Weekend Parasitology

A friend gave me a few fillets of katsuo (skipjack tuna).  I’m sure he didn’t know about the cestode guest lurking within one of them!  This is the larva of a certain species of platyhelminth, but completely harmless to humans (you can even eat them without any ill effects).  You may also find them in saba (mackerel) and surumeika (flying squid).  The dish tataki made with katsuo, a specialty of Tosa, is specifically done with the purpose of getting rid of these creatures (with fire).  If you are lucky enough to eat katsuo up north (such as I was served in Iwate) the water temperature is too low for the larvae to survive so the locals always eat their katsuo as-is, without the charring.  Incidentally, this particular fillet was shallow-fried in olive oil with salt & pepper and eaten between two slices of toast for breakfast, with no detectable influence of the parasite on the deliciousness of the fish.

Fennel Salami

My batch of fennel salami (I won’t write the Italian for it, being also a vulgar term) is now ready after five weeks of drying.  This was the first time I have used artificial casings for salami, mostly because they are readily available by mail order here in Japan, unlike salted beef middles, and also because the last time I used big natural casings for salami the smell was so bad the memsahib banned me from ever de-salting them in our kitchen again.  The taste and texture came out pretty good though the drying was slightly uneven (possibly because I was in Guam for a week and couldn’t attend the drying chamber during that time) but I am most happy with the definition of the fat and the ratio of meat and fat within the sausage.  Since this was the first time using artificial casings there was a possibility of mucking this up so I just used regular local supermarket pork, resulting in the salami lacking the really complex layers of flavour and nicely perfumed fat you get using good pork; it was still pretty damn good and leagues ahead of anything you can buy in the store.  Thanks also to Mr. W. for the excellent quality fennel!

Fishing Guam

Whilst on holiday last month in Guam I managed to get out on the water for some Marianas offshore trolling.  The last time I had done this kind of fishing I was on the Laccadive Strait in a tiny blue skiff with a captain and deckhand in sarongs with about six words of English between them, and me by far the more ignorant of others’ ways, possessing a grand vocabulary of three words in Sinhalese.  Anyway, some years later I now found myself aboard the Island Girl II, sailing from Agana Bay.  I booked the charter online from the comfort of my home in Tokyo and everything was all in order on the day as the deckhand came to pick me up from my hotel in Tumon at 6:30am and we set out.  Once again, my ear for foreign tongues betrayed me and I couldn’t catch the deckhand’s name, though he took pity on me and my open-mouthed look of stupidity and said, “Call me K for short”, though I was gratified later to find out the captain called him by the same name.  It was about ten minutes drive to the marina and a stone’s throw from the car park to the entry port of the Island Girl; I was greeted most warmly by the captain John, who welcomed me aboard and indeed to Guam as well.   Both Captain John and K were muscular, capable-looking men of the sea and the Island Girl was a model of military cleanliness (I’ve been on some disgraceful tubs here in Japan); we cast off at five to seven and were fishing by quarter past.  As I enjoyed the view from the upper deck K remarked dryly that “We have a lot of competition today” and a quick look-out all around showed me there wasn’t a single other vessel of any kind out on the water…imagine fishing Tokyo Bay in similar circumstances!  The weather was perfect – sunny with a touch of wind every so often to stop it being too hot, and despite fishing as much as I have done I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the sea, the Philippines Sea in this case.  Every so often flying fish would leap from the surface before our bows, and it would take a fairly insensible character to not at least smile at the sight of a green sea turtle in its native element, but these seemed to be normal for a morning fishing in Guam!

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Fennel Salami

After three weeks drying the salami is coming along nicely.  This is the first time I have used synthetic casings so we shall see how the final product turns out.  They have already lost 30% of their mass so they are ready to eat; I may try one tomorrow.

Back from Guam

With a wahoo in the bag!

Unseasonal nukazuke pickles

Pickled some aubergines in my nuka culture.  They came out very nicely, fermented properly but not too sour.  In Japan early autumn is the real season for aubergines and many different varieties come out in the stores, some for the specific purpose of being pickled rather than cooked.  Nuka needs a certain amount of maintenance so hopefully my culture will last till then.

Still eating naem sausage

This time with sliced onion, Thai red chilli and a shake of nam pla on top.  Yebisu beer on the side to moderate the chilli heat.