April Seasonal Japanese Seafood 4月旬の鮮魚


uni pasta

uni pasta

spring sashimispring sashimi by Shinji Sakamoto

kinme sushi 

kinmedai sushi

Tai Carpaccio

madai carpaccio

Saikyo masu

Saikyo miso marinated honmasu

The cherry blossoms have peaked in Tokyo as the weather has warmed up. This time of year we are seeing the last of the creamy shirako (milt) that we love so much as well as many fish eggs. The nabé hot pot is put on the higher shelf in the kitchen as we are not using it a few times a week as we were just last month. Being married to a Japanese fishmonger we eat a lot of seafood, from our breakfasts, usually with a grilled fish like a salted salmon or a himono (salted and air-dried fish) and seasonal sashimi at dinner. Here are some of our favorite dishes this time of year followed by a list of Japanese seasonal seafood you’ll come across if visiting Japan in April.

There is so much to love about Japanese seafood in spring. In particular, there is a a pink-fleshed kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) that has a supple texture which is spectacular as sashimi or sushi. If you are lucky the sushi chef will just sear it to bring out a unique texture and aroma. Kinmedai is also often served as nitsuké, simmered in a sweet soy broth until just cooked through. In Japan, look for kinmedai from the port of Choshi in Chiba as it is line-caught and harvested in shallow waters so it is rich with fat.

Uni on its own may be hard for some to swallow, but once it is cooked with garlic, olive oil, and tomato paste and topped over pasta it becomes a luxurious lunch. A very easy dish that anyone can whip up in minutes with this recipeKatsuo is in season in the spring and then again in autumn. This time of year it is lean, while in fall it is rich with fat. We love it this time of year as sashimi.

 Madai (sea bream) is available all-year long as it is a commonly farmed fish. But, this time of year we can get wild madai that has a better texture than the farmed fish which can be flabby. We love the wild madai for a simple carpaccio (above) topped with shiso, myōgabenitadé, and chives. Myōga is in the ginger family and adds a fresh pop to the dish, shiso adds a minty aroma, and the benitadé adds a bit of pepper. Shinji also loves the honmasu (cherry salmon) this time of year. Here he marinates it in a sweet Saikyō miso marinade overnight and then grills it.

Most of the Japanese fish names are linked to a photo of the fish.

Ainame  鮎魚女 fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii

 Akagai 赤貝 ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

 Aoyagi   青柳  surf clam (Mactra chinensis)

 Asari  浅利  Japanese littleneck clams (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Bora    flathead mullet or gray mullet (Mugil cephalus)

Chidai 血鯛  crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Chiayu 稚鮎  young ayu or sweet fish (Plecoglossus altivelis)

Honmasu 本鱒 cherry salmon (Oncorhynchus masou)

Hotaru Ika   蛍烏賊擬   firefly squid  (Enoploteuthis chunii)

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)

Hoya 海鞘 sea squirt (Halocynthia roretzi)

Ishidai  石鯛  black seabream (Oplegnathus fasciatus)

Katsuo   鰹  skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kasago   笠子  scorpion fish (Sebastiscus marmoratus)

karauni  殻雲丹  sea urchin (Anthocidaris crassispina)

Kinki 黄血魚  thorny head (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kinmedai 金目鯛 (sometimes called kinme) splendid alfonsino (Beryx splendens)

Kihada maguro  黄肌鮪   yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Kohada  小鰭  gizzard shad (Konosirus pumctatus)

Kurokarei 黒鰈   flounder or black plaice (Pleuronectes obscurus)

Kurodai 黒鯛   Japanese black porgy (Acanthopagrus schlegelii)

Maaji 真鯵 Japanese jack mackerel (Trachurus japonicus)

Magarei 真鰈 littlemouth flounder (Pleuronectes herzensteini)

Madai  真鯛  sea bream (Pagurus major)

Mategai   真手貝  razor clam (Solen strictus)

Mirugai  海松食   geoduck (Tresus keenae)

Mebaru 目張   rockfish (Sebastes inermis)

Nishin     Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Okoze 虎魚   scorpion fish (Inimicus japonicus)

Sakura ebi  桜蝦  sakura shrimp (Sergia lucens)

Sawara    Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Sayori   針魚  halfbeak (Hyporhamphus sajori)

Sazae   栄螺   turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Shako  蝦蛄  mantis shrimp (Oratosquilla oratoria)

Shirauo 白魚  whitefish or ice goby (Salangichthys microdon)

Shira ebi 白海老 glass shrimp (Pasiphaea japonica)

Sumiika  墨烏賊  cuttlefish (Sepia (Platysepia) esculenta)

Tachiuo 太刀魚 cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tairagai 平貝  pen shell or fan shell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Tobiuo 飛魚 Japanese flying fish (Cypselurus agoo agoo)

Tokisake 時鮭   young chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Torigai 鳥貝 heart clam (Fulvia mutica)

Tsubugai  つぶ貝 whelk  (Buccinum undatum)

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