Hawaiian Kanpachi: Everything You Need to Know

Raised off the coasts of Kona, Hawaiian Kanpachi, a yellowtail fish, is taking the culinary world by storm.
A Hawaiian Kanpachi. Photo: Courtesy of Blue Ocean Mariculture

“This is the fish of the future,” David Lukela, chef de cuisine of Beachhouse at the Moana, tells me on a sunny Waikiki afternoon. The fish in question is the Hawaiian Kanpachi, a premium member of the amberjack family that has caught the attention of the culinary world. Dubbed by some as “the wonder fish” for its year-round availability, versatility in preparation and ecofriendly production, Hawaiian Kanpachi has been highlighted by celebrity chefs like Roy Yamaguchi, David Rosengarten and Lee Anne Wong. Although the fish is commonly referred to as KAM-pachi, the correct pronunciation is KAN-pachi to mirror the original Japanese diction.

kanpachi raw
A kanpachi fillet.
Photo courtesy: Blue Ocean Mariculture

Solely produced by Kona-based company Blue Ocean Mariculture, Hawaiian Kanpachi are raised with the utmost care. “We have marine biologists that actually specialize in the feed and what to put in their diet,” says Jaclyn Garthwaite, marketing manager of Blue Ocean Mariculture. “We’re the most sophisticated hatchery facility in the United States; there’s been a lot of investment.” And it shows, with Hawaiian Kanpachi gaining the approval of the Seafood Watch, a program hosted by the Monterey Aquarium which helps businesses and consumers select fish that have been raised in ways that do not harm the environment.

kanpachi raising
Where the kanpachi are raised.
Photo courtesy: Blue Ocean Mariculture

“The stability of the earth and the ocean is really questionable at this point,” says chef Lukela, “and you really see fish like this as your source of fish in the future.” Produced year-round, kanpachi boasts a high shelf life, is a healthy source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids and require a conservative amount of feed in the farming process. GMO-free and organically grown in deep-sea, clear-water facilities off Kona, Blue Ocean Mariculture ensures that its fish are raised to the highest standard of quality and taste.

Beachhouse at the Moana serves Chef David’s Hong Kong-style steamed kanpachi with choi sum, mushrooms and lobster fried rice.
Photo courtesy:  Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa 

Another favorable aspect of the kanpachi is the versatility of the fish, which can be prepared raw, grilled, steamed, broiled or roasted. Dining establishments such as Doraku, Hyatt Centric, Roy’s and Four Seasons will prepare kanpachi raw, however things are done differently at the Beachhouse at the Moana. “It’s really good steamed,” says chef Lukela. “Because of the unctuousness of the fish, it’s a naturally fatty fish, it’s really flaky and has a nice tender texture.” The Hong Kong-style steamed kanpachi is also served with lobster fried rice, locally sourced choi sum and Hamakua mushrooms.

A school of kanpachi.
Photo courtesy: Blue Ocean Mariculture

Hawaiian Kanpachi successfully walks the fine line between sustainable and delectable, healthy and savory. “The demand for seafood far exceeds the supply that our oceans are equipped to produce, so this is one of the reasons why we’re all so passionate about our fish farm,” Garthwaite says. “By farming these fish in a sustainable way, they’re happy and healthy and they taste great.”

More information on the farming process of Hawaiian Kanpachi can be found at Blue Ocean Mariculture, including recipes. To taste the fish for yourself, visit Beachhouse at the Moana.

Categories: Arts + Culture, Environment, Food, Hawai‘i Island