Debunking Mahi Mahi Myths

These tips will take the guesswork out of preparing a Hawaiian favorite.

Mahi mahi
Photo: Jean Allsopp

While mahi mahi delights the palate in many of the hottest restaurants in the country, it probably doesn't top your regular grocery list. Americans tend to buy more traditional fish varieties, but mahi mahi is not as mysterious as its exotic name implies.

The name, from Hawaiian origins, means "strong strong"―perhaps referring to the species' agility in tropical and subtropical waters. This fish also appears on menus as dorado or dolphinfish, but mahi mahi isn't at all similar to dolphin, a mammal. Some people consider mahi mahi one of the world's most beautiful fish because of the spectrum of yellows, blues, and greens that glistens along its body. When cooked correctly, it tastes as good as it looks.

• Don't be afraid to ask your fishmonger questions. Because of some progressive movements such as Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), information―including the location and time of harvest for your specific fish―may soon be available nationwide.

• Fillets should smell like the ocean, not "fishy."

• Look for firm fish―as it ages, the muscle softens and becomes mushy. Mahi mahi should have a consistently pinkish color. Avoid any fish that appears brown or has darker markings.

• "Keep it clean, keep it cold, and keep it moving" is a basic rule to keep seafood fresh. ("Keep it moving" means consuming it shortly after purchase.)

• The proper temperature for storing fish is 32º, which is colder than most refrigerators. Store fish on ice near the bottom rear of your refrigerator to maintain a constant temperature.

• If you are cooking frozen mahi mahi, thaw it in your refrigerator or under cold water. Forcing the temperature to change too quickly by using warm water or exposing it to high heat may cause spoilage.

• Clean all surfaces before and after handling fish to avoid contamination.

• A good serving-size estimate is 4 ounces for a first course and 6 ounces for a main course, but your fishmonger will be able to help you choose the amount you need.

• Mahi mahi is ready to eat when the meat turns white and flakes easily, regardless of the cooking method.

• Similar choices include bluefish, mackerel, mako shark, pompano, striped bass, and tuna. Substitute any of these fish in mahi mahi recipes for variety.

We have included seven printable recipes for you to try at home. Two of the recipes include mahi mahi, while the others are written for other species. Simply use mahi mahi as the main ingredient for these recipes to explore new uses for this versatile fish.

 Olive Oil-Poached Mahi Mahi with Mediterranean Tomato Sauce 

 Mahi Mahi Kebabs with Tropical Salsa 

 Grilled Tuna 

 Tuna, Goat Cheese, and Spinach Tacos 

 White Bean and Tuna Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing 

 Alma's Striped Bass Seviche 

 Provençal Grilled Striped Bass 

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