I didn’t really like fish that much before I moved to Tonga. In Australia it is so expensive to get fresh fish, and the frozen stuff just isn’t as good. Luckily in Tonga fresh fish is readily available, and relatively cheap. Pacific Sunrise is one of the best and most reliable places to get excellent fresh fish in Tonga, and I was able to go behind the scenes and see the process of how fish becomes food.
Pacific Sunrise exports to countries all around the Pacific, including Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the West Coast of America. Pacific Sunrise puts a huge emphasis on sustainable fishing, and works closely with the local Fisheries Board to make sure they conform to all regulations. So not only is their fish delicious, but it is guilt free.
Thanks to a conversation with one of the owners, Rosemarie Palu, my mum and I were allowed a special behind the scenes look at some of their operations. It was truly fascinating, and definitely worth waking up early for. We went down early on a Thursday morning so we could watch them unload the giant fish they catch for export.
The week before, we went down as they were unloading the fish for local sale. It was fascinating to watch the incredibly practiced workers unload the fish, measure them to make sure they conform to regulations, then pass them along to be processed ready for sale.
Last week we bought two-and-a-half kilos of albacore tuna (valu in Tongan), that had been caught fresh that day. In Tonga that much fresh tuna will cost you about 26 pa’anga ($16 AUD), mum and I worked out that in Australia that could cost you around $120 Australian dollars. They even fillet it for you for free.
If you want you can even get them to fillet any big fish you catch yourself. When my uncle was here last year he caught a big dogfish tuna while spear-fishing. He’s experienced enough to fillet it himself, but we didn’t have any of the equipment at home so they took it down to Pacific Sunrise, and they did an excellent job.
Cooking with fresh tuna is great. As well as tasting amazing in cooked dishes, the freshness has given me confidence to try it raw, and ‘cooked’ with citrus, or coconut milk. Fresh tuna sashimi is amazing. We have friends who regularly bring sashimi, and ‘Ota ika (A local fish dish where the fish is ‘cooked’ with limes and coconut milk) to barbecues. ‘Ota ika is similar to the more well know ceviche. Because of the availability of local fresh fish, I’ve been trying to incorporate more fish into our weekly menu. I’m hoping to try some more baked fish recipes soon.