Split, cured in brine and set to dry overnight; this photo shows them ready at about 7am the morning after fishing. These are a staple of Japanese cuisine and many a bleary-eyed foreign guest staying at a traditional ryokan has been startled by being served these for breakfast. They want just a little grilling under the fire till the flesh is cooked through and the skin side is crispy. The photo below shows what they look like skin side-up just after they come out of the brine.
This time aji caught in Tokyo Bay. The fish weren’t very big but plenty in the bag. These are just fillets before they are breadcrumbed and deep-fried. The leftover fish will be split, salted and left out to dry overnight tonight.
Once fried these were consumed as quickly as possible, with just a squeeze of lemon and of course my “secret” tartar sauce. There were no leftovers of either.
There’s all sorts on this part of the Bay…
I’m still around, sorry for the lack of posts but I have been a bit busy lately. Last weekend I managed to get out for some aji fishing with my workplace’s fishing club and caught some tasty fish for the pot. I gave away most of my bag to those who didn’t catch much but there was still plenty left for me when I got home. These were cut into single fillets, breadcrumbed and shallow-fried in olive oil.
Glorious weather for offshore fishing over the weekend, and the Tokyo Bay aji put up a fairly good show as well, despite a spring tide on the ebb all day. It was nice just to be out on the sea again after a hiatus in my saltwater fishing.
This time of year the aji are a little slim and not so oily, but fairly delicious when cooked in the orthodox fashion, breadcrumbed and grilled or fried. I made the not-so-secret tartar sauce to go with, of course. As for eating raw, aji in this state are best served as the dish known in Japanese as nameroh, quite literally “Lick It”. The name is not at all scabrous, but a reference to the deliciousness of the dish which allegedly makes some diners lick their plates clean. The filleted fish is mixed with fresh ginger, myouga root, sake, spring onion and a touch of miso, before being chopped very fine into a paste. It eats fine as-is, but some diners like to drizzle a little rice vinegar over it or even soy sauce. If this pounded fish-paste is stuffed into an abalone shell and grilled over a fire, it is known as sanga-yaki.
After a hot sunny day on the water, Okinawan beer went down very well with the aji. For some reason my local store has started stocking this beer.
Aji fishing usually leaves the angler with some fish left over after his evening meal, and this time was no exception. I cured the fish overnight and sun-dried them next morning. This time the fish were dried as fillets though they are more often made bone-in.
Thanks as always to Benten-ya, sailing from Kanazawa Hakkei, Kanagawa.
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.