Ika mata

5 November 2012

Ika mata Cured raw fish with coconut is enjoyed throughout the South Pacific. I ate it in the Cook Islands, where it’s known as Ika mata. (I’ve also had it here in Auckland.) Several recipes are available on the Internet: my recipe is adapted from this one. It’s perfect for a summer lunch or light dinner.

In the Cook Islands the dish is typically made with fresh tuna or game fish, but almost any sea fish should work. I’ve used both snapper and tarakihi, and both were delicious. Trevally would be good too. Feel free to use bluefin if you’re a billionaire! The most important thing is to use really fresh fish. Unless you are very lucky with your supermarket, a visit to the fish market or a good fishmonger is in order.

At this point a short disclaimer is necessary. Apparently, the authorities recommend any fish intended for raw consumption be blast frozen to kill parasites. I don’t think they do that in the Cook Islands. I’ve never done it either and I haven’t become sick, but food-borne illness is always a risk with any raw food, and raw seafood in particular. If you want, you can buy fish that has been blast frozen, often labelled “sashimi-grade”. This freezing process has no effect on the flavour or texture of the fish.

The quantities in the recipe below are pretty rough, and all the ingredients should be added to taste. You might want to adjust the amount of chilli, or substitute red onion for the shallot. Lemon juice can be used instead of lime, although I prefer the lime flavour. Capsicum, when in season, works well. If tomatoes are out of season, it’s better to omit them entirely.

  • For two main courses, or four entrées:
    300–400 g fresh fish (about two snapper fillets)
    ½ cup lime juice
    ¼–⅓ cup coconut cream
    2–3 tbsp minced shallot
    1½ tbsp finely sliced spring onion
    3 small tomatoes, diced
    One or more small chillies, green or red, de-seeded and finely chopped
    A small handful of coriander, chopped
  • Cut fish into roughly one centimetre dice, or slice thinly. Mix through the lime juice, and leave in the fridge to cure for an hour or two.
  • Drain the fish well before mixing in the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and black pepper and serve immediately.