Monday, November 23, 2009

魚料理 Sake to Ebi Tsukune

Konnichi-wa! Your “Gaijin-Gourmet” has returned with another fun recipe from Japan. Ok, I didn’t actually go to Japan since my last post but thanks to the internet and books, I can share with you my recent cooking experiences with both traditional and Japanese inspired culinary cooking. So let me share with you a seafood dish I learned from an NHK cooking show that we tried this last weekend called Salmon & Prawn Tsukune.

I love seafood and always have since I was a kid. I picked this recipe based on the ease to make and the obtainability to find all the necessary ingredients. I don’t read kanji but I do shop in Japanese markets in Little Tokyo (I like to think of it as my training for shopping in Japan). With this in mind I imagine if you are in Japan and can’t read the kanji labels finding what you need should for this meal will be as easy as pointing at the items you will need.

You can find salmon pretty much anywhere here or in Japan. So scoring a pair of salmon fillets for should be no problem. For the second item in this seafood doubleheader, the recipe calls for prawns. Prawns you say? Not to panic. Let me explain. I live in Los Angeles, so most markets mainly sell shrimp instead of prawns. What’s the difference you might ask? Not much to tell you the truth. Prawns are generally larger than their shrimp cousins. So in other words, you can do this exactly as the original recipe called for using prawns or improvise like me with the more easily obtainable large shrimp available in most American seafood sections at your local markets. Successfully acquiring a pound of each fish we can now move on to what else you’ll need.

1lb Salmon Fillet
1lb Shrimp or Prawns
½ Onion (White onion is good!)
1tsp Sake
3fl oz Mirin
3fl oz Japanese Soy Sauce
4tsp Lemon Juice
4 square inches of Konbu
Salt & Pepper
Thinly Sliced Ginger

This photo is of the konbu kelp we purchased at Nijiya Market in Little Tokyo.
If you are in Japan and can not read Kanji reference this photo!

The first thing you want to do is open all the windows because the place is going to smell fishy! Ok, (if you don’t live in a little box like me) maybe not. But seriously you’ll want to start with the shrimp. Do not buy precooked shrimp. Use shelled shrimp. Like with any meal involving shrimp, you will want to de-shell and de-vein your shrimp before you do anything else. This can prove to be time consuming but necessary to de-vein shrimp.

Your stomach will thank you later.

Once you have your shrimp ready you can bring out your salmon fillets.

Make sure you have all bones and any skin removed before proceeding.

You will then want to slice your fish into tiny bits and mince them.
You do this for both shrimp and salmon.

After you do this place the two fish in a bowl together.

Next you’ll want to take that half onion and chop it into just under a qtr inch bits. If you are familiar with Mexican Civiche’ it’s the same process.

If you happen to have one of those “Slap Chop” slicers then you are in business!

Once diced into tiny bits, throw your onions into the bowl containing the fish.

Add Salt & Pepper (sparingly according to taste) and the sake then mix it all together. Once mixed, cover it and place it back in the refrigerator to stay cool while you move onto the part.

Now in many Japanese recipes they tell you to start with your sauce or Dashi stock first. Of course when working with fish you might want to do that second. It’s really up to you but for practical reasons I always prep my fish or meats first especially on a hot day. Need I say more?

For our mixture well now break out that Mirin. If you are still not sure what Mirin is it’s basically sweet cooking sake. You can find this in any Japanese market or in most major American markets that have an Asian Foods section. If you live in a place where they don’t carry mirin but do carry regular sake then don’t despair. Add a pinch of sugar and stir into sake and there’s your mirin!

Now that we’ve covered mirin, let’s pour your mirin into a pan and bring it to a boil. Once you’ve hit the boiling point turn down your heat and simmer for two minutes. Next, add lemon juice and that konbu kelp. If you can’t find Konbu nearby you can always order it on line from any of the Japanese market sites I have listed here on the side. You’ll only need to buy one package and trust me, you won’t use it that much but it’s good to have for when you need it. Once you have the konbu and lemon juice mixed in with the mirin, add the soy sauce and place it back in the refrigerator to cool.

While that’s cooling bring your fish bowl out and prepare to get busy! If you have ever eaten Scandinavian food you may be familiar with Fiskballar – fish balls. This isn’t the same thing but the concept is the same. Take your fish mixture and shape them into balls. NHK recommends 5cm. If you live where we don’t use metric think about the size of an Italian meatball and you are in business! With our experience we found this to be easier said than done. The fish didn’t hold their shape so easily but with patience you can make this work. Just don’t make them any larger than this or they won’t retain their shape when you deep fry them. Once your fish is shaped into balls you are ready to go.

Final Steps.

Use a good sized pan for your mixture and pan fry the fish balls until they are nicely browned.
Once they are browned you are ready to serve.
Garnish them with thinly sliced ginger or shredded ginger and serve with a dash of Ponzu Sauce

You can find some great ideas and recipes on NHK World’s website. They do a great job showing you on their Japanese Kitchen show how to cook delicious Japanese meals. However, their website’s instructions could prove to be confusing.
As I have explained before, I don’t come up with these recipes. But what I do on here is share with you how I made these dishes and hopefully show you how you can too.

We certainly loved how OIISHII the Tsukune came out and it’s a definite “Gohan mo Ichido” for us. I hope it will be one for you too.



  2. Iie, Iie, kochira wa watashi no arigatou' gozaimasu! =)