Diplomatic crisis looming in the East



Sanma ( Pacific saury(*)) is back in our kitchen, I love this fish in all its forms. I wanted to bring back some pictures from the « sanma matsuri » (sanma festival) in Meguro-Ku, however I could only have shared with you a long queue of … umbrellas, waiting their turn to commune in the fragrant smoke of charcoal grills. I gave up, I can’t believe everyone was fed with the 7,000 specimen announced.
The sanma hatches near Shikoku, and swims north toward Hokkaido to feed from the Northern Pacific rich waters during summer, before migrating back not far from the Japan Eastern shores, satisfied and fatty. Many say it is at its best when captured close to Hokkaido : about 30% fat content. It will barely feed on its way back to Shikoku, getting thiner and dryer (5 to 10% fat at destination).

In your kitchen, under the flame, quite a bit of the fat will melt away … unless you use a small preparation process. :
* Turn on the grill for pre-heating (3 minutes)
* Meanwhile brush the fish body with milin diluted 10 times its volume, then salt it
* Put the fish 7 minutes under the 2-face grill (or 5+4 minutes if you need to turn it over, under a simple grill)
* When the flesh gets to the 75 degrees Celsius temperature (about!), get it out and let it rest 2 minutes so that the cooking slowly finishes.
Experts are telling us it will keep 80% of its fat if grilled that way (vs. about 50% otherwise)

Two additional recommendations :
* No need to gut it, many people actually like the bitterness of its belly part
* To match this full flavour taste, no need to choose a fragrant Ginjo sake. I prefer a simple Junmai with strong presence and rice flavours.

This fall, prices are abnormally high. This price hike is due to the weather probably, but not only, quite possibly. Japanese media report that a fleet of very large Chinese and Taiwanese vessels are stationed East of Hokkaido capturing schools before they get closer to the shores, where smaller Japanese fishing boats are traditionally able to take their share of the bounty. Once more, international tensions around fishing activities are high.

Let’s enjoy each day as it comes. O Tanoshimi kudasai !

(*)The Pacific saury (Cololabis saira) is a member of the family Scomberesocidae. This saury, which is a food source in some East Asian cuisines, is also known by the name mackerel pike. It is a fish with a small mouth, an elongated body, a series of small finlets between the dorsal and anal fins, and a small forked tail. The color of the fish is dark green to blue on the dorsal surface, silvery below, and there are small, bright blue blotches distributed randomly on the sides. The average overall body length of a mature Pacific saury is 25 to 28 cm, and their maximum reported age is four years. (wikipedia)



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