Washoku apprentice / Change methods based on type of fish

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Place a small lid directly on the fish fillets during the shimofuri process.

The Yomiuri ShimbunThis series presents basic information and tips for preparing washoku dishes. In this installment, we discuss how to simmer fish.

According to Satoru Nonaka, a teacher of Japanese cuisine at Ecole Tsuji Tokyo, “You should choose your simmering method based on the kind of fish.”

For example, blue-skinned fish — such as mackerel and sardine — is rich in fat, and miso-ni (simmering with miso) helps remove its fishy smell while enhancing its flavor. On the other hand, nitsuke, or simmering in soy sauce for a short period of time, is good for plain white-fleshed fish such as kinmedai alfonsino because this method helps you enjoy the natural flavor of the fish.

For this installment’s recipes, Nonaka used fillets. The precooking steps are the same no matter how the fish is simmered.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Mackerel simmered with miso

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Karei flounder simmered in soy sauce

First, make cuts in the skin to prevent it from detaching while being simmered and help the fillets absorb the seasoning.

The next step is called shimofuri, literally frosting. Put the fillets in a bowl and place a small round lid directly on top of them. Boil water and add some cold water to cool it slightly. Pour this hot water over the lid. This makes the surface of the fillets look like they’re frosted, helping their scales, slimy texture and dust become easily removable when washed under running water. Dry the fillets with a paper towel.

“If you don’t use the lid, the hot water will make direct contact with the skin, which will make it detach more easily from the flesh,” Nonaka said.

In miso-ni, cook the fish first with ginger and sake before adding miso and sugar, a step also meant to get rid of the fishy smell. Remove the scum. When scum no longer appears, the fish has been cooked through. Don’t simmer long after adding miso to prevent the aroma from evaporating.

In the nitsuke method, boil the seasoning mixture first and pour the liquid in another pot where the fish is placed. Then heat that pot. This step quickly sets the surface of the fish to seal in its flavor.

“If you put the fish in a cold seasoning mixture and heat it, its flavor is only released into the liquid,” Nonaka said.

To prevent the fish from burning, it’s good to use a kyogi thin wooden sheet with some cuts in it, or cooking paper with holes, to line the bottom of the pot so the fish doesn’t directly touch the pot.

Recipes for simmered fish

Mackerel simmered with miso

Ingredients (serves 2):

4 fillets mackerel (about 60 grams each)

½ bunch aonegi green long leek, cut into 3-centimeter-long pieces

20 grams ginger, peeled and sliced

100 ml sake / 100 ml water / 80 grams miso / 1 tbsp sugar


1. Make cuts in the skin of the fillets and follow the shimofuri process.

2. Place the mackerel, sake, water and ginger in a pot and place a small lid directly on the fish. Cook over high heat. Remove the scum and cook over medium-low heat.

3. When the fillets are cooked through, take some simmering liquid and dissolve the miso and sugar, then add this to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half. Then add aonegi and cook them through.

4. Serve the mackerel and green onions on a plate and pour some simmering liquid over them.

Karei flounder simmered in soy sauce

Ingredients (serves 2):

2 fillets karei flounder (about 100 grams each)

½ block grilled tofu, cut into bite-size pieces

¼ shironegi white leek, julienned

10 grams ginger, julienned

250 ml sake / 50 ml water / 60 ml mirin / 1½ tbsp sugar / 50 ml soy sauce


1. Make cuts in the skin of the fillets and follow the shimofuri process.

2. Put sake, water, mirin, sugar and soy sauce in a pot and bring to a boil.

3. Line a separate pot with a sheet of cooking paper with holes in it and put the karei on the sheet before pouring the boiling mixture over it. Place a small lid on the fillets and cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the grilled tofu to the pot before the fish is cooked through. Baste the ingredients with the simmering liquid while cooking them until shiny.

4. Serve the flounder and grilled tofu on a plate and pour the simmering liquid over them. Mix the white leeks and ginger to garnish.

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