I had many culinary firsts on my trip back to the Big Island but perhaps none were so memorable as when I first tried the ‘Opihi.
In simplest terms, ‘Opihi are Hawaiian Limpets—or little conical mollusks found clinging to sea rocks and shorelines. Often times found at celebrations or standard lu’au fare, ‘Opihi are prized local delicacies that can cost you a pretty penny when purchased at a store. Unless that is..…you go ‘Opihi picking 🙂
While enjoying some time at the Warm Ponds in Kapoho, Isaiah’s parents went on a little adventure to pry the coveted ‘Opihi from the nearby rocks. To my surprise, they were quite plentiful though one needs to be very careful when ‘Opihi picking. Particularly when large waves pound the rocks while you’re busy concentrating on the little gems!
Many folks have an aversion to ‘Opihi, especially if they’re raw. But when the BF asked if I wanted to try one, I eagerly agreed. I figured there was no fresher place to try this local delicacy and since I love Oysters and Sea Snails, I assumed it would be similar.
After a quick rinse in the ocean water, Isaiah loosened the flesh from the shell, handed it over to me, and I quickly popped it in my mouth. To my delight—I loved it! Sure, the texture is a bit chewy and slimey at the same time but what mollusks aren’t? I really enjoyed the salty-sea taste mixed with hints of a crab roe flavor. But I think what truly heightened the experience was that I was sampling it in a gorgeous place–fresh from the sea. So cool.
I’m told that ‘Opihi are often times enjoyed with just a little bit of Hawaiian Sea Salt or a bit of Hawaiian Chili Water. In fact, later that week at the BF’s family gathering, I tried them “poke style”, mixed with some local fish.
Another interesting tidbit of information I learned is that Native Hawaiians believe that ‘Opihi can be aumakua and protect you from heavy surf or sharks. Now that’s a Win-Win Situation!
Moral of the story? Every day has the potential of containing a new culinary adventure—so take a chance!
“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.”
— Anthony Bourdain