Monday, August 24, 2009
Lampuki is the Maltese name for the dorado or mahi-mahi, a kind of fish that migrates past the Maltese islands during the autumn. The fishing season for lampuki is from the end of August through to November.
Fishermen cut and gather the larger, lower fronds from palm trees which they then weave into large flat rafts. The rafts are pulled out to sea, usually with the small traditional fishing boats known as Luzzu. During midday lampuki school underneath the rafts, seeking the shade. The fishermen use large mesh nets to catch the schooling lampuki. This method is known as kannizzati and has not changed significantly since Roman times. The lampuki are used both for local consumption as well as export.
When fishing for lampuki, the sea has to be as calm as possible. Larger vessels stay out longer at sea than smaller ones. When fishermen approach the anchored floats, first they have to be sure of the presence of fish underneath them.
Seeing that it is viable to cast the net, the vessel circles slowly around the floats laying the net as it proceeds. When the two wings of the net meet, these are hauled on board the vessel so that the fish caught inside are concentrated in a small area of the net. The float is slipped between the bottom of the net, which is now closed, but for a narrow slit between the lead line. The bottom ropes of the net are then hauled on to the vessel by means of a hydraulic winch thus confining the fish in the landing bag. The time taken for such an operation is less than 10 minutes when professionals do such fishing. This procedure is repeated every time the fishermen detect the presence of a considerable amount of fish under a float.
It is the custom for fishermen from the fishing village of Marsaxlokk to gather in port at the start of the lampuki season and have their vessels blessed by the parish priest.
Lampuki can be fried and accompanied by different types of sauces, such as green pepper sauce or caper sauce. They can be baked or made into a pie. My favourite is fried Lampuki with green pepper sauce.