Monday, August 22, 2011

fresh from Tokyo, on the grill



It's a reasonable assumption (or presumption?) that no one knows more about fish than the Japanese. And I got two of them in my corner.

In addition to the wagyu, my aunt brought over the most amazing fish in season in Tokyo right now, aji and sanma. I remember eating it when I was in Japan and just being blown away by the aroma, flavour, texture . . . some of the greatest fish dishes I've ever had. And so for the past few weeks, I've been trying to perfect our grill setup, to learn how to get the charcoal just so. Because cooking this kind of fish any other way is a crime.

The aji is cooked on its flesh side first, to get a slight sear on the exterior. Then, flipped over and cooked on its skin for about 10 minutes, leaving the skin crispy and flesh tender. What you want is the lovely oil and fat in the fish to bubble up, gently cooking it all the way through. Rich, savoury, just extraordinary in flavour and weight. And then the sanma.

Cooked nearly the same way, but we had to be a bit more careful as this was a slightly leaner fish. What's utterly fascinating, and the sign of a culture that truly understands fish, is how it's eaten. I went at it with a fork and knive, and was immediately corrected by my aunt. The proper, Japanese way to eat it is to almost scrape the meat off the skin with your chopsticks. What you want to do is scrape the fat between the flesh and skin, combining both in each mouthful. And the effect on the texture was magic. Rich and flavoursome, with the most amazingly silky texture.

My mind got blown. We drank this with an amazing Manzanilla but for once on my dinner table, the seafood completely owned the wine.


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