Recently I received this great email from Adam Guy, who also runs a great Japanese blog- The Compleat Tsuribito, it makes a great appetizer for Japanese fishing and cooking in a nice bite sized package.
One of my fishing buddies volunteered to drive, so we decided to go fishing for a flatfish known locally as ‘ishigarei’ (Stone flounder; Kareius bicoloratus) from the port of Kashima, which is on the Pacific coast of Japan, in Ibaragi Prefecture. My mate and I took three each, including one good-sized fish each; since this was the first attempt at this kind of fishing for both of us, we did quite well.
Unusually the ishigarei does not have scales, but instead a few bony protrusions (the Japanese refer to them as ‘stones’ hence the name) on the skin on its dorsal surface, that produce copious amounts of a rather foul-smelling fish slime. However, if one removes these the fillet of the fish possesses a firm, white yet oily flesh that is quite delicious. Also, unlike most flatfish, they grow quite large and can prove quite amusing to catch; the largest one I took was 47cm long and put up a tremendous fight. To ensure their anglers enjoy the eating of their catch as much as the fishing, most boathouses will kill, bleed and de-stone the fish that you catch for you when you get back to port, and give you salt to rub into their skin to reduce the slime, before packing the fish in ice and going home.
Adam Guy, one of our favorite contributors, has brought us yet another great article and meal from the seas of Japan. You may remember Adam’s previous “From The Table” article on Japanese Cuttlefish, well today we have a great feature of Japanese Flounder prepared to perfection utilizing every part of the fish in true Japanese fashion.
As always, fantastic work from Adam Guy. So long as Adam’s catching and eating, this should become a regular column.
The approach of spring means one thing for the Tokyo fisherman: Japanese flounder. The fish spawn in shallows during the coldest months of the year, and during this time do not feed, leaving the fish with a great appetite when winter comes to an end and the water temperature rises. I headed off recently with some friends to Yokohama and despite the foul weather, was lucky enough to snag a brace. These flounder are highly prized in Japan for their sweet flesh and command a high price in traditional sushi restaurants.
Like all flatfish, the flounder are cut into four fillets, rather than two as for normal fish. Then the fish pieces are skinned, and the ‘wings’ separated from the meat. The best part of the flounder are the fatty wings which are delicious as sashimi, and the fact that they comprise so little of the total meat of the fish makes them a rare treat. The skin is also tasty deep-fried or parboiled. But the fillets themselves are also quite delicious in their own right, here I have salted and pressed them between konbu kelp leaves, and then cut and served them just like sashimi. The flesh of the flounder is quite sweet and firm, and is complemented perfectly by the perfumed flavour of the kelp.
Lastly, in keeping with my general aim of wasting as little of the fish I catch as possible, I made the treat known in Japanese as ‘hone senbei’, or deep-fried bones. The flounder bones, with fins and head still left on (I removed the head from one of the fish I caught, as the hook was set deep in its gullet and I couldn’t remove it) are first cured in saltwater, then wind-dried till completely dessicated. After chopping the bones into manageable pieces, they are deep-fried until crisp and golden, given a good shake of salt and served. A most delicious and nutritious accompaniment to beer or sake!