Finished off my Friday haul with a bunch of fried aji sangle-wiches!
Aji laid out and seasoned with salt & pepper, shiso leaf and half-slice of processed cheese ready to be clapped on and the whole breadcrumbed and deep-fried. Mise en place, just ready to start the greasy process of frying.
After a good draining on kitchen paper/newspaper, the fried aji is placed in a sandwich with copious tartare sauce (secret recipe), ketchup and shredded lettuce leaves. I think I ate mine in about three bites!
The fish weren’t really good for eating as sashimi as they were not quite as oily and fat as I had hoped, usually at this time of the year they start fattening up but the aji were if anything, a little lean and hollow-bellied. Autumn/winter is the best time for eating. Therefore most of my catch was disposed of primarily by slicing the fish into fillets, breadcrumbing and deep-frying. A great many fillets were laid out and handed over to neighbours as gifts, some were frozen for future use but plenty were disposed of in my kitchen:
There are a couple of little tricks to make the fish all the much the tastier: one is to slap a whole shiso leaf onto the cut side of the fish before breadcrumbing & cooking. The shiso adds an extra dimension to the taste, aroma and colour. Also, this time I happened to have some tarragon handy (hard to get here in Tokyo usually) which I mixed in with my usual secret-recipe tartare sauce; again this adds an extra something and seems to go very well with fish. Served with a squueze of lemon, sliced plum tomatoes and a great pile of shredded cabbage, it is a complete dish.
Another traditional home-style way to eat aji is to pound the fish with some certain things – onion, Japanese yam, myouga, shiso leaf and a touch of miso – till it is a paste, and drop little balls of this paste into hot home-made miso soup to give you very tasty, very quick aji-dumplings in soup. I also added some thin slices of the white part of naganegi spring onions. The leftover aji-paste is also perfectly acceptable formed into patties and fried, or even better, rolled into little dumplings and deep-fried – the perfect accompaniment for those who like to quaff ice-cold Ebisu beer in this hideous Tokyo summer heat.
good day out on the Bay today. It was very hot out, but a strong libeccio blowing all day ensured a little relief from the sun and the aji horse mackerel hooked themselves, quite literally, all day.
I was obliged to stop fishing at around midday, as my cool-box was packed to the brim with fish. Even so I foresee a long night ahead in the kitchen, and lots of presents for the neighbours…
Unfortunately I did not take any blue or chub mackerel today – the orthodox bycatch for this sort of chum fishing – but I had the good fortune of snagging a fair-sized shotted halibut. I have never caught such a fish on Tokyo Bay before and she will do very well sun-dried and then grilled.
In hindsight, it is not surprising I had a good catch today. Not only was I seen off from my flat by Fishing Cat in the early morning, but on arriving at the fishing boat in Kanazawa Hakkei I spotted an osprey right in front of the moorings, in fact one of a pair I have known to have established themselves in the area since last winter. There were just too many good omens to not have a good day on the water today.
Many thanks to Bentenya, sailing from Kanazawa Hakkei, for their excellent and friendly service as always!
Made the trip out to sea with my workplace fishing club. With a neap tide and ebb water all the time we were out, the fishing was very slow and I don’t think my bag even made double figures (some anglers did not catch a single aji). However, I try to go by the motto “fishing is fun, fish are a bonus” and for the first time in many of these trips, we were blessed with good weather and we had plenty of ice-cold beers and shochu mixers to pass the time the fish weren’t biting. In the afternoon I managed to snag a good-sized aji and so made sashimi on deck, after despatching the unfortunate fish in ice-water first:
I also was lucky with by-catch and caught some sardines and a foot-long rockfish known in Japanese as kasago. The sardines I scaled and then threaded onto a line and dried in the sun; they make an excellent snack grilled and eaten whole, head and all. I gave these to one of my fishing buddies at the end of the day so unfortunately have no photo of them cooked.
At home, after a starter of gazpacho (see previous post) I breadcrumbed and deep-fried the aji. Served with my secret tartare sauce of infamy, a squeeze of lemon and plenty of shredded cabbage as a sop to my health, these came out really well and my only regret was not catching more.
The next dish was the rockfish, stewed in soy sauce and mirin in the traditional Japanese dish called nitsuke, made by the memsahib:
Some Western diners are shocked if their cooked fish dishes bear any resemblance to a fish, particularly if the head is included. For me, the cheek meat and darker flesh around the fins are some of the tastiest parts of the fish; the beauty of Japanese nitsuke is you can enjoy these and I think we did this particular animal justice.
The leftover braising liquor contains a great amount of fish stock and flavour and poured over a bowl of rice at the end of the meal is a most satisfying end. Thanks as always to Bentenya, sailing from Kanazawa Hakkei.
or at least, the Raj or Sirkar smokehouse, via Japan: smoked aji kedgeree. The fish were caught last week but because of the bad weather, I was only able to smoke them this weekend; this time over a mixture of beechwood and sakura.
Ingredients laid out and waiting for the rice to be done: boiled eggs, thin-sliced ginger and smoked fish.
The kedgeree mixed through and through and ready to be devoured. Kedgeree is greatly improved when served with fried eggs, a dal curry, Welsh rarebit or sausages, but this time I made do with white toast and a can of beer.
A quiet day out on the water today, with the weather being neither winter nor autumn: strangely hazy with a low cloud cover. It didn’t stop me getting sunburnt but a neap tide meant slow fishing throughout the day. I took six big aji and a brace of the curious ‘talking’ fish ishimochi in the day. Compare this image of Hakkei Island, complete with nori seaweed beds, with previous photos…
In hindsight, it is not surprising the fishing was slow; for one, I did not meet Fishing Cat in the early morning when I set out, and when we were at moorings, a river cormorant sat on one of the fore bitts with its wings ahoo, a sign of ill luck if ever there was, before we set sail.
However, the fishing itself was fun and it was nice to get out on the water. Aside from a Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force slop-ship giving herself airs on the Bay, it was interesting to see a variety of vessels out on the water, including some pretty yachts, the odd man o’war, and some absolutely gigantic container-ships. Aji are always good eating and my catch is destined for the smoker; the ishimochi talkers I made a gift of to my local sushi restaurant. Many thanks as always, to Kanazawa Hakkei’s Bentenya.
Breadcrumbed and fried aji:
Very lightly cured aji, on top of a salad of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, yellow peppers and eggs, with a black truffle dressing:
Picked up a hat-full of aji and some mackerel – blue, sadly not chub – and I foresee good eating this weekend. The leftovers will be dried and smoked.
Pick of the catch: the mackerel and the largest aji. The latter is not even close, in length or girth, to my personal record 38cm fish I caught in the same area in 2006, but it is a good-sized beast.
Thanks as always to Bentenya, of Kanazawa Hakkei, for the friendly and excellent service. The free bowl of hot miso soup at the end of the day is a life saver after a long day’s winter fishing!
I smoked the remaining aji over sakura wood chips. I think I am becoming more proficient at calculating cure concentration, and curing and smoking times, and the fish came out very well (my last batch were under-cured and over-smoked). Also I think I have settled on sakura for smoking this kind of oily fish as it is quite sweet and not too overpowering.
For me, smoked fish means one thing: kedgeree. This time, I did not have Indian rice at home so I had to make do with the rather sticky Japanese version. It is a very simple recipe, as the rice and lentils go into the rice cooker and all that is left is to grill and shred a smoked fish and cut the accoutrements, boiled egg, raw green chilli and ginger.
Once the rice/lentil mix is done, it is ready to eat. Sadly I do not have a chafing-pan, but the rice was indeed “baled down the throat with a spoon”.
Caught a good bag of aji on the weekend. The sashimi I ate on the night did not survive long enough for me to take a photo of it, but a whole aji, gutted and grilled on a stick with no more seasoning than salt and lemon, did. The dish is simplicity itself, but not to be scorned.
Left over with an embarrassment of extra fish, these were duly slit open, cured and dried. I think most of these will be smoked over sakura wood, so I dried them a little more than is usual for regular himono.