Japan Eats

Recipe: Sautéed buri (yellowtail) marinated in shio-kouji

Enhance a dish’s flavor with shio-kouji.

Shio-kouji has a long history as a method for enhancing a dish’s flavor. It has recently come back into fashion, no doubt due to it’s versatility – it adds umami to just about anything. Shio-kouji makes an excellent marinade for fish (cod or salmon) pork, chicken or even vegetables. Here, we’re using it to marinade yellowtail, but as we’re coming into spring, a good alternative would be Spanish mackerel.

Sautéed yellowtail

Sautéed yellowtail

Ingredients

  • 300 g kome-kouji
  • 90 g salt
  • 2 slices of yellowtail (about 100g per  slice)
  • 3 tablespoons shio-kouji
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Pickled ginger (garnish)

Method (shio-kouji)

Prepare the shio-kouji 1 – 2 weeks ahead of time. Add 90 grams of salt to 300 grams of kome-kouji (rice kouji – essentially rice to which the kouji spores have been attached). Mix well then place in a container with enough water to cover the rice. Leave the container out of the fridge, stirring once a day.

Method (Sautéed yellowtail)

Remove any extra moisture from both sides of the yellow tail with kitchen paper. Next, place the fish in a clean plastic bag and coat  with the shio-kouji. Leave it in the fridge overnight (or for a minimum of 3 – 4 hours).

Pour a teaspoon of vegetable oil into a frying pan and spread it evenly with kitchen paper. Sautée the side of the fish with skin on a low to medium heat until it becomes brown. Flip the fish over and cook the other side slowly on a low heat (lid on) for 6 – 7 minutes. Serve with pickled ginger.

Restaurant Review: EAT (Gaienmae)

Tokyo has plenty of burger restaurants, but few as good as Gaienmae’s EAT.

Beef patty on top, veggies below.

What happens when you pair Kobe beef with a decent chef? Hands-down some of the best burgers in Tokyo.

The chef, MICHI, who has brought his talents back to Japan after opening a successful fusion restaurant in Los Angeles, found a hip little space in the ritzy Gaienmae district of downtown Tokyo to open his American dining burger shop, EAT.

The restaurant seats about a dozen people at one time, but the casual and bar-like nature of the place belies the quality of the fare. Yes, it’s an American burger stand, but EAT specializes in Kobe beef patties, and that alone sets it apart from the small upper echelon of burger joints in this town.

We started with a garden salad of fresh greens, mushroom slices and tomato wedges, and then moved on to a dish of EAT’s fresh French Fries. Don’t be alarmed by the counter-rattling thud. That’s just the sound of the cook running a whole potato through the slicer.

After that, it was on to the burgers. We sampled a cheeseburger and an avocado burger, and both were delicious. The Asanoya rolls are toasted until firm on the grill, and the vegetables are as fresh as everything else on the menu. MICHI’s burgers are stacked so that the juices from the beef patty and the sauce on top won’t waterlog the bottom half of the roll so long as you eat at a normal pace. For those that eat more ponderously, there are paper burger sleeves available to help keep your meal out of your lap.

EAT also has lunch sets that include a small portion of homemade fries with your burger of choice. The few times that we’ve visited, there have always been customers coming in to take advantage of the restaurant’s takeout service.

Great burgers just a short walk from Meiji Jingu Baseball Stadium.

The only thing that we could fault the place for was the English translations on the menu. The misspellings were thorough and comical. But perhaps that just adds to the charm. And one thing to be wary of, especially if you have English-speaking children with you, is that the music selection is uncensored (Internet radio channel, perhaps).

EAT has a brief bar menu that features a few imported bottled beers and lots of cocktails. Expect to pay between 1,700 and 2,500 per person for the three dishes mentioned above plus one drink. As with many places, the cost drops if you stop by for lunch.

Directions: This burger stand is about three or four minutes on foot from Gaienmae subway station. Using the route-finder on our smartphone, we walked to EAT from JR Harajuku train station in 20 minutes.

Tel: 03-6459-2432
2-12-27 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku
Hours: 11:30-15:00 and 17:30-22:30 (Weekdays), 11:30-15:00 (Sundays)


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Recipe: Aji no nanbanzuke (deep fried horse mackerel)

Deep fried and served in a soy and vinegar sauce, mackerel makes either a satisfying appetizer or a main course

Although Japanese often prepare mackerel at home, the silver and blue-skinned fish tends to be overshadowed by more popular varieties. Perhaps this is because mackerel has a reputation for being oily, or because it lacks the visual appeal of tuna or salmon.

The key to this dish is to remove the bones carefully. If you don’t want the bother, sardines can be used instead. Their bones are thin so you needn’t be nervous about it.

Powder the fillets with starch just before deep frying. It’s worth noting that any blue fish will taste good with the ginger and soy sauce. Here, it’s horse mackerel, but Pacific saury (sanma) would do just as well.

The marinade will soak into the batter, but it should retain enough texture to prevent it becoming soggy. The ginger is important as it balances out the flavor of the the fish.

Deep fried horse mackerel.

Deep fried horse mackerel

Ingredients (serves 2 – 3 people)

  • 150 – 200 g horse mackerel (filleted)
  • 50 g onion
  • 50 g carrot
  • 10 g ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of potato starch

Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of cold water
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 piece of dried whole chilli pepper

Method

Fillet the fish

Fillet the fish

First, prepare the marinade for the horse mackerel. Remove the seeds inside the chilli pepper and slice into pieces 3 – 5 mm thick. Place the chilli in a bowl together with all of the other ingredients for the sauce.

Slice the onions into thin slices. Now slice the carrot into thin pieces.

Next, prepare the horse mackerel. If it hasn’t already been filleted, divide the fish into three slices. Cut each slice into a further 2 – 3 bite-sized pieces, being careful to remove the bones.

Put the bite-sized pieces of horse mackerel and the potato starch into a bag. Blow air into the bag so that it inflates like a balloon then shake so that the mackerel is completely coated in starch.

Coat in potato starch

Coat in potato starch

Heat a deep fry pan filled with vegetable oil to 170 degrees centigrade.

Remove the extra potato starch from the horse mackerel and deep fry for about 3 – 4 minutes. When they become crispy and have turned a light brown, retrieve and drain and a tray. Marinade them in the sauce while still hot.

Place the thinly sliced onion, carrot and ginger on the mackerel. Carefully mix the mackerel with the vegetables and serve.