By Request
Betty Shimabukuro

Oio’s bones make it
tricky to cook with

Oio is not a glory fish. You're not going to find it dressed in buerre blanc sauce and garnished with chervil during your next fine-dining experience.

Oio, with its soft flesh and many tiny bones, is more likely to turn up as fish cake.

But Linda Kitabayashi e-mailed in search of oio ideas beyond fish cake, particularly soup.

The best source for this query is Elmer Guzman, former chef for Sam Choy's Diamond Head and now running his own fish market and take-out restaurant, Poke Stop in Waipahu.

Guzman also is the author of "The Shoreline Chef" (Watermark, 2003), a collection of recipes for using Hawaii's reef fish, many of them lesser known and far less elegant than your basic ahi.

The cookbook has a couple of recipes for oio, also known as bonefish, but Guzman says he doesn't recommend using oio to make a soup broth.

He suggests instead making fish balls and dropping them into a simple broth made of low-sodium chicken stock simmered with ginger. Add some greens such as choi sum, he says.

The recipe that follows is for patties and comes from the cookbook. It can be used as a starting point for making fish balls for soup.

To remove oio meat from a whole fish, Guzman suggests butterflying the fish and scooping the meat out with a spoon. This is quicker than the traditional practice of cutting a slit near the tail, then pressing the meat through the slit with a rolling pin. To make this method work, you must keep the fish several days, basically allowing it to start breaking down so the flesh softens.

Either way, be careful of the tiny bones.

Oio Patties

1 pound oio meat (from 3-pound whole fish)
3 ounces diced char siu
2 tablespoons sliced green onion
2 tablespoons chopped water chestnuts
1 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients except oil and form into patties 1/2-inch thick and 2 inches across. Place on baking pan and chill.

Heat oil in skillet and sear patties 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Serves 4 to 6.

For soup: Form meat into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Drop into broth made of low-sodium chicken broth flavored with ginger. Simmer until cooked through.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (assuming 2/3 of the oil is absorbed): 330 calories, 22 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 110 mg cholesterol, greater than 200 mg sodium, 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, no sugar, 32 g protein.

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