What Is Mahimahi?

A fish with as many names as it has colors

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

If you're at all a fan of quality seafood, you've most likely eaten mahimahi. There's even a good chance you may have had it under a totally different name, and not even realized it. It's a fish of many names, and even more culinary uses.

The word "mahimahi" comes from the Hawaiian name for the fish, meaning "strong strong." With a name like that, you can guess that it has outrun more than a few fishing boats in its time. A powerful fish, mahimahi quickly and deftly swims across the surface in all warm waters of the world, from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean. They sport an array of colors — bright blues, greens, and yellows, making them especially popular trophies for game fisherman.

Though the word "mahimahi" is derived from a Polynesian language, it is the term usually used for the fish in the United States. The reasoning behind this seems to come from mahimahi's actual English name, the common dolphinfish. In order to avoid confusion with the mammal of the same name, and to alleviate fear that you might be eating "Flipper," most restaurants and seafood vendors will refer to it as mahimahi. It's also known as dorado in some countries, meaning "golden" in Spanish.

Apart from bCevicheeing a beautiful fish to hang on your wall, mahimahi has become very prevalent in seafood restaurants for its versatility. A deep-water fish designed for fast swimming, the mahimahi has firm white flesh, but with a very mild flavor. These factors allow you to make almost any dish imaginable with mahimahi; it's hearty enough to withstand grilling, but if you wanted to go in the opposite direction, you can even have it ceviche-style. You can sear it with salt, pepper, and lime or poach it in a tomato-based sauce. It's perfect for fish tacos, too.

Mahimahi is commonly used in today's restaurants for another reason: sustainability. Currently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported that mahimahi are not being overfished, and can spawn and grow rapidly, keeping their population stable. They've also enacted regulations on the amount that are allowed to be fished and harvested in the Atlantic, allowing the mahimahi to thrive. Sustainable seafood is a concern for many people, especially when other popular fish such as grouper and Chilean sea bass are heavily overfished, so mahimahi is an excellent choice when considering what to purchase for dinner.

Like a golden bullet streaking through the waves, the mahimahi is a remarkable fish and an amazing sight to see when fishing. Now readily available at fish markets, it's easy to purchase a fillet and cook it almost any way you can think of. Give it a try next time you're at your local fishmonger. It'll be delicious, no matter what you call it.

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