Chef Sasaki’s Sanma Rice

Char-grilled sanma (Pacific saury) is a quintessential autumn dish in Kyoto and chefs all have their signature way of preparing this simple and delicious fish. You can learn more about sanma from Elizabeth Andoh (in English). The standard presentation is to char-grill the fish whole and serve it with grated daikon radish and wedge of sudachi (a small tart citrus). In this blog entry, I have translated the recipe for sanma rice as it is prepared by Chef Sasaki, of Gion Sasaki restaurant. The key to perfecting this dish is the donabe in which the rice and fish are cooked – a donabe is an earthenware pot traditionally used for steaming rice. 

Sanma and rice cooked in a donabe

Sanma and rice cooked in a donabe

Sanma gohan (Pacific saury and rice)

Chef Sasaki: “Char-grilled sanma with fragrant rice: the perfect combination, with grated daikon and a squeeze of sudachi. This is what I want on those autumn nights!”

2 whole Pacific saury
A little salt
100g grated daikon radish
A dash of light shoyu [soy sauce]
2 or 3 sudachi
2 cups of rice [in Japan, a ‘cup’ of rice is called a gō 合 – it is equal to 180mls]
360mls dashi stock with 2 tsp light shoyu

1. Remove the heads and fillet the fish, then sprinkle the fillets with salt and leave for two hours.
2. Insert a fine-bladed knife under the skin of the fillets to loosen the skin a little.
3. Using a fish-griller, use a high heat to char-grill the fillets, but stop when the flesh is still half-raw.
4. Add the dashi and the light shoyu to the rice and cook in a donabe [a traditional clay cooking pot]. When the rice begins to steam, place the fillets on top of the rice and continue cooking.
5. When the rice has cooked, spread the grated daikon over the top and then sprinkle sudachi juice over it.

Source: 祇園佐々木12カ月

Kombu-jime technique video

Here is a translation of this video, which is described here using hamachi (yellowtail/amberjack) but which can be applied to any kind of fish and in fact you could use it for root vegetables as well for a quick pickle.

Cut the fish into slices between 5 – 6 mm thick

Sprinkle with salt

Slice the daikon using the technique known as katsuramuki and then finely slice julienne

Place the sliced daikon in water to make it stay crisp. Drain.

Cut the wakame into bite-size pieces

Wipe the kombu with a damp cloth

Brush the kombu with sake

Place the fish one by one along the surface of the first piece of kombu

Place the second piece of kombu on top

To prevent exposure to the air, wrap the kombu sandwich tightly in plastic wrap

Place the wrapped kombu in the refrigerator for about an hour and a half

Mix a little shoyu with dashi

Arrange the sliced daikon, wakame, fish slices on a plate and add a little benitade (water pepper) and wasabi. Serve with the shoyu-dashi dip.

For an awesome video about slicing daikon watch this…

Chef Iida’s kaiseki class for July

Chef Satoshi Iida has a blog that he updates twice a week, in which he refers to activities occurring at his restaurant, Dōraku, or classes he is teaching, or observations about the seasons. I was reading about his kaiseki class for this month and I thought I’d unpack the items he records as a way of further exploring the art of kaiseki. In the class he discusses aspects of kaiseki and then the participants enjoy a kaiseki meal based on his lecture. Although sadly I can’t attend his class, I found the list of items he records in his blog fascinating. It also highlights the way that food culture in Kyoto is so intimately associated with other arts such as tea ceremony, ceramics, calligraphy, incense, and so on. [Cate]

Omukai: Hiramasa no konbu-jime
Omukai is the honorific form of “mukazuke,” which is the first course in cha-kaiseki (kaiseki for tea ceremony), and in a formal kaiseki meal it is a sashimi course. Mukazuke in traditional cha-kaiseki is a small tray arranged in a triangular shape of three dishes: a sashimi dish, a bowl of rice and a bowl of soup. Hiramasa is yellowtail amberjack or kingfish. Kombu-jime is a technique whereby the slices of fish are sandwiched between two layers of kombu, which is a very popular way of serving sashimi in Kyoto. Here is a great video showing how it’s done (I’ll translate this one in the next blog)

Shiru: Tōgan to Awafu
Traditionally, in cha-kaiseki, the soup (shiru) contains the flesh of a melon of some kind and a piece of fu (wheat gluten); in this case, Chef Iida has used winter melon and awafu, which is wheat gluten with millet added to give it a yellowish tinge. Fu is an important staple of shojin ryori and Kyoto is famous for its fu cuisine.

2013.07.17 junsai“煮物はぐじと新じゅんさい”
Nimono: Guji and Junsai
The next course in traditional cha-kaiseki is the main dish, called “nimono-wan,” which literally means something that has been boiled or simmered and refers to the dish being cooked rather than raw. Guji is tilefish. Junsai is an interesting aquatic plant that grows in shallow ponds and is surrounded by a thick mucilage that is prized in Japanese cuisine. It is harvested fresh between June and September.


Yakimono: Masu no Kenchin-yaki
Yakimono is a broiled or grilled dish. Masu is trout and here it is prepared in the “kenshin” style, which means stuffed with a mixture of a variety of finely sliced vegetables including tofu and then baked.

Shiizakana: Hamo zaku-zaku
Shiizakana course is usually a substantial dish like a nabe (casserole), although I’m not sure how Chef Iida prepared this dish: hamo is conger pike eel and “zaku-zaku” means “roughly chopped.”

2013.07.17 zuiki“吸物はずいき”
Suimono: Zuiki
Suimono is a clear soup and zuiki is the stalk of the sato-imo taro plant, which looks rather like rhubarb.

Hassun: Spot-billed Duck and Truffle-stuffed Tiger Prawns
The Hassun course is usually served as the second course of full kaiseki banquet, although it is sometimes served in the middle courses. This course is served on a small lacquer tray with two delicacies: one from the mountains or fields, and one from the ocean.

Kōnomono: Takuan and Kokabu
Kōnomono is another word for tsukemono, pickled vegetables; the character 香, meaning smell or scent or fragrance, refers to the pungent odour of the pickles. Takuan is pickled daikon radish, perhaps the most common pickle in Japan, and kokabu is pickled turnip, which is a Kyoto speciality because the kokabu variety of turnip is one of the so-called kyoyasai, vegetables that are grown in Kyoto prefecture and especially associated with Kyoto cuisine.

After listing the foods that were prepared for this presentation, Chef Iida goes on to discuss the dishes he used…

“In general I use dishes such as Hanshichi 半七, Ōhi 大樋, Kyō-yaki 京焼, and so on.”

Hanshichi ware comes from the family of artisans named Shirai Hanshichi, who originally were associated with the Imado pottery kilns in Tokyo, but after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1924, the family moved to Hyogo-ken and their kiln is now located Mito city. They are known for their tea ceremony wares.

Hanshichi ware from the 9th generation Shirai Hanshichi

Hanshichi ware from the 9th generation Shirai Hanshichi

Ōhi ware is raku style pottery from Kanazawa city in Ishikawa prefecture. You can read about this characteristic Kanazawa style at the Ohi Museum website (in English).

Kyō-yaki is the generic term for ceramics from Kyoto, specifically from the Higashiyama area, which have evolved several distinct styles of ceramics.

Chef Iida then goes on to itemise the provenance of the various tea items used in the kaiseki presentation:

“The scroll hanging in the machiai [meeting room] is by Yokoyama Seiki”
Seiki Yokoyama (1792-1864) was a Kyoto artist who was well-known for his bird and landscape paintings. Here is an example I found at Erik Thomsen’s gallery (the closeup of the quail is especially lovely)

Seiki Yokoyama 1850 171cms x 376cms

Seiki Yokoyama 1850 171cms x 376cms

“The scroll in the main room is by Shunoku Sōen”
Sōen Shunoku (1529-1611) was a Rinzai Zen monk who was born in southern Kyoto and who became the abbot of Daitokuji, one of the five great Zen temples in Kyoto, which has a long and close association with the development of the tea ceremony.

“The kama [iron pot for boiling the water for tea ceremony] is by Yoshiha Yohei”
Yoshiha Yohei is the current master of the iron works of the same name, located in the south of Kyoto, which specialises in tea ceremony ironware, including pots for boiling the water, vases, bowls and bells.

An iron pot from Yoshiha Yohei, currently on sale for 1,600,000 yen = US$16,000

An iron pot from Yoshiha Yohei, currently on sale for 1,600,000 yen = US$16,000

“The incense container (kōgō) is made by Kawamoto Gorō”
Gorō Kawamoto (1919-1986) was a multi-talented craftsman who excelled in dyeing and ceramics; he received the prestigious art award Nihon Toji Kyokai in 1959 and his work is held in many museums, including the Kyoto Museum of Modern Art and the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art.

“The charcoal tongs (hibashi) are made by Jōeki”
Nakagawa Jōeki is a family of metal artists that have been making tea ceremony implements in Kyoto for about 400 years.

“The tea caddy (cha-ire) is Shigaraki ware”
Cha-ire is a pottery tea caddy with a lid that is lined with gold and is usually used when preparing thick tea (koicha). Shigaraki ware is made in Shigaraki, in Shiga prefecture, to the east of Kyoto, and is one of the “Six Old Kilns” of Japan. The simple, unpretentious, yet naturally beautiful pottery is particularly suited to the wabi-sabi of tea ceremony.

Shigaraki ware: Tea ceremony water jar: "Shibanoiori" 16th C Tokyo National Museum

Shigaraki ware: Tea ceremony water jar: “Shibanoiori” 16th C Tokyo National Museum

“The tea scoop (chashaku) was made by Daiki Ōshō”
2013.07.17 chashakuA chashaku is carved from a single piece of bamboo, but its elegant simplicity belies its artistic merit. Daiki Tachibana (1898-2005) was a high priest of Daitokuji temple in Kyoto, the abbot of one of the subtemples of this great Rinzai Zen temple complex, Nyoian, as well as holding various administrative positions such as president of Hanazono University. He was also a tea master and made many tea implements himself, such as this chashaku, which is poetically inscribed “hagi no shuku” (“the place where the red clover resides”) and is currently for sale for US$1,300.

“The tea caddy bag (shifuku) is made from Nishijin brocade”
Nishijin is an area of Kyoto that is historically associated with weaving, especially the luxurious brocade that Kyoto textiles are famous for.

“The tea caddy (natsume) is antique Ujibashi lacquerware.”
The natsume tea caddy is usually made of lacquer and is for making thin tea (usuicha).

“For koicha, a variety of Hagi tea bowls were used; for usuicha, a mixture of Shigaraki and Kyōyaki shallow tea bowls were used.”
Hagi tea bowls are prized among tea connoisseurs, you can read about them here and here. Shallow tea bowls, called hira chawan, are especially associated with summer.

“The flower vase was made by Isesaki Jun.”
Jun Isesaki (b.1936) is considered the greatest contemporary Bizen ceramic artist and was designated as a Living National Treasure of Japan in 2004.

Flower vase by Jun Isesaki

Flower vase by Jun Isesaki

“Flowers: Rose of Sharon (gionmamori), Asiatic dayflower (tsuyukusa), begonia (shūkaidō), morning glory (hirugao).”

“The omogashi sweets were kinako mochi served in antique shunkei lacquer high-sided tray (fuchidaka).”
Omogashi sweets are sometimes called moist sweets and are served with koicha. Shunkei lacquer is a method of applying transparent lacquer so that the grain of the wood can still be seen. Kinako mochi is softened mochi coated in roasted soybean flour and sugar. Here is how to make it yourself in the microwave…

“The higashi sweets were wasanbon-uchimono served on antique pinewood trays (bon).”
Higashi sweets are served with usuicha and are called dry sweets. Wasanbon-uchimono are sweets made only of compressed refined Japanese sugar that are pressed into moulds to create shaped sweets that are appropriate to the season.

Higashi with a summer theme

Higashi with a summer theme

Whew! What a gastronomic marathon! And Chef Iida does a different kaiseki presentation twice a month!

Chef Murata’s Flounder Umani

Following on from the previous entry about Chef Murata’s kitchen fundamentals 1:1 ratio, this recipe is his version of a popular home-cooked meal called “umani,” which literally means “deliciously boiled.” It is most often made with chicken, but fish or other meat can also be used, and a variety of root vegetables such as carrot, daikon, potatoes, yams, and gobo (burdock root).

Chef Murata says:
“If you want to make this recipe taste great, the only thing you need to remember is the 1:1 ratio. The finishing touch is to pour the boiled down stock over the fish to give it a shiny gloss.”

Chef Murata's Flounder Umani

Chef Murata’s Flounder Umani

Shoyu (soy sauce) 60mls
Mirin 60mls
Flounder – 4 x 150g pieces
Gobo (burdock root) 1 root [you could substitute any root vegetable, such as carrot or parsnip]
Snow peas 12
Nub of ginger [about the size of the top joint of your thumb], very finely sliced

1) Combine the shoyu and mirin together with 480ml of water
2) Cut a large X across the flounder, just through the skin, to allow the stock to get into the flesh and to stop the skin from pulling too tightly across the fish when cooking
3) Using a slotted spoon, lower the fish into a pan of boiling water and immerse it just for a few seconds. Then remove it and place it immediately into a bowl of iced water. [This preliminary process is called “shimo-furi” and you can read more about it on the Techniques page]
4) After scrubbing the gobo with a brush or scourer, rinse the root, and cut it into 3cm long pieces, then cut each piece in half lengthways
5) Place the liquid (1), the flounder, and the gobo into a large pot and place an otoshibuta* [see note below] inside the pot and bring it to the boil on a high heat.
6) Cut the stems off the snow peas and blanche them in a separate pot.
7) Reduce the liquid in (5) down to about a third
8) Lower the heat; remove the otoshibuta and then spoon the cooking liquid over the fish with a spoon, continually basting it for about 1-2 minutes
9) Quickly place the snow peas in the liquid for just a moment and then remove again.
10) Remove the pan from the heat
11) Place the flounder on a dish, and arrange the gobo and snow peas; pour several tablespoons of the remaining liquid over the fish and vegetables; finally, garnish with very finely sliced ginger.

Note: An otoshibuta is a wooden lid that is used in Japanese cooking, placed inside the cooking pan on top of the ingredients to keep them in the cooking liquid so that they cook evenly. You can make your own version by using aluminium foil – see this website for a good explanation in English.

Source: 割合で覚える和の基本

Preparing sea bream for sashimi

Following on from Chef Satoshi Iida’s post about Koshotai (Crescent Sweetlips), here is an excellent video on preparing sea bream for sashimi. Note the use of different knives for the various functions of preparing the fish.

Here is the transcript of the video:
0:00 Higesoridai (a type of sea bream very similar to Koshotai) sashimi.
0:07 Higesoridai is a delicious white-fleshed fish.
0:12 Whilst delicious as sashimi, sea bream can also be enjoyed grilled, simmered and cooked in rice.
0:16 After preparing the fish for sashimi, the leftover portions of the fish can be prepared as shimofuri (explained under Techniques) to be cooked in other ways later.
0:23 Using an urokotori (fish scaler), remove the scales. The spines are very sharp so be careful not to hurt yourself.
0:30 First, remove the gills and the guts.
1:28 Because this kind of fish is flat and the skin is firm, it is quite easy to fillet.
1:45 Cut along the backbone of the fish.
1:56 Cut around the abdominal cavity.
3:15 You now have three pieces.
3:22 Remove the flesh that surrounded the abdominal cavity
3:35 Remove the small bones near the spine.
3:53 Now we’ll remove the skin – it is quite slippery, so use a paper towel to hold onto the skin.
4:15 Now we’ll cut the sashimi and arrange it on the serving dish.
4:20 Prepare julienne strips of carrot, daikon, kaiware sprouts (radish sprouts), myoga, momiji-oroshi (see Glossary for explanations of these ingredients)
4:30 Chill the serving dish by putting ice on it.
4:45 Slice through the thickness of the flesh making fine slanted cuts.
4:55 Pull the knife towards you as you slice.
5:06 Draw your elbow back as you slice.
6:06 When you’ve sliced all the sashimi, garnish the dish with shiso leaves
6:11 Here is the finished arrangement. Serve the sashimi with a soy sauce ponzu (a citrus-flavoured thin sauce)
6:15 Place the other condiments on the top. These flavours work well in bringing out the delicious taste of the fish and give an elegant finish to the dish.
6:20 Notice the momiji-oroshi has been made into a little ball with the stem of a cherry tomato added on the top.

Source: Kinniku

Chef Satoshi Iida’s blog

Koshotai 胡椒鯛 (Crescent Sweetlips)

In Japan there are many fish names that include the word “tai”, which all refer to types of sea bream, and koshotai is one of them. From the dorsal fin area to the tail of the fish there are black specks that look like pepper, which is kosho in Japanese. Koshotai is in season from about now and reaches its peak in early summer. As sashimi, it has a delicate taste with a hint of shellfish and a firm bite that seems a perfect match to the season. As well as sashimi, koshotai is delicious prepared as shio-yaki (grilled with salt) or as nitsuke (simmered in soy sauce, sake, mirin and ginger).

2013.05.12 koshotai

Source: Kyoryori Doraku