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Importance of Fish
Fishing Seasons
Wind, Rain, Currents
Fishing Grounds
Fishing Gods, Shrines, Prayers
Fishing Legends
Fishing Methods
Specific Fish
Other Seafood
Fish Preparation/Eating
Fishing Sources

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Fish Preparation/Eating

Hawaiians ate their fish raw, cooked, salted, and dried. Hawaiians delighted in serving a raw fish while it was still alive. In preparing any fish eaten raw, the body was scaled, split ventrally with the head left untouched, and the flesh was salted. Large raw fish were prepared by mashing the flesh with the fingers (lomi), softening the meat to allow salt to penetrate deeper. If the fish were not soft enough to lomi, it was cut in chunks or slices, or left whole. Once salt was worked into the flesh, the excess was rinsed off before eating.

Fish were baked, broiled, or steamed by adding hot rocks to a container of water. For baking in an underground oven, whole fish or fish pieces were wrapped first in ti leaves. Broiled fresh or dried fish was cooked directly on hot coals or embers.

Hawaiians preserved fish by salting then drying it. Fish were partially dried for short-term storage, or well-dried for longer storage. Fish were scaled, cleaned, cut into pieces if the fish was large, generously salted, and laid on stones. Thick pieces from a large fish were soaked in brine for three days then dried in the sun. A thoroughly dried fish, hard and white with salt, could keep for two or three years if it was stored in a dry place and aired and sunned periodically to keep it from mildewing. Even mildewed fish could be saved by cooking it in an imu, or underground oven, and redrying it. Dried fish was eaten like jerky or broiled.

To collect salt, Hawaiians spread sea water over smooth pahoehoe lava, or lau hala mats, or poured it into shallow pans. The sun evaporated the water, leaving behind a thin layer of salt. The process was repeated many times and then the dried salt was raked together.

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