Simple Everyday Japanese Cooking
I thoroughly enjoyed my three weeks in Japan. A long time fan of Japanese cuisine, I was not disappointed with any food I experienced and was blown away by the quality and care taken, particularly with seafood. Sashimi and sushi will never be the same again and I wonder at all that slightly old fish, carelessly assembled on over-large rice patties and kept for some hours in a cold cabinet before being being dowsed in too much soy and green-dyed horseradish paste. One thing that made an enormous impression on me was the Japanese respect for food and their approach to eating. Mindful eating might be a recent Californian construct but I think the Japanese have been doing it forever. Tiny serves of exquisitely fresh ingredients, well placed morsels in attractive dishes, these all play with the eye and force you to slow down and enjoy it using all your senses. And you know what? Rather than the usual tinge of regret at over eating you really feel satisfied with only a little. I wondered if everyday Japanese cooking and eating could be translated the same way here. Can a meal of one shared fish fillet, a small bowl of rice, some pickles and a few mouthfuls of wilted greens really cut it? I’m happy to say the answer is emphatically, yes.
This simple miso glazed fish fillet is marinated for 30 minutes or longer and quickly grilled for 8-10 minutes to achieve a lovely caramelised coating. You can use fish such as salmon, ocean trout, mackerel or, if you can get it, some fresh cod. Japanese rice has a very short grain and a lovely texture, but while I am quite sold on it any white rice would do. You might need to practice getting just the right degree of tackiness using the absorption method or maybe trust in your rice cooker instead. Pickles add colour, flavour and different textures to the meal and can be bought at Japanese grocers and stored in the fridge for weeks. Wilting some spinach is a no brainer and topping it with a pinch of roasted sesame sauce adds another dimension. A small pile of grated daikon is a lovely contrast too. There you have it. This type of Japanese cooking is also an excuse to go out and buy some pretty dishes, chopsticks and maybe some little sake cups.
Japanese Groceries to try: Hinoki, 279 Smith Street, Fitzroy and Suzuran, 1025-1027 Burke Road, Camberwell. Tokyo Hometown Japanese Supermarket has 2 outlets: Elizabeth St and A’Beckett Street in the CBD.
Miso Glazed Fish
- 1/4 cup red miso paste
- 1/4 cup cooking sake
- 2 tbs mirin
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 tail end fillet of ocean trout or salmon, approx. 300 g
- 300 ml bottle of sake, to test out those little cups
Stir the marinade ingredients together. Place the fish in a snap lock bag with the marinade and rub into the fish well. Seal and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Overnight is good.
Heat the grill. Place a sheet on foil on a baking tray. Wipe the marinade off the fish. Place the marinated fish skin side down on the foil. Roll the foil up around the edges to stop the marinade from running all over the tray. Place the fish about a hands breadth from the grill and grill for about 8-10 minutes, until the surface is bubbling and golden.