I had no luck on the water yesterday fishing for mabuna Crucian carp – aside from losing a very good fish that threw the hook at the surface, she had at least a shaku on her (30.3cm). The wind was too strong for orthodox fishing: a stiff northerly breeze in the morning that only got stronger as the day went on, till it was howling at midday. We packed up and left the lake at 1:30pm when the wind grew so strong as to lift one’s tackle out the water and send it streaming in a horizontal pennant in the air from the end of the rod. I think we were one or two days too early or late as the majority of fish in the area were spawning in the shallows, you can hear and see them thrashing about, and such fish do not take the bait. Some other fish, no doubt spent after their frenzied exertions, were idly sunning themselves at the surface or taking gulps of air and at one spot, where two rivulets conjoined, some fish were leaping out of the water. The lucky ones would fall down the bank and roll back into the water; one unlucky fish we came upon was stranded and had its eyes and intestines picked out and eaten by the inevitable crows. Kasumigaura is always an interesting place to visit, and for me a lack of fish in the bag is no cause for disappointment. I passed some time watching a local man in the shallows with a home-made fishgig, standing as still as a hunting heron, looking to spear passing koi carp – in these days of opulent luxury carp is no longer a staple food in Japan but the older locals still take them. I also spotted a number of big birds of prey soaring about but had forgotten my spyglass so I couldn’t identify them, but most sensible birdlife was taking shelter from the wind. On the way back my fishing buddy almost ran over a cock pheasant that had walked blindly into the road, which would have been an ironic end to such a huge fine creature that had survived the Kasumigaura hunting season; luckily the bird came to his senses and ran off just before we flattened him.
old gyotaku appearing whilst clearing out my old stuff. Whilst none of the fish were spectacular in size, each gyotaku lists the date, boat and place the fish was caught, and its particulars, and each one has a story to it. Just fingering through them brought back a host of memories: the first madai I ever caught; the first madai I caught on a rig entirely of my own construction; the marbled flounder I caught in Iwate when it was minus 7°C and nobody else caught anything; the young suzuki caught on a mebaru line that tasted so good when grilled; the giant aji (38cm) I snagged whilst caught in a genuine squall during Golden Week; the Pacific cod so big I had no washi paper that it would fit on, so I ripped up my bedsheet and printed it on that…happy, happy memories. The genuine good fish gyotaku are of course, still on my wall.
Fishing at a stocked herabuna pond seems to me one of the most scientific forms of angling there is, in addition to being very fun too. I never tire of it, and am glad to have made the trip despite my recent busy schedule.
Sorry for the lack of updates; I’ve just moved house. For the next few months rod making will be somewhat out of the question, but I am still fishing occasionally and have started making charcuterie again.
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Breadcrumbed shallow-fried beef sweetbreads, with homemade “Russian” sauce on the side. The sweetbreads require a certain amount of preparation – soaking, simmering and cutting out the various membranes and vessels – but it is not difficult and done properly, the sweetbreads are quite delicious. Sweetbreads are also one of the few parts of the animal not used in yakiniku so they are fairly cheap here in Tokyo.
The sweetbreads straight out of the packet. They have been well butchered and contain almost no blood, so the hard work is already done.
Sweetbreads after being prepared: gently cooked through and with all the vessels, membranes and other connective tissue removed. To make cooking easier they are then pressed between two weighted-down plates overnight in the fridge, so they firm up and have an even thickness. There are many ways to cook them: the old-fashioned method is to have them fried and covered in a Malmsey or Madeira sauce; they can also be deep-fried or added to meat stews and Ruhlman & Polcyn stick it in sausages, with an architectural receipt as long as your arm. Personally I prefer the simpler stuff, and just breadcrumbed the sweetbread pieces and shallow-fried them in olive oil with a mayonnaise-type sauce for dipping on the side.
The taste and texture is amazing – not bloody, like liver nor creamy like brain, just very delicate and juicy and delicious. I can see how a rich fortified wine sauce would go well with sweetbreads; there is always next time.
Breakfast sausages in the making. Here in Japan your local supermarket will only really have American- or German-style sausages, almost always pre-cooked and rather watery (as well as the abomination of Japanese bacon). Whilst there is nothing really wrong with these local interpretations (although I cannot imagine what a Bavarian or Cousin Jonathan might have to say about them) I do like to have a proper English sausage every so often – Cumberland (cooked and served coiled into a fake, rather than being linked) or just good old pork and breadcrumbs. Colman’s mustard on the side, of course, and served with mashed potatoes and onion gravy. So I have to make the sausages myself; it is neither difficult nor expensive.
Crucian carp of 2013!