By Shingo Masuda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterIn this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.
Sea bream has been used for dishes for celebratory occasions in Japan since ancient times. Cooking expert Hitomi Tsutsumi describes how to make a rather sumptuous chirashi-zushi (vinegared rice topped or mixed with seafood and other ingredients) featuring the fish, generally known as tai in Japan. The combination of seasonal amanatsu citrus fruit, fresh dill and the fish is surprisingly tasty.
“We make soboro [seasoned ground or crumbled fish] with sea bream first,” Tsutsumi said. “Soboro is handy since you can use it for other dishes if you make it in a large quantity and keep it in the refrigerator.” She added that soboro made with sea bream and other white-meat fish is also good as an ingredient for chazuke, a dish in which tea or other hot liquid is poured over rice.
You can save time by preparing the sushi ingredients while the rice is cooked. Tsutsumi said it is easier to make the dish if you use filleted sea bream.
“Chirashi-zushi is very easy to cook since all you need to do is mix vinegared rice with prepared ingredients,” she said. “It does take perseverance to make soboro. But please give it a try, since it’s the only difficult part of this recipe.”
First, steam sea bream with sake in a frying pan until tender. Add mirin, and parch on low heat. “Hold two pairs of kitchen chopsticks in one hand and use them to break up the fish as it continues to parch. Once it begins to crumble, continue stirring with the chopsticks to keep it from scorching,” Tsutsumi said.
Fish meat sticking to the frying pan can be scraped off with a spatula. Remove any small bones left in the fish meat.
According to Tsutsumi, timing is everything when turning off the heat. “The fish meat starts becoming fluffy exactly when it starts scorching,” she said. “It is a sign to turn off the heat when the liquid evaporates and the fish starts to feel lighter in weight.” She advises turning off the heat as soon as the fish begins to look merely “moist” rather than wet. Continuous cooking over the heat will dry out the fish.
Let the soboro cool slightly and mix it into vinegared rice together with amanatsu and salted cucumber. While doing so, break the citrus into bite-sized pieces with a rice paddle.
The combination of salty fish and cucumber as well as sweet-and-sour amanatsu is enlivened by the dill’s aroma. Moist soboro, crunchy cucumber and juicy amanatsu create a pleasing medley of flavors and textures.
Recipe for chirashi-zushi with sea bream, citrus
Ingredients (serves 3 to 4):
4 sea bream fillets (400 grams)
3 “go” of rice (450 grams)
5 centimeter square kombu seaweed
1 amanatsu citrus fruit
2 tsp white sesame seeds
2 dill sprigs
Sake, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, mirin
1. Wash the rice and let it drain for 30 minutes. Cook the rice a bit on the firm side in a rice cooker with the kombu, 2 tablespoons of sake and 350 milliliters of water.
2. Mix 4½ tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2½ tablespoons of sugar and 1½ teaspoons of salt to make sushi vinegar.
3. Chop boned and skinned sea bream into bite-size pieces, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Use a paper towel to pat away excess moisture after 30 minutes.
4. Place the sea bream in a frying pan and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sake. Cover with a lid. Steam for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-low heat, and remove the lid when the fish’s color changes. Add 1 tablespoon of mirin and parch for about 10 minutes over low heat, using 2 pairs of cooking chopsticks, as described in the article, to make soboro.
5. Peel a cucumber lengthwise to give it a striped appearance and slice it crosswise. Rub some salt into the slices and leave for about 5 minutes. Squeeze out excess water. Peel the amanatsu and remove the inner membrane. Break the fruit into sections.
6. When the rice is cooked, move it to a large bowl, preferably wooden, and pour the sushi vinegar evenly. Thoroughly toss and mix the rice with a rice paddle until glossy. Soak a cloth in water with a few drops of vinegar, wring it out, and use it to cover the rice. Allow it to cool slightly.
7. Mix the rice with the soboro, cucumber and amanatsu. Sprinkle white sesame seeds on top. Add dill leaves.
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