I’m not sure why it has taken me so long, but I have begun to compile all the recipes I collected while living in Kesennuma, Japan which is located in Northeast Japan. Tohoku–composed of Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, and Yamagata prefectures–is famous for rugged coastlines, picturesque mountains, hot springs, and rural farming communities and was at the forefront of the slow food movement in Japan, which is fitting for a region that has long been famous for being one of the largest rice producing regions in Japan. In addition to rice, the region is known for it’s seafood.
Sanma otherwise known as Pacific Saury or mackerel pike is one such fish that is prolific off the Sanriku coastline. The meat of this small fish is dark and oily and similar to mackerel. Don’t let that turn you off though, this fish is delicious when simmered in soy with sugar and ginger. The meat’s richness is balanced by the bite from the ginger and the umami rich soy. I like to add some refreshing daikon radish that helps balance the rich flavor of the fish.
1 daikon radish
3 cups water
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 inches of ginger, sliced
- To prepare the daikon radish, peel the skin and slice it crosswise into 3/4 inch thick rounds. Using a vegetable peeler, round off the edges of the radish (this is optional, but it helps keep the radish from breaking apart while it cooks).
- Place all the ingredients except for the sanma into a small sauce pan and bring to a low boil. Once the liquid boils, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Prepare the sanma by cutting off the head and tail. Clean the fish by slitting the belly and pulling out the intestines. They are edible and some people prize them for their bitterness, but I prefer not to eat them. Don’t be intimidated, they are really easy to clean. Slice each fish into four pieces crosswise. You should end up with 8 small steaks.
- Add the sanma pieces to the simmering pot and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. make sure that they stay submerged. you can use a drop lid if you have one to help keep the fish submerged. If you don’t, periodically stir gently to make sure everything cooks evenly.
- Remove from heat and serve with piping hot steamed rice.