Ika mata

I grew up with this, it was my favourite dish. At home it was always made with freshly caught snapper, lemons off the tree and coconut milk that had only hopped, skipped and jumped a short distance down the Pacific to reach us.

Mum called it Marinated Fish – the Pakeha way, but in my world the best marinated fish is found in Rarotonga, where it’s called Ika Mata. On our travels back from London to visit my family in New Zealand we’d always stop over in Rarotonga and make sure there was a pot of Ika Mata waiting in the villa for us in the fridge when we got there.

It’s even better made yourself, which is what we did last time we visited in 2009, using the most incredible fresh Mahi Mahi from the Ocean Fresh fish shop out on the main island road near the airport. They sell lemons and coconut milk too.

Mum’s marinated fish recipe – Ika Mata


  • 250g white fish fillet, skin and bones removed (In the UK I use haddock, in NZ Snapper, in Rarotonga Mahi Mahi)
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1 red pepper finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced in rounds
  • Extra juice of half a lemon
  • Sea salt to taste


  1. Cut the fish into 1 inch cubes and place in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Pour in lemon juice ensuring fish is immersed in juice.
  3. Cover bowl with cling film, and refrigerate for three hours.
  4. Remove fish from fridge and discard lemon juice.
  5. Pour in coconut milk and extra lemon juice, ensuring the fish is immersed.
  6. Add the sea salt, red pepper and spring onion.
  7. Cover bowl with cling film and refrigerate for an hour.
  8. Serve chilled.

Will keep for one to two days in the fridge depending on how fresh your fish was to begin with.

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