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Feb 25, 2010 11:03 AM

Hawaii fruit & fish questions/ advice needed

I need someone to explain which fruit can be brought back to the mainland, how do you find the certified stuff? Is it super-overpriced? Is there any way you can get farmers market produce inspected & certified before leaving? Are there separate regulations for mailing produce to the mainland?

Now on to fish- I know much has been written about butterfish but I'm still so very confused.

If I go to a restaurant & order misoyaki butterfish or grilled butterfish will it cause certain digestive problems?
It appears(according to the www) that the fish called butterfish can be a type of pompano, black cod, sable fish, escolar or oil fish.
It looks like some of the plate lunch places - Helenas, Ono & Peoples etc. have it on the menu , so does Roy's.
Is the butterfish served in restaurants the bad one or a more benign variety?

Does butterfish have fins & scales?


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  1. The short answer to your first question is you can't. If you go on line you can find companies that will ship things like pineapple to the mainland, I think you can still buy pineapple at the airport and take it home with you, $$$$. Other than that you can not carry, mail, send, ship, or otherwise get any plant materials from Hawaii to the mainland except some greenery and flowers in the form of fresh flowers or lei. Even those are suspect, and if they have any kind of pods, seeds, etc, they will be confiscated. Hawaii has a serious fruit fly problem, along with a few other pests, only processed produce is allowed to be exported for the most part. Coffee is permitted to be taken as it is processed.

    Local people eat Miso Butterfish all the time. I think most chefs and cooks here know to remove the fat that causes the majority of the problems. Perhaps someone else here can enlighten us all a bit more on this. And yes, they have fins and scales. I know some reasonably observant Jews who eat miso butterfish.

    1. KM's answers are right on. You basically cannot take fresh fruit to the mainland except for pineapples you buy at the airport and maybe paying big $$ to a commercial outfit to pack and ship fruit. You used to be able to take frozen (solid) fruit without seeds (we did this with mangos when I was a kid to take to our east coast relatives) in coolers. You can take dried fruits, jams, jellies, etc.

      I've never had the digestive issues with butterfish that people on CH describe.

      1 Reply
      1. re: akq

        I think the fish used to make misoyaki butterfish is either the black cod or sablefish. You won't get the runs with that fish The one that causes the runs if you eat too much is the escolar. I once had the escolar sushi at Tadashi's . They called it white tuna and it was not on the menu but alot of people were ordering it. We were seated at the sushi bar so we also placed an order. Since we only had one sushi each we never had any ill effects.

      2. Thanks for the advice everyone! CH'ers are the best!
        There is so much info posted, we'll have some great eating experiences.

        I'm looking forward to trying Hawaiian food like taro in various forms.
        How is Hawaiian taro different from the taro available on the mainland?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Michigan Mishuganer

          On the mainland people don't mash taro into poi which in my opinion has a considerably different taste than say taro chips, or other preperations in foodstuffs.

          1. re: UES Mayor

            In Hawaii we have Samoan taro, Chinese taro, poi taro, etc. all of which taste different and can be prepared in different ways. Besides poi, there are, widely available, taro chips, taro bread or muffins, crisp taro baskets used to serve stir fries; taro dim sum in the form of taro croquettes or a savory taro cake, duck with taro stuffing, etc. We also use the leaves of the taro plant (called lu`au) in a couple of Hawaiian dishes, laulau and squid lu`au.
            Poi also tastes different according to the taro used.

        2. Butterfish is the same as escolar, not black cod, and is also known as "oil fish" because it has a large concentration of fat, i.e. fish oil or the stuff that omega 3 is produced from.
          (I read up on this trying to identify escolar, widely seen on the west coast, and was surprised when a fish market told me it was from Hawaii.)

          The problem associated with butterfish is potential lower digestive problems caused by the oil -- but it's not an issue if you limit the amount you consume to a normal restaurant portion and a lot of the oil is cooked out. The result is a juicy, flavorful fish that, despite the fish oil issue, isn't fishy if it's fresh.

          1. Mr. Pineapple in Maui carries a few items. If you look on the website it's expensive because the shipping is included in the price. If you're carrying it on the plane it's obviously going to be cheaper. All of this stuff on the website is able to be taken back. I really wanted to take some Maui Onions back with me but we still had a few days between Maui and Oahu and didn't want to lug them around. Call a few days in advance to reserve what you want, they do run out from time to time. I remember the last time they had strawberry papayas as well (very unique and tasty). They're located near Maui airport.


            3 Replies
            1. re: ladybugthepug

              if it is airport produce, you wouldn't be able to lug it around oahu. doing so would "void the warranty"

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                You know better than me. I've used Mr. Pineapple only when leaving Maui, connecting in Honolulu, and going on to the mainland.

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  I don't think you'd "void the warranty". As long as the agricultural sticker is on it, it's good to go to the mainland anytime.
                  I bought one of those coconuts with the palm growing out of it at a farmer's market in Kailua-Kona for $10, cheaper than the ones that they sell at the airport and it was packaged the a plastic bag with the agricultural inspection tape on it. Dragged it around the islands for a week and took it home.