Yesterday was an odd day at sea: very unsettled weather with threatening clouds all around, but with a spring tide and flood water due from 10:30am I was expecting the whiting to put up a good show. Possibly due to the monster hurricano “Sanba” in the south-west (God help sailors out on the South China Sea tonight) on the Bay we had alternating burning sunshine and tropical rainstorms – the kind of rain where the drops are so big they make a loud noise when they strike your hat – and gusty winds and an odd swell on the water. There was a great number of cargo ships and tankers taking shelter in the deeper parts of the Bay, riding at single anchor with their harbour watches fishing over the side and others below no doubt glued to the radio for updates of the storm: the boredom and danger of the merchant marine.
We fished the shoal water in the centre of the Bay – known locally as the Middle Back – as the long and unseasonal summer heat has meant the shallower areas where whiting generally congregate at this time of the year, such as around the Aqualine bridge and off Futtsu Head, are no good for fishing. I sneaked a quick look at the ship’s sea-thermometer and it read 28.4°C, essentially the same as a tropical fish tank, ludicrously high for this time of the year. Anyway, the deeper water and the sluggishness of the bite made for difficult fishing and it appeared that I was the only experienced whiting fisher of the eight or so on board, with no other regular customers on board most anglers were not catching anything. It was about the time I noticed this that the bearded skipper, who also fishes one-handed whilst steering at the same time, came to use the head and on his way back asked, very circuitously and in no way making a direct application, if we could combine our catches and then distribute the fish among those anglers who were not doing so well, so that they would at least have some fish to take home that day. My earlier visions of whiting tenpura and sashimi and kobu-jime evaporated as I consented and between the two of us, we set to fishing seriously and caught enough fish for six people. Therefore my catch for the day comprised the usual canned chuhai spirits:
However, I knew perfectly well I had a culinary treat waiting at home, so perhaps it was all well. The previous day I took the precaution of brining and seasoning a piece of pork shoulder and after a discreet phone call home to initiate proceedings, I knew I would eat pretty well, if a little late, that night. Despite Japanese sea-fishing that day, I would be eating American food, viz., the all-American classic, pulled pork.
This was about my third attempt at the dish; the hardest thing is getting a good cut of meat here in Japan, as no Japanese home oven is really big enough to hold a whole bone-in shoulder, which our cousin Jonathan curiously calls butt, but the Japanese call kata-roast, but not too small as to make the roasting an incineration. Luckily I had managed to find a good piece – Japanese butchers usually pack the meat with the fat displaced to the side for some reason – but this had a nice coat of lard right on top, to melt down into the meat as it cooks. Well, the proof, in the pudding of course:
Whilst the meat was roasting I drank a great number of canned shochu mixers and made a quick coleslaw – onions, cabbage and carrot – for the orthodox accompaniment. A great secret is to season the coleslaw with a touch of soy sauce; sounds odd, but it really does add a complex hidden flavour. Anyway, when ready the meat fell apart under the ministrations of the forks, and it was a resounding success. For cooking I laid the meat upon a layer of chopped onions and peppers, which might not be wholy authentic, but makes sure the roast stays moist and when done, the roasted-caramelised vegetable is amazing. I spooned off most of the rendered pork fat but left enough to keep the shredded meat mixture unctuous.
The meat was very well flavoured, but it benefited from a very small amount of bottled barbecue sauce. Perhaps next time, when I am not so pressed for time, I should lump the meat into the smoker for an hour or so before slow-roasting proper. I have my suspicions this is not the authentic all-American BBQ sauce, but it is the brand I like the most here in Japan:
Unorthodox angler’s supper: flour tortillas stuffed with pulled pork, and coleslaw: