Someone asked me the other day why I kept calling the fish in Fiji, wild.
They thought I meant that the fish here were more aggressive and angry than overseas fish. But that is not the reason. The fish that we enjoy here comes straight from their natural habitat - the ocean.
Like a wild animal roaming the jungle or rainforest, the Fiji fish breed and swim amongst the reefs and seas feeding on organic sea life as they have always done.
The abundance of wild fish can be seen at nearly every fish market each weekend, with Suva's municipal fish stalls teaming with hundreds of varieties of ground fish, deep-sea fish, shellfish, crustaceans and other edible sea creatures.
South Pacific fish are prized around the world as the mainly unpolluted oceans produce a quality of fish that is the envy of the world.
Compared to farmed fish of many Asian countries that swim in muddy polluted waters and just don't taste the same, the flesh of the wild Fijian fish is clear, pink and has a wonderfully ocean flavour.
And when it comes to improving your diet for better health and longer life, wild fish should be a Fijian's top protein source.
Compared to chicken and red meats, fresh fish caught in unpolluted waters is packed full of nutrition, essential oils and organic minerals that are vital to a healthy body. Cold water, deep sea fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring and opah moonfish also contain essential omega-3 fatty acids.
These fatty fish contain natural medicine that is good for the heart and brain. One of the most under rated omega-3 fish found in Fiji is the Opah Moonfish (Lampris guttatus).
I'm not sure what the Fijian name is but this stunningly coloured fish has a silvery-grey upper body and fades to red with white spots towards the belly. The flesh from the fish's cheeks is dark red.
Near the backbone is an orangish flesh and towards the belly the colour changes to pink. When cooked all the flesh turns to a white colour, but this fatty fish is packed full of omega-3 oils and is mostly exported overseas. It is mostly caught with tuna and swordfish as it swims along the top of the water to feed, but it would be great to see this species introduced into the local diet instead of sending it to other countries.
According to the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, "Increasing fish intake to two times a week for healthy people is currently recommended in the U.S.". Fish consumption, especially raw fish, among the Japanese is one of the highest in the world, with many scientists and doctors believing that the low rate of heart disease in Japan is because of the increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
The two most potent omega-3 fatty acids are known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and are usually found in oily fishes, such as mackerel, salmon and tuna - fish that Fiji exports overseas. An increase in eating these types of fish may help to reduce Fiji's growing heart disease problem but cheaper access to these types of fish is essential to linking this wild food to better health.
Tinned fish is just not the same, but for the meantime, provides a cheaper alternative for people to consume more fish. Be careful of tinned fish that is not sealed along the inside or protected from touching the actual metal of the can. Exposing the fish directly to metal, especially tin, aluminum and lead that our bodies do not like, can lead to heavy metal poisoning.
In last week's episode of "Taste of Paradise" I cooked both a steamed and fried fish. Steaming or quickly boiling fish is the healthiest way to enjoy the nutritional benefits of wild fish. Asian people like to cook it for short periods of time, just long enough so the flesh changes colour and just sticks to the bone.
Overcooking fish until it falls apart or is as dry as white meat cooks away the vitamins. Eating raw or rare-cooked fish provides the most benefits as seen by the low heart disease rates in Japan, but I know that for most Fijians, eating fish like the Japanese is just a bit too weird. At least, for the moment.
* Watch "Taste of Paradise with Chef Lance" Thursday 8pm and Saturday 5.30pm on Fiji One TV or follow his adventures on Facebook "Fijian Food Safari"