-chan, we stop by Ono Pops KCCFM booth once again to try yet another flavor…

“Spock” my Foodland SPAM Musubi Reusable Shopping Bag sitting on the table, which is full of fresh produce and French Baguettes for my Banh Mi Sandwiches.

Here’s brother/co-owner of Ono Pops, Josh…

Josh is a Punahou grad and super nice guy. There were a couple flavors that weren’t listed on the menu board, including an Okinawan Sweet Potato Pie Ono Pop and Lemon Peel Ono Pop. Also not listed was the one I decided to try, which Josh calls “Ginger Tanical”…

Let’s unwrap it and have a better look…

Like many of the other Ono Pops flavors, Josh came up with the recipe for his “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop himself, and boy is this thing a “doozie”, with ALL KINDS of stuff going on in it. According to him, the “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop includes the following ingredients, which he also points out are mostly locally-produced and/or organic: fresh ginger, lime juice, orange juice, Big Island honey, Holly Thai basil, lemon grass, Lemon Verbana, Sea Asparagus and Chamomile.

Whoah! I’m not sure whether to eat this or rub it on my head get to rid of my bald spot and grow my hair back. LOL!

Seriously though, Josh said he won some kind of award last weekend with his new “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop at an Herbal Convention? here on the island. Sorry, I forgot to write that down in my notes. I’ll ask him next week if I see him.

While it may not cure male pattern baldness or get rid of wrinkles on your skin, the “Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop certainly TASTES medicinal, yet incredibly, in an appealing and not off-putting way. That really is the best way I can describe it. It also seemed to have sort of a mood-enhancing and energizing effect, kinda’ like Prozac-meets-Red Bull, all conveniently frozen and ready to eat in one handy-dandy, very delicious and refreshing stick!

Ginger is certainly the most definitive flavor element happening here, which has a medicinal quality about it all in itself, along with a complex herbal thing in a “green way” going on in the background, thanks to all those unusual ingredients. Some of which I had to “Google” for just to spell correctly, let alone ever consuming them in my life before trying this. The addition of Kahuku Sea Asparagus is arguably the meanest “left curve” thrown into this pitch of a popsicle.

Overall, I really, really DIG this flavor, giving Josh’s new ‘Ginger Tanical” Ono Pop creation an invigorating, well-executed. wonderfully exotic and unique 4-SPAM Musubi. You gotta’ try it. Highly recommended! It’s CRAZY TASTY, both literally and figuratively!

P.S. If anyone out there has a good recipe, as well as making process for ono ‘kine Smoked Marlin (or any other fish), please share! I’m specifically looking for instructions on how to properly cure and/or brine and/or dry the fish, as well as what is the proper temperature to smoke it and how long? Mahalo in advance.


11 thoughts on “Big Island Eats: Roy's Smoked Marlin & Smoked Ahi

  1. Pomai, interesting entry. I now wonder if slice the smoked marlin and ahi and use it in sushi and see how it goes. I can see it not bad.

  2. “The Blue Tomato”, if that’s you, Amy, it was very nice talking with you at the market. I added the book’s website URL to the write-up. It sounds like “The Blue Tomato” is the consummate revelation of the creative mind of Chef Wong from cover to cover. I’ll have to pick-up a copy.

    Kelike, IIRC, Chef Elmer Guzman’s Poke Stop has a Smoked Fish Poke. As for applying Smoked Marlin or Ahi to sushi, if it’s sliced very, very thin it should work. Definitely lots of possibilities where that’s going though!

    I’m also curious how it would work on a bagel with cream cheese and capers, similar to a bagel-lox build.

  3. Pomai. I try it on plain jook as topping with green onion and taste not bad. I slice and shred it fine for it. I now thinking of a Hawaiian Caesar Salad Dressing

  4. Me three! I was also thinking of mixing it with cream cheese as a schmear on bagels/crackers/flatbread. I’ve had a smoked trout-cream cheese spread before, and it’s very good. I’m sure the marlin or ahi would be, too.

    The color of AW’s li hing dressing against the tomatoes is so lurid, it almost looks 3-dimensional! I bet it’s good, too. Next time I’m there, I’ll have to see if they have bottles for sale at the Pineapple Room.

    The Ginger Tanical Ono Pop sounds insane — sea asparagus in a frozen treat? I would definitely, definitely try that. In fact, my mouth started to water just reading the description!

    Seems like they have so many more flavors just since I was there in September. The Kabocha Pumpkin Brown Betty caught my eye …

    Thanks for the updates!

  5. Thanks for the hot tip on smoked marlin. We’ve been hitting the KCC Market twice a year for the past several years and have never seen the booth. Our favorite has been Limey’s(?) smoked marlin at swap meet. I think it’s about twice the price of Tropics so we’ll have to try out a new one next time.

  6. Pomai, I cut it up the marlin or ahi one and have it with soy sauce and wasabi or hot mustard. Choped up green onion with it and over rice.

  7. that tomato salad presentation is stupid. No offense. Not sure how it tastes, but how is anyone supposed to eat it with out it sliding every where on the plate? It just looks pretty. No one thought about the diner. And leaving the stem on the top? Thats a non-functional garnish if I’ve ever seen one. Buck up Alan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s