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Anglerfish: Shimonoseki’s ‘foie gras of the sea’

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A man lifts an anglerfish with a tekagi tool at the Shimonoseki Fishing Port.

By Fumiko Endo / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterSHIMONOSEKI, Yamaguchi — When it comes to food that represents Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, many people think of puffer fish. But the Shimonoseki Fishing Port actually boasts the nation’s largest haul of anglerfish. Having learned that winter is the season for the fish, I visited the fishing port at a busy time with landings in early December.

The port is a base for offshore trawl fishing. Fishing vessels work in pairs and go to sea for about a week at a time to operate fishing trawls, aiming to catch rosy sea bass, also known as nodoguro black throat sea perch, as well as right-eyed flounders and anglerfish, among others. Crew members generally sleep in shifts to continue fishing for 24 hours a day.

At about 10:30 p.m., anglerfish packed in boxes with ice were being unloaded by conveyor belt from a fishing vessel that returned to the port after six days of trawling. The jelly-like surface of the anglerfish was a reminder that the fish is full of collagen in its skin and elsewhere.

Anglerfish liver is called the “foie gras of the sea” for its rich taste. The price of a fish varies with the size of its liver.

According to Ryutaro Kiyoshima, the 67-year-old head of fishery, anglerfish have more fat when the climate gets cold, and their livers become larger from around November.

On the day of my visit, four ships, including Kiyoshima’s, landed about 700 crates of anglerfish. Kiyoshima said, “This season’s catch has been pretty good.” His ship then left the port again, only five hours after it had returned.

Shortly before an auction, a middleman was checking the quality of an anglerfish, which weighed about 10 kilograms, by lifting it with a hooklike tool called a tekagi and lightly pressing the abdomen to check the size of the liver.

According to the Shimonoseki Fisheries Promotion Bureau, the Shimonoseki Fishing Port topped the list of ports based on the landing volume of anglerfish in 2016, with hauls of 628 tons, followed by Hamada Port in Shimane Prefecture, with 175 tons.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Anglerfish dishes, including a hot pot, front, and deep-fried anglerfish, right, at the Shunraku-kan restaurant in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture.

In Shimonoseki, puffer fish is more widely eaten than anglerfish, and as such, most of the anglerfish catch is shipped outside of the region, mainly to Kansai.

The local fisheries industry has been marketing anglerfish over a certain weight caught between October to February as “Anglerfish from Shimonoseki Fishing Port.”

To taste such an anglerfish, I visited Shunraku-kan, a restaurant about 10 minutes from the port by bus.

A pot in which anglerfish meat and skin were cooked together with vegetables and locally caught slipper lobsters was served. The soup was well seasoned with blended red and white miso paste as well as the fish’s liver.

Unlike “dobujiru” soup, a specialty of Ibaraki Prefecture in which roasted anglerfish liver and miso paste are used to create a rich flavor, the dish served at the restaurant offers a mild and light taste. You can fully appreciate the fresh fish’s soft skin and tender meat.

Despite the slightly grotesque appearance of the fish, Kazuko Takahashi, the manager of the restaurant, said, “As anglerfish meat doesn’t have a peculiar or strong odor, it can be served in many ways such as stir-frying.”

It would be wonderful if anglerfish can become a food item more familiar across the nation, not just to people in Shimonoseki.

Memo

On its website (www.syunrakukan.com), the Shunraku-kan restaurant sells miso-marinated anglerfish liver, in both spicy and mild flavors for ¥2,754 plus shipping, and an anglerfish hot pot set for four people priced at ¥7,020 including shipping. The pot set includes soup and yuzu citrus pepper in addition to cut pieces of fish meat. Adding just a small amount of yuzu pepper enhances the soup’s flavor.

To find out more about Japan’s attractions, visit http://the-japan-news.com/news/d&dSpeech

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