HOW TO FILLET AND COOK A MOLA MOLA OR OCEAN SUNFISH
Nov. 26, 2005, Steve Ross, Bad Dog, Marina Coral, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico:
How rough was it in the Ensenada sportfishing area on Saturday?
Well, Alex said 12 feet, Juan Lu said 10 feet, and I said 9 feet easy, and the Ace, one of Everingham's Live Bait seiners. They said nothing, they had no time to say what they needed to say, Mayday! They suddenly without warning rolled over in it off of Encinitas and the boat hasn't been found yet. The 4 on board did not have time to get life jackets or anything else but a flare gun which when shot off was seen on the shore by someone who called the Coast Guard and all 4 souls were saved alive.
Well, Bad Dog went to fish Ensenada's Banda Bank anyway. Got a call from Ski on his Bwana and he was at Punta Banda and wanted to know whether or not to continue on to the Bank. "Uh, I don't think so Ski." So he turned around and broke down his outdrive and got towed back to Marina Coral.
You think this is bizarre so far? Hang on.
I metered reds on rocks. We caught limits plus of red vermilions from 3 to 5 pounds for the three of us, easy, no problem.
So Juan Lu goes to the head, we're stopped. A mola mola comes to the boat in 62 degree water on the Banda Bank. Mackerel are breaking everywhere and there are huge meatballs of baby anchovies. The mola mola sinks down about 10 feet and I said to Alex, "Didn't you say that these taste like lobster?" "Yeah, the shark pangas gaff them when they come to their boat and fillet them out and cook them when they get home. You're not thinking what I think you're thinking are you, Steve?" I bounced off the walls to get upstairs, the swells were huge. Leaned out the rear and yelled down to Alex, "Get a gaff I'm putting you on the fish."
I backed Bad Dog through the swells to another mola mola who was on top. When I got a good look at him, I believe he was looking at me. I lost him in the foam but I saw the end of the cane pole gaff and it was stuck in something big. Lots of honking the horn for Juan Lu to come out and help, like right now!
The sunfish is the heaviest fish in the ocean per square inch. The two of them lifted the fish onto the gunwale where Alex performed expert, professional and knowledgeable surgery. Pay attention here. The first thing you need to know about filleting a sunfish is that what looks like you should cut and take home is what you throw out. What looks like what you should throw out, you take home.
First you cut off the side of the fish to expose it's inner parts. Amongst the organs you will find a white jelly-like flesh. This is what you want. The side of the fish is like a white meat lid to protect his insides. Turn the fish over and do the same, extracting the jelly-like white flesh. Bag it and chill it.
To cook mola mola flesh you must first boil this jelly like meat for 20 minutes. It will shrink to half its size and become more solid. Then take what's left and fry it. You can bread it or fry in oil and garlic.
In a blind taste test with Linda and Mike Kuhar, Dorothy and Mike Kraus and Gail and I there was nothing but raves. I fooled them into thinking it was black cod. "It tastes like Black Sea bass" "No, like lobster." Everyone loved it. Then I laid it on them: "Y'all been eating mola mola." "Steve, you mean mola mola like in sunfish?" "Yes" I replied. The room is now filled with Mola Mola Killers.
You have no idea how good this was. It's right up there with number one fish to eat. It's awesome. We have driven over the best eating seafood for years without ever knowing it. But you have to know how to prepare this fish. Once you do this correctly, you too will stop on Mola Molas. It's better than yellowtail or any kind of tuna, I guarantee it. It's the undiscovered primo seafood that will melt in your mouth, so sweet and succulent, you will hunt them down.
Okay, I've got this swordfish hunt down now. The shark panga fishermen are returning with two swordfish per boat per trip right now. Sounds good, right? Only problem is that they are also returning with tons of sharks. One swordie for every 50 sharks. I don't think I'm going to rod and reel sharks all night trying to guess which ripper is the real deal. Best part about the sharks is that when you release one, he hangs around and climbs on again. Yeah, yeah, I know, go deep. Sure, like these sharks aren't going to see the cyalume glowing with your mackerel down 150 feet. C'mon. The swordfish are here now.