The tako-ojisan makes an appearance (I’m wearing a mask because of a cough and I am preparing food for all the family, not because I am some germ-obsessed lunatic). Here the octopus have been de-slimed (using Captain Yutaka’s secret method) and are ready for eating/cooking…
Somewhat inevitably, the takoyaki machine was wheeled out.
Dessert was takomeshi (one-pot octopus and rice) made conveniently in the rice cooker:
My memory after these dishes becomes a little patchy, but the octopus was delicious and it is all thanks to Captain Yutaka of Yutakamaru, sailing from Nakaminato Harbour, Ibaraki!
The sea it was a-boiling!
It’s tako time!
No fishing for me this time (only work) but lots of fish, including this Satanically delicious triumvirate (ohtoro, akami, chutoro) of Sanriku maguro, to be had at a local kaiten-sushi restaurant.
Iwate remains probably my favourite place to visit in all Japan (of course if you have been reading my blog for a while now you know what happened the last time I travelled to Iwate for a work trip). By strange coincidence, I was taken to dinner to eat a nice meal of Maezawa-breed wagyu and other things at exactly the same hotel I stayed in on the night of March 11th/12th 2011. The lobby looked a lot different this time round, including being turned into some kind of chapel (probably for weddings) – in the corner where I slept most of the night there is now a pipe organ.
It was also odd seeing so much other familiar stuff from that day again: the same gift shop at Morioka station where I was standing with the wind-chimes hanging from the ceiling (they gave the first inkling of the earthquake’s strength) and the beam that was bending inwards; the neon sign at the soba restaurant that was smashed, now replaced; the buses lined up outside the station, no longer swinging crazily on their suspension; the taxi company whose car took us to Akita; the professor’s old office and the restaurant we ate our first hot meal in. I hadn’t been back to Iwate since 2011 but I remember most of it.
and the Yutaka-maru!
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!
With a wahoo in the bag!
Despite the orgiastic feasting on hirame, there was plenty of fish left over for later use. First up was engawa, the wings of the fillets, which I made into sushi.
One way to enjoy filletted fish without cooking it is in kobu-jime, where the fish is salted lightly and then pressed between two fronds of kobu kelp. It comes out cured and very well flavoured and perfumed by the kelp, and you can control the strength of the flavour by how long you keep the fish wrapped in kobu; usually I go for 24 hours for a middling taste. This I always eat with the chopped up flesh of umeboshi plums.
Filletting fish for sushi or sashimi invariably leaves you with the skin leftover. Most restaurants and sushi chefs will toss this away (there are some notable exceptions to this) but with bigger fish like hirame or tai the skin is actually pretty tasty grilled, fried or poached. I like mine deep-fried and send it down with a couple of cold beers.
The last remnants of the hirame were consumed in that highly traditional Japanese dish fish pie.
There are plenty of recipes and versions of this online, but mine is pretty simple: a layer of raw spinach leaves, layer of raw white fish sprinkled with a touch of salt, white pepper and some grated nutmeg, then a layer of chopped up hard-boiled eggs, a sprinkle of chopped parsley, then cover the lot in Bechemel sauce. The whole is topped off with freshly made mashed potatoes (mine contains wasabi!) and a little Cheddar cheese sprinkled over the top.
Cook in the oven at 180°C till bubbling and nicely browned on top. Serve with Worcester sauce and/or chilli sauce.