Blue Moki (Latridopsis ciliaris)
Blue Moki gets its name from the distinctive blue and grey colouring of the upper fish skin and silvery white on its belly. The skin colour makes it easily recognisable in and out of the water. The juveniles are much paler in colour but will change colour many times as they grow.
The adult fish can vary in size from around 2-3kg to a large 10kg. Normal length 55-70cm but can grow to 90cm long. The body is long and thick, compressed with large firm scales. The head has thick, fleshy, almost rosy coloured lips.
The flesh is distinctive – with obvious thick ‘flakes’ of muscles. There is thin grey marbling across the meat, and a very distinctive red blood line patch, dependent on the age of the fish, and what they have been eating.
Did you know?
The Blue Moki can live for over 30 years.
“The sacred Moki” season begins after Matariki (Maori New Year) and legend has it, if the kapua (bush mushrooms) are plentiful in the bush then the Blue Moki will be plentiful in the sea.
Moki was traditionally caught early in the morning, before sunrise, and was cooked by the women of the tribe, in a hangi, for only the fishermen to eat on the beach.
Blue Moki is related to trumpeter fish and other Moki, like Copper Moki but is not related to Red Moki. Also called Isuzumi or Isaki in Japan.
Season and availability
Available year round from differing areas and can be found year-round off the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. The adults spawn off the East Coast specifically near Gisborne, Tologa, Mahia Penisula and Cape Runaway around August/September. Once the fish spawn they will return to the south towards Kaikoura and have even been found as far as the Kermadec Islands.
Where to find them
Blue Moki commonly live in deep, up to 150-200 metres, cold waters over muddy/sandy bottoms. They come closer to shore when spawning.
Juveniles live in shallow, rocky outcrops around sandy bottom beaches.
What do they eat?
Blue Moki use their big mouths and lips to suck for crabs and other crustaceans, shellfish and worms from the mud at the bottom of the ocean.
Harvested year-round off the east coast, from Bay of Plenty to Kaikoura, Blue Moki is often caught as a bi-catch whilst targeting other more popular fish species. Utilising Blue Moki so that none go to waste is yet another reason for consuming this versatile fish.
Blue Moki stocks have been managed by the New Zealand Quota Management System (QMA) since 1986. As at December 2019, Blue Moki stocks are showing a favourable status by MPI, at or above targeted stock levels.
Blue Moki is a large broad fish, that has just as much meat in the head and inner frame as in the fillets. Once the fleshy fillets are removed the carcass, can be used for making stock, boil-ups, or used for smoking. The skin is thin enough to be kept on the fish and fried until crispy if desired. No part of the fish needs to be wasted.
Moki has firm, white flesh, that breaks into large flakes when cooked. The dense flesh is cast with small greyish lines in parts. The strong blood lines are normally cut out from the fillet but some red flesh can be left on and is fine to eat.
Flavours that work
Fresh Blue Moki has a very identifiable, medium to strong flavour, not too gamey, with earthy flavours that are indicative of what they eat.
Flavourings such as chilli, lime, curry, roasted nuts, blue cheeses, pepper and other spices all work well with this fish.
Citrus such as limes and lemons, or Mediterranean flavours like garlic, olives and capers are perfect.
Blue Moki also pairs well with flavourful herbs like basil, dill or bay leaves and acidic notes from wine, verjuice or aged vinegars.
How to cook
Arguably, the Blue Moki’s best culinary feature is that the fillets hold their shape when cooked. It can be oven-baked, casseroled, poached, smoked, steamed, deep fried or used in a curry. Fresh Blue Moki can also be used in raw fish dishes such as Kokoda but cut away any blood lines first.
Blue Moki Kokoda (raw fish)
Oven-baked Blue Moki with tarragon bernaise
Deep fried Blue Moki with salt and pepper crumb
Blue Moki baked in paper or banana leaf parcels with citrus, lemon grass and limes
BBQ Blue Moki steaks with chipotle sauce