By Peyton Roberts
These past two years living on Guam so far away from our extended family have surprised me in a number of ways. For one, I have managed to see my family more living way out here in Guam than I did when we were just two time zones apart in the States. Our visits and conversations, whether here or there, have been longer and richer. The distance has somehow brought us closer.
Another surprise (as I round off my twenties) has been how much I have unconsciously adopted traits of my parents… even traits that used to drive me crazy. I find myself looking forward to doing yardwork and weeding our herb garden, which my father always dragged me outside to help with on hot summer Saturdays. I hear myself quoting my mother on a regular basis. She is full of one-liners and pithy phrases that used to make me cringe but now come in handy when you don’t know what else to say.
Living out here I have also discovered that my parents inadvertently raised me to be quite the seafood snob. Growing up on the Gulf Coast of Florida, seafood was a regular feature in our weekly meals, much as it is here on Guam. There was a phenomenal fish market a few miles from our house where we could take our pick from a vast selection of fillets and shellfish that were only hours off the boat. Without realizing it, I became groomed to turn my nose up at anything that had that icky fish smell. I find myself yet again quoting my mother in restaurants, asking our server where their mahi-mahi is from.
Moving to Guam, I was over the moon to discover this same seafood freshness is conveniently available seven days a week right in the middle of town. The Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative is a weekly (or more) stop among my run of errands. I checked out other fish markets on island, but only the Co-op offers consistent hours, a variety of options (hello poki!), and a reliable selection of fish caught by local fishermen in the waters surrounding Guam. The fish is so fresh, you need very little seasoning to make a fantastic meal. We’ve even had rave reviews from dinner guests who said they don’t like fish (turns out they just never tried it that fresh before!).
I have talked to a number of people who would like to go to the Co-op but don’t know where it is (map here), don’t know what to buy, or don’t know how to cook fish. As for what to buy, I suggest first-timers start with fillets of yellowfin tuna, mahi-mahi, or marlin. The Co-op also carries salmon, which is caught off the coast of Washington state but has always met my snob standard of freshness. Pick out enough fillets to average a serving size of half a pound of fish per person, and plan on cooking your fish within 24 hours of buying it. Eat any leftover fish within 48 hours of cooking it.
Those new to cooking fish will quickly learn it is one of the easiest entrées to prepare. There is a lot of leeway in cooking time, especially when you are working with quality sashimi-grade fillets the Co-op sells. I like to bake mahi-mahi, opah, salmon, and onaga in a 400-degree oven with a simple seasoning of salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. We grill tuna and marlin steaks outside on a charcoal grill or even over the stove on a grill pan. Serve with steamed vegetables and a mango salsa, and you have Fresh Factor dinner perfection.
While visiting Marianne’s Nursery a few weeks ago, Marianne mentioned she uses her lemongrass to make a delicious marinade for fish. I could kick myself for not asking her for the recipe, but based on the ingredients she mentioned, I came up with the one below. So if you are feeling more adventurous than salt, pepper and olive oil, try this little burst of flavor on for size. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but I found it came together very easily.
Lemongrass Ginger Fish Marinade
1 tbsp. roughly chopped lemongrass (from the white part/base of the stalk)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2” fresh ginger, peeled
1-2 boonie peppers
1 tbsp. onion (I used red onion)
a handful of cilantro leaves (or culantro if you have access to it!)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. fresh citrus juice (lemon, lime, calamansi, or orange… I used lemon)
salt and pepper
1-2 lbs. fresh white fish fillets (I used marlin, but tuna, snapper and salmon would be great too)
Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, peppers (if desired), onion, and cilantro to a food processor and chop until a lumpy paste forms. Transfer paste to bowl and stir in olive oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and citrus juice. Lay fish fillets on flat dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Brush marinade onto fish fillets. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Turn fillets over and add salt, marinade, and pepper to other side of each fillet. Let marinade refrigerated for 30 minutes to 3 hours. Move fillets to room temperature 15 minutes before grilling (so fillets don’t stick to the grill). Grill for 2-3 minutes each side for medium doneness, depending on fillet thickness and preference (we prefer a hot pink center).
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., The Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative is located in Hagatna just south of Chamorro Village. For more information visit www.guamfishermenscoop.com.
Peyton Roberts is a military spouse who moved to Guam from the States in July 2010. She started her blog, Peyt’s Island, as a way to keep friends and family informed about what island life is like. Over time, that space transformed into a forum for writing about her experiences discovering Guam’s beauty, and more recently its flavors. Peyton loves all Guam adventures, whether land or sea, and has a passion for sharing ideas about incorporating local produce into regular family cooking. At the Fresh Factor, Peyton shares recipes, interviews, and information about all things fresh on Guam.