Thursday, 4 October 2012

Flo's Best Bass, Tokyo style

After my culinary adventure across Japan, China and South East Asia, I have been looking for the perfect Japanese Cook Book. One that, like David Thompson's Thai Food, both has a database of pretty much anything you would have eaten over there, or at least something similar, and explains the history and culture behind it. Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku does just that but, because of the nature of Japanese ingredients, it is pretty unusable for the first time Japanese cook. The extremely popular Everyday Harumi (which has sold an impressive 20 million copies) is the opposite, very useable - if you set yourself up with the key five: soy, sake, mirin, miso paste and dashi stock. I ended up buying both books, which is perfect since I can get my quick fix on a day to day basis and then build up my knowledge (fridge and cupboards) to try Andoh's traditional and complex dishes. 


The first dish I tried, where I substituted Bream for Bass, turned out perfect. I am not saying that lightly, it really was as tender as the best basses I have had in many a fine dining establishment and the sauce was delicious. Here is the recipe below and pictures of my meal. I did it with sesame and miso dressed green beans and jasmine rice.

Simmered Sea Bream/Bass
This simple tasty dish can be prepared with almost any type of fish. It can also be made with any of your favorite ingredients, such as ginger, garlic, or leeks. Remember to add the fish after the liquids have come to a boil to help reduce the odor and ensure the best flavor. Serve with piping hot rice and a bowl of soup; any soup is a good match.

Ingredients, Serves 4
500g sea bream fillet with skin on (I used bass)
100ml sake
100ml mirin
75ml  cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
30g fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
Amazing Japanese knife, bought in Tokyo but available in UK

1. Prepare the fish by cutting it into four pieces.

2. Gently heat the sake, mirin, soy, sugar and 100ml water in a medium-sized saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved, bring to a boil. Add the fish fillets, skin-side down to prevent the skin from shrinking.

3. Add the sliced ginger and reduce the heat. Make a drop lid from some aluminum foil (it should fit tightly inside the saucepan and be placed on top of the fish), and allow to simmer for a few minutes.

4. When the fillets are cooked on the skin side, turn them over and continue cooking until the liquid has reduced by half.

5. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for a while, so the fish can absorb the extra liquid, then serve.

My sides...

This would be great for a dinner party if you serve the rice in separate bowls,Japanese style, and do it with a hot green vegetable instead - maybe some lovely bok choi - and a fresh miso soup. 

It could also be a delicious light lunch (there are only 125 calories in a bass fillet and around 40 in the sauce, and you could serve it with a salad of watercress or even over iceberg lettuce, grated carrot and sliced cucumber). 

Mount Fuji in a bowl and an alternative way to serve the rice

p.s. for the cheapest Japanese ingredients look in China Town, though it is a bit hard to navigate. If you are feeling lazier, the Japan Centre has everything but is pricier. 

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