I love seafood this time of year. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I met Shinji around New Year’s and one of the first days we spent together he took me on a tour of Tsukiji Market (he was working as a buyer at Tsukiji then).
Some of our favorite seafood for sashimi include kinmedai (splendid alfonsino), hirame (olive flounder), kawahagi (thread-sail filefish), and kanburi (winter Japanese amberjack). Shinji loves kanburi so much that part of our honeymoon was spent trekking to one of the ports famous for harvesting winter buri and having it for breakfast. And, if the kawahagi is fresh, you can eat the liver raw – a real treat.
Wakasagi (Japanese smelt) is lovely when simply dredged in some flour and fried up. Eat it whole and serve it with some sake. We love to use ankou (monkfish) for nabe and to steam the ankimo (monkfish liver) in sake. Some say it is better than foie gras. Having studied at the French Culinary Institute and having a soft spot in my heart for French cuisine, I would have to say that I prefer foie gras, but that ankimo is a close second – and excellent with some sake or shochu.
Shijimi (corbicula clams) are best enjoyed in miso soup. Asari (littleneck clams) over pasta with simply extra virgin olive oil just can not be beat.
Shinji loves to grill hata hata (sailfin sandfish), especially if they are komochi (full of eggs). I have tried to come to like the hard eggs but it’s an acquired taste. I love fish eggs of all kinds, but these are very hard and crunchy and surprisingly big in size.
Crab is in season this time of year – perhaps best enjoyed simply steamed. I love uni – as sashimi, sushi, or when I am craving some Western preparation I love to make uni pasta.
Finally, the photo above is of kinki (thornhead). This is an amazing fish when simply simmered (nitsuke). Tender, delicate, and sweet flesh that falls off the bone.
December Japanese Seasonal Seafood
Akagarei – 赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)
Amadai – 赤甘鯛 tilefish (Branchiostegus japonicus)
Ankou – 鮟鱇 monkfish (Lophiomus setigerus)
Asari – 浅利 littleneck clams (Ruditapes philippinarum)
Bora – 鯔 flathead gray mullet (Mugil cephalus cephalus)
Buri – 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)
Fugu – 河豚 blowfish or puffer fish (Takifugu porphyreus)
Hata Hata – 鰰 sailfin sandfish (Arctoscopus japonicus)
Hirame – 鮃 olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus)
Honmaguro – 本鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)
Houbou – 魴 gurnard (Chelidonichthys spinosus)
Hoya – 海鞘 sea squirt (Halocynthia roretzi)
Inada – イナダ young Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)
Kaki – 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)
Kanburi – 寒鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)
Kawahagi – 皮剥 thread-sail filefish (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)
Kinki – 喜知次 thornhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)
Kinme – 金目 splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)
Kurumaebi – 車海老 Japanese tiger prawn (Penaeus (Melicertus) japonicus)
Madara – 真鱈 Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)
Makarei – 真鰈 littlemouth flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)
Managatsuo – 真名鰹 silver pomfret (Pampus punctatissimus)
Madara shirako – 白子 milt from Pacific cod
Mebaru – 目張 rockfish (Sebastes inermis)
Meji maguro – young maguro
Mizudako – 水蛸 North Pacific giant octopus (Octopus dofleini)
Mutsu – むつ gnomefish (Scombrops boops)
Namako – 生子 sea cucumber (Stichopus japonica)
Nametagarei – 婆鰈 slime flounder (MIicrostomus achne)
Saba – 鯖 Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)
Sakuraebi – 桜蝦 sakura shrimp (Sergia lucens)
Sawara – 鰆 Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)
Sazae – 栄螺 horned turban shell (Turbo cornutus)
Shijimi – 大和蜆 corbicula clams (Corbicula japonica)
Sukesoutara – 介党鱈 Alaska pollack (Theragra chalcogramma)
Suzuki – 鱸 Japanese sea perch (Lateolabrax japonicus)
Uni – sea urchin
Wakasagi – 若細魚 Japanese smelt (Hypomesus nipponensis)
Warasa – 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)
Zuwaigani – 頭矮蟹 snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)