Washoku apprentice / Make use of temperature differences

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Grilled horse mackerel, foreground, and a fried salmon fillet

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

Japanese gas stoves usually come with a fish grill. In this installment, Naoyuki Yanagihara of the Yanagihara Cooking School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine in Tokyo shares tips on grilling a whole fish, using a recipe for grilled horse mackerel with salt.

First, remove the guts and gills, using disposable chopsticks to smooth the process. Insert one chopstick through the mouth and past the gills on one side, and do the same on the opposite side with another chopstick. Pinch the guts and gills with the two chopsticks (photo 1), twist a few times and slowly pull the guts and gills out. Wash the inside well with running water.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

A horse mackerel has hard scales called zeigo on both sides, which can be removed by sliding a knife horizontally from the tail toward the head (photo 2). Score both sides so it will cook well (photo 3).

Sprinkle salt on both sides just before grilling, and apply salt firmly to the tail and pectoral fin with your fingers to prevent it from being burned away.

“It will cook well if you make use of the temperature differences inside the grill,” Yanagihara said.

In general, the grill’s temperature is lower in the front than the back. Therefore, it’s better to place the fish’s head toward the back (photo 4), as it takes longer to cook.

On a double-sided grill, place the left side up. The left side will be facing up on the plate, so the fish will look beautiful without grill marks on the surface. With a single-sided grill, put the left side up and cook until it turns brown so that the skin won’t stick to the grill when the fish is turned over.

Cook for about eight to 10 minutes with a double-sided grill. With a single-side grill, cook for four to five minutes on each side.

“To know when it’s cooked, check the cut lines or the fish’s eyes, as they lose clarity and turn white when finished,” Yanagihara said.

Fillets can be cooked easily

“When you cook fillets, using a frying pan makes the process easy,” said Yanagihara, sharing his recipe for fried salmon teriyaki style. It’s common to dress the fish with sauce over and over while frying, but Yanagihara’s recommendation is to boil down the sauce first, and spread it over the fish once or twice.

To make the sauce, put 50 milliliters of soy sauce, 50 milliliters of mirin and 2 tablespoons of sugar into a small pot and boil over high heat. Once it boils, turn the heat to low and boil down until the mixture is reduced to half.

Sprinkle salt over the surface of two salmon fillets, and leave them for five minutes before drizzling them with soy sauce. Line a frying pan with foil and cook the fish for about three minutes until it turns brown.

Turn the fillets over and then turn the heat lower. Mix 1 tablespoon of water and ½ tablespoon of sake before adding to the pan and placing the lid. Steam for two minutes until the inside is cooked. Coat with the sauce when the liquid has evaporated.

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