Uhu is the Hawaiian word for parrotfish, a colorful tropical fish with a prominent sharp beak (hence the name) that it uses to munch on algae-coated coral. Since they live around reefs, the species is a prime target for local spearfishers.
Maui chef and cookbook author Sheldon Simeon’s friends often supply him with these fish knowing that he will make something ono (delicious) with it. Stuffed uhu—filled with a mixture of mayonnaise, sliced veggies, sausage, and aromatics—is his ultimate preparation. The fish’s flaky fillets are tender and sweet, which perfectly balances these rich and savory fillings. The dish is also extremely riffable: Use whatever produce is sitting in the fridge (mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, celery, and zucchini are all great choices), plus any fatty cured meat—Simeon likes lap cheong, a dried Chinese sausage, but also notes that Portuguese sausage or smoked meat are excellent, too. He then wraps the whole thing in ti or banana leaves and a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil which seals in the fish’s moisture as it cooks. Some locals like to cook this dish on the grill, which lends the fish a subtle smokiness, while others prefer to roast it in the oven. Simeon believes you can’t go wrong either way.
This recipe is adapted from Cook Real Hawai’i by Sheldon Simeon.
Featured in “Talking Hawaiian Home Cooking with Sheldon Simeon.”
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. shoyu
- 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 2 tsp. sambal oelek
- 1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1 medium lemon, halved
- Garlic salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Ti or banana leaves, for wrapping
- One 3–4 lb. whole uhu* (parrotfish), scaled and gutted
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 oz. lap cheong (Chinese sausage), thinly sliced (⅔ cup)
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water to soften, stems discarded, caps coarsely chopped
- 1 medium plum tomato, coarsely chopped (½ cup)
- ¼ medium sweet or yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- Cilantro sprigs, for serving
*Parrotfish can be tough to find on the mainland. Look for it in Asian markets, or substitute any firm, flaky whole fish such as sea bass, snapper, tilapia, branzino, or trout.