The fourth and final recipe in our Bushbuck Bites Christmas Series is for a decadent brunch that will give even the saltiest sea dog a new appreciation for freshly smoked fish. These Cold Smoked Moki Bagels with Cream Cheese, Radish and Capers by Kaelah's Wild Kai Kitchen make for a light, tasty, imaginative brunch that can be served up ahead of the main meal on Christmas Day or anytime over the summer months. This recipe includes a simple guide to cold smoking fish, which is a beautiful way to eat a wide variety of kaimoana, if you're patient enough.
  • How to Cold Smoke Fish - Image 1

How to Cold Smoke Fish

I have always wanted to try cold smoking my own fish. After spearing a good sized Moki on a diving trip in Wellington a while back, I had the perfect opportunity to give cold smoking a go.

Cold smoked fish is basically fish that has been dry cured to draw out moisture, and is then smoked for 6-12 hours without heat. After a 24 hour curing process, moisture has been drawn out from the fish, the flesh firms up and it's ready for the smoker.

The ideal temperature for safe cold smoking should be kept below 20-30 degrees. If it's warm where you are then placing a bowl of ice under the fish should help keep the temperature cool.

The process concentrates the natural fats and oils in the fish but maintains the texture of raw fish. It's beautiful eaten on its own, but I love mine with cream cheese on crackers or in a bagel with all the toppings. In this recipe I used Moki speared on our recent dive trip, but any skin-on fish fillet should work great too.

Cold Smoked Moki Recipe


  • 2 x Medium sized skin on fillets
  • 1/2 cup Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Seasonings of your choice


  1. Combine salt and sugar and sprinkle liberally over fish making sure its completely covered.
  2. Place the fish into a large ziplock bag then onto a tray. Then place something heavy onto the fish like a cast iron pan to help push out the moisture from the fish.
  3. Place into the fridge for 24 hours.
  4. After 24 hours, remove fish from the fridge, drain the liquid in the bag and remove the fish.
  5. Rinse the fillets under fresh water to remove the excess brine and then immediately pat the fillets dry with paper towels.
  6. Sprinkle over seasonings of your choice. I used a jamaican spice rub on one fillet and lemon zest, dill and black pepper on the other.
  7. Get your smoker going. I used Smokai maple wood chips but manuka would work great too.
  8. Time on the smoke will depend on the thickness of your fish. I smoked the Moki, which was about 1 inch thick, for 6 hours, but larger, thicker fillets may need up to 12 hours.
  9. Once it's done, remove from the smoke and slice neatly on a diagonal. It can also be vacuum sealed and frozen for up to 12 months.

Smoked Fish Bagels

As I mentioned earlier, you can eat cold smoked fish as is, spread it on crackers, or do whatever you want with it. But one of my favourite ways to eat it is on bagels with lots of complementary toppings. Here's one of my favourite cold smoked fish bagel recipes.

  • Bagels, halved and toasted
  • Cream cheese
  • Radish, sliced
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Slices of cold smoked fish
  • Capers
  • Red onions, sliced
  • Fresh dill or fennel to garnish

To assemble: Spread plenty of cream cheese on toasted bagels, layer cucumber and radish slices, smoked fish, red onion, capers and fresh dill or fennel. Tino reka!