Of fish and rabbits

Postcards

January 5, 2023

Happy New Year, friends!

In Japan we enjoy a nice long holiday during the first several days of the new year and it affords ample time for introspection, gaining clarity, and setting intentions for the year. For me, this always includes some consideration of what area of cooking I want to dive deeper into. I’ve decided that this year it’s fish. I’ve handled a fair amount of fish in the kitchen over the years but it’s still only a fraction of the dozens of varieties of fish, shellfish, mollusks, and other creatures from the sea that one sees at the fish market.

To date I’ve mostly refrained from revealing my adventures with fish in the kitchen. The few times that I have shared on Instagram an image of a beautiful snapper or mackerel on my cutting board, I’ve received wrathful commentary about my barbaric ways. But fish is an integral and essential part of the food culture of this island archipelago and outside of the very niche vegetarian culinary traditions of shojin ryorui originating in Buddhist temples, to eat in Japan is to eat fish. I’ve learned to eat it with great respect and almost zero waste, which I think is as honorable a way to eat meat as there is.

The finest fillets are eaten fresh and raw as sashimi. The meaty bone sections are salted and grilled while the sparer bones are simmered for stock. The roe and milt are considered delicacies and even the offal of larger fish is delicious when simmered in soy and sake, with a few sansho berries thrown in for flavor. From tip to tail and skin to bone, it all gets eaten.

Nights are cold and the sun rises late over frosty fields. And though January skies are generally clear and cloudless, offering us the maximum warmth available from a distant sun, we are in fact in the deepest phase of winter. Yellowtail (kampachi or buri, depending on its maturity) is synonymous with winter, the season when its fat content is highest and is thus deemed most delicious. Buri tororo is a dish that I’ve grown fond of over the years. Sashimi is marinated in a bit of soy and nikirishu denatured sake and served with snow white grated jinenjyo mountain yam. The reddish pink flesh against a white cloud embodies the celebratory colors of Japan. It feels like an appropriately auspicious New Year’s dish for this epic year in which I will realize my dream of launching the Mirukashi salon, an offering so perfectly aligned to the journey I’ve been on for these last 15 years in Japan.

Onwards with this lucky year of the rabbit!

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