February Seasonal Japanese Seafood 2月旬の魚

 

ankimo monkfish liver

February is one of the coldest months in Japan, so it is a wonderful time for hot pots (nabé). Monkfish (ankō) is one of Shinji’s favorite types of nabé. We always save the liver and serve it separately. Ankimo is often called the foie gras of the sea. It’s very easy to steam – see a simple recipe hereWakasagi is nice lovely when lightly battered and deep-fried.

As the waters are very cold this year, and as fish get ready to spawn in spring, they are rich with fat. This translates well into dishes like sashimi and nabé.

Image

hotaru ika

Some of the local seafood we look for this time of year include hotaru-ika and shira-ebi from Toyama Bay in the Sea of Japan. In Hokkaido there is of course cod (matara), ankō, and a very unusual fish called gokkōGokkō is a local fish in Hokkaido that is often used for nabé.

cod roe

cod milt with Urakasumi saké

As for matara (Pacific cod), there are so many delicious parts of it, from the meat to the shirako (milt) and matara no ko (roe). Milt is a delicacy, and for some, an acquired taste.

 

Kanburi at Himi Port in Toyama

Hokkaido wild buri sashimi

As for sashimi, we love kinmedai, hirame, kanburi and tairagai. If you get a fresh kawahagi for sashimi, save the liver, mash it in a mortar and pestle, and add it to some ponzu for a creamy dipping sauce. Shijimi miso soup is a wonderful way to start any day. Best of all may be all the succulent crabs that are in season like taraba-gani, benizuwai-gani and zuwai-gani.

A classic winter dish is buri daikon. (recipe here)

If you click on the Japanese name of the seafood you should be directed to a link with a photo.

Akagarei 赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)

Akōdai 赤魚鯛 rockfish (Sebastes matsubarae)

Amadai 赤甘鯛 tilefish (Branchiostegus japonicus)

Ankō 鮟鱇 monkfish (Lophiomus setigerus)

Ankimo – monkfish liver

Benizuwaigani 楚蟹  red snow crab (Chionoecetes japonicus)

Buri 鰤 Japanese yellowtail (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Fugu 真河豚 blowfish or pufferfish (Takifugu porphyreus)

Gokko 布袋魚 smooth lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus)

Hamaguri 浜栗  common Orient clam (Meretrix lusoria)

Hata hata 鰰  sailfin sandfish (Arctoscopus japonicus)

Hirame 鮃 olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus)

Hokke 𩸽 arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus)

Honmaguro 本鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

* also called kuromaguro

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)

Houbou 魴 gurnard (Chelidonichthys spinosus)

Iidako 飯蛸 ocellated octopus (Octopus ocellatus)

Kaki 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Kanburi 寒鰤 winter Japanese amberjack (see buri) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

* The port of Himi in Toyama is famous for its kanburi.

Kasago 笠子 scorpionfish (Sebastiscus marmoratus)

Kawahagi 皮剥 thread-sail filefish  (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)

Kinki 黄血魚 thornhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

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

Madai 真鯛 seabream (Pagurus major)

Matara 真鱈 codfish (Gadus macrocephalus)

Matsuba gani 松葉蟹 spiny crab (Hypothalassia armata)

Matsukawa 松皮鰈 barfin flounder (Verasper moseri)

Mekajiki  女旗魚  swordfish (Xiphias gladias)

Mirugai 海松食 geoduck (Tresus keenae)

Mizudako 水蛸 North Pacific giant octopus (Octopus dofleini)

Mutsu gnomefish (Scombrops boops)

Namako 生子 sea cucumber (Stichopus japonica)

Nametagarei 婆鰈 slime flounder (MIicrostomus achne)

Nishin 鰊  Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Saba 鯖 Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Sawara 鰆 Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Shijimi 大和蜆 corbicula clams (Corbicula japonica)

Shira ebi 白海老 glass shrimp (Pasiphaea japonica)

Shirako milt from fugu or tara

Shirauo 白魚 whitefish or ice goby (Salangichthys microdon)

Tairagai 平貝  penshell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Tara 真鱈 codfish (Gadus macrocephalus)

Tarabagani 鱈場蟹 Alaskan king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Tsubugai つぶ貝 whelk  (Buccinum undatum)

Umazurahagi 馬面剥 filefish scraper (Thamnaconus modestus)

Wakasagi 若細魚 Japanese smelt  (Hypomesus nipponensis)

Yanagi dako 柳蛸 chestnut octopus (Octopus conispadiceus)

Yari ika 槍烏賊 spear squid (Loligo (Heterololigo) bleekeri)

Zuwaigani 頭矮蟹 snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)

Buri and Hamachi Yellowtail 101

Classic Winter Dish of Buri Daikon

Buri is simmered with daikon in a sweet soy broth until both are tender.

 

Himi Port in Toyama famous for winter kanburi.

These kanburi are at the wholesale fish market which is open to the public.

Kanburi at the retail fish market an hour later.

Prices range from $100 to over $300 USD.

You can purchase a kanburi and have it sent to anywhere in Japan.

Kanburi sashimi breakfast at the restaurant on the 2nd floor of the wholesale market.

This restaurant is open to the public.

Shioyaki salt-grilled kanburi.

The miso soup in both meals is made with fish heads and bones for a meaty broth.

Here is everything a Japanese fishmonger (Shinji) wants you to know about buri and hamachi:

Yellowtail (鰤 Buri, Seriola quinqueradiata) is a very popular fish in Japan for sushi and sashimi. There are many recipes to enjoy this precious protein gifted from the ocean.

The wild fish swim up from the south to the north along the main island of Japan. Yellowtail eat a lot of seafood to obtain as much fat as possible in their flesh for energy to bear the cold waters in the north. The best season is from December to February, when the flesh color turns gradationally pink to white. In March, it ends its peak season after spawning.

Although the wild fish season ends in March, farmed fish is available all-year long. Farmed yellowtail has white flesh with a lot of fat and it is usually delicious. It is called hamachi (farmed yellowtail in Japanese, wild fish=buri, farmed fish=hamachi) and exported all over the world to fill the demand for sashimi, sushi, and grilled as teriyaki.

Wild fish in winter gets as fatty or fattier than farmed fish, and its gorgeous flavor is unbelievably amazing. If you have any chance to try wild fish sized more than 10 kg, from Hokkaido (Tenjo-buri) in Nov to Dec, Ishikawa (Noto-buri) and Toyama (Himi-buri) in Dec to Feb, you must try it.

You can find frozen yellowtail fillets in the US or other countries, but there is no frozen yellowtail distributed in Japan, so when you buy steaks or sashimi loins in the local supermarkets, they should be fresh. Here are some tips to help you when shopping for yellowtail.

Yellowtail has different names depending on its size. The name also changes regionally.

 

Kanto Region Names for Yellowtail

Wakashi 10-20 cm

Inada 30-40 cm

Warasa 50-60 cm

Buri 80 cm or more

 

Kansai Region Names for Yellowtail

Tsubasa or Wakana 10-15 cm

Hamachi 20-40 cm

Mejiro or Inada 50-60 cm

Buri 80 cm or more

Wild or Farmed

The label does not need to show if it is wild, but labeling is required for farmed fish. So If  you see the sign ‘養殖’ (Youshoku, farmed) on the label, it is a farmed fish. Retailers sometimes label the fish as ‘天然’ (Tennen, wild) on the package for wild caught fish, usually with a sticker. If you can tell if the fish is wild or farmed without seeing the sign, it means that you have completed the first step to becoming a fish foodie in Japan.

 

Hokkaido wild buri sashimi

For Sashimi or Cooking

The label must show ‘刺身用’ (sashimi-you, for sashimi-grade fish), ’生食用’ (namashoku-you, if it can be consumed raw) or ‘加熱用’ (kanetsu-you, for if it needs to be cooked). It is better to check the labeling before you buy the fish. Though it is easy for Japanese people to recognize the usage by checking the portion appearance, but just in case, you should check the label. The sashimi-you ‘刺身用’ label does not mean how fresh the fish is, it just means that the fish was cut under careful hygiene standards for sashimi, using sanitized cutting boards and sashimi knives (yanagiba knife), and the freshness is suitable to consume as raw. So kanetsu-you加熱用’ labeled fish can be as fresh as sashimi-you刺身用’ labeled fish. When they cut steaks, they usually use filet knife (deba knife) which is not usually sanitized very often.

Portions

-Steaks or filets (kirimi 切身)

It is easy to know which part of the fish that the steak cuts come from. You can check the skin color, if black, it is back loin (less fat) and if white, it is belly loin (fattier).

 

buri back (left) and belly (right)

this is how it would look on the fish

 

buri steaks back (left) and belly (right)

-Sashimi loin

Firstly, filets are roughly divided into 2 loins, back or belly. But when the loins are too big to sell, they are cut into upper (head side) portion and lower (tail side) portion. Personally I love the fatty portions, and chose in this order: 1. upper belly 2. upper back 3. lower belly 4. lower back. Usually it is sold without the skin, so that you should learn to know which part is which by the appearance.

January Seasonal Japanese Seafood 1月旬の魚

Sake Steamed Kumamoto Asari

Saké Steamed Asari Clams

The seafood in winter is rich with fat as the fish protects itself from the cold waters. Some sashimi eaten this time of year will be a bit oily as a result. As always, we love to have most seafood as sashimi when possible, like buri, sawara, hirame and hotate. Shinji in particular has a soft spot for kanburi or winter buri from Himi port in Toyama. He loves it as sashimi but it is also good as teriyaki or in the classic dish buri daikon – simmered with daikon in a slightly sweet soy broth. Kinmedai is also lovely when simmered in a soy broth as nitsuke.

Shijimi, little tiny clams, are ideal in miso soup. Asari can be steamed in saké or served with pasta as vongolé. And, of course, if you can get your hands on any of the crab this time of year, indulge!

Aozakana, literally blue fish, are the fishy fish in the mackerel family like saba and sawara. Sawara can be marinated in a sweet Saikyo miso and grilled, the miso helps to cover some of the intense fish flavor. Saba is nice simmered in miso in a traditional dish preparation called misoni. Shime saba is the term for saba that has been marinated in a sweet rice vinegar, essentially pickling it. Finally, each January we usually have ankou nabe, a hot pot of monkfish. We save the liver to prepare it as ankimo, often called “foie gras of the sea”. It is simple to prepare, see the recipe here.

Crab

If you click on the name of the seafood in Japanese you should be directed to a photo of the seafood.

K7

Hokkaido Magaki Oyster

Akagai 赤貝 ark shell (Scapharca broughtonii)

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)

Benizuwaigani  楚蟹  red snow crab   (Chionoecetes japonicus)

sashimi

 

Wild Hokkaido Buri Sashimi

Buri 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Buri 101 – Everything you need to know about yellowtail

Chidai  血鯛  crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Hamaguri  浜栗  common Orient clam  (Meretrix lusoria)

Hirame 鮃 olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus)

Hira suzuki  平鱸  blackfin Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax latus)

Houbou 魴 gurnard (Chelidonichthys spinosus)

Hokke 𩸽 arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus)

Honmaguro 本鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Maguro 101 – Everything you need to know about tuna

Hoshigarei  星鰈  spotted halibut (Verasper variegatus)

Hotate 帆立貝 scallops (Patinopecten yessoensis)

Itoyoridai 糸縒鯛 golden threadfin-bream (Nemipterus virgatus)

Kaki 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Kanburi 寒鰤 winter Japanese amberjack (see buri) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

* The port of Himi in Toyama is famous for its kanburi.

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

Maaji 真鯵 Japanese jack mackerel (Trachurus japonicus)

Madai or tai 真鯛 seabream (Pagurus major)

Madara or tara 真鱈 Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus)

Maiwashi 真鰯 Japanese sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Matsuba gani 松葉蟹 spiny crab (Hypothalassia armata)

Matsukawa  松皮鰈  barfin flounder (Verasper moseri)

Mekajiki  女旗魚  swordfish (Xiphias gladias)

Oma honmaguro 大間鮪 bluefin tuna from Oma in Aomori (see honmaguro)

Saba 鯖 Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Sawara 鰆 Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Shijimi 大和蜆 corbicula clams (Corbicula japonica)

Soudagatsuo 騒多鰹 frigate mackerel (Auxis thazard)

Surumeika 鯣烏賊 Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

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

Tarabagani 鱈場蟹 Alaska king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Tsubugai つぶ貝 whelk  (Buccinum undatum)

Yanagi dako 柳蛸 chestnut octopus (Octopus conispadiceus)

Yari ika 槍烏賊 spear squid (Loligo (Heterololigo) bleekeri)

December Seasonal Japanese Seafood 12月旬の魚

ankimo

ankimo

asari pasta

asari pasta

buri kamayaki

buri kamayaki

Winter has arrived in Tokyo. The waters surrounding the island nation are cold in most parts of the country and the fish are rich with fat. At the moment Shinji, my husband who is a fishmonger, is crazy about wild buri (yellowtail) from Hokkaido. We look for the kama (collar) of the buri and other larger fish to salt and grill. He’s also excited as up until now the monkfish in the market has been imported but now that it’s cold the monkfish is domestic and he loves to make ankimo (monkfish liver). It’s often called “foie gras of the sea”. And while the texture and appearance is similar to foie gras it’s not as rich in fat. We also love kinmedai as nitsuke, simply simmered in a soy and saké broth with a bit of ginger. As for clams, we love asari in pasta and shijimi for miso soup.

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)

Shirako – milt (from cod or fugu are most popular)

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)

Tokyo Izakaya and Standing Bars

Yamariki

Yamariki

Grabbing a drink after work with colleagues or friends in Tokyo is great fun as there are so many options to choose from. These are some of my favorites from Food Sake Tokyo.

Saiseisakaba

This friendly tachinomi (standing bar) is located on the back streets of Shinjuku Sanchome. Designed with Showa era items, it feels like stepping back in time. The shop features grilled innards, but you can have some items sashimi style. The brains are creamy and the yudetan (boiled tongue) is tender. If you can, grab a spot at the counter and notice how vigilant the staff is at keeping their cutting boards spotless. You can also see everything that’s being grilled and coming out of the open kitchen staffed with young, handsome men.

Saiseisakaba
Shinjuku 3-7-3, Marunaka Building 1st floor
tel: 03-3354-4829
17:00 – 24:00, no holidays
www.ishii-world.jp/brand/motsu/nihonsaisei/shinjuku3/ (Japanese)


Sasagin

Near Yoyogi-Uehara station is an upscale izakaya with a great selection of sake in the windowed refrigerator behind the long counter. The menu is diverse, including seafood, and small bites that call out to be had with nihonshu such as nuta, a vinegary miso dressing with seasonal seafood, or grilled ginko nuts.

Sasagin
Shibuya-ku, Uehara 1-32-15, Kobayashi Bldg. 1st floor
tel: 03-5454-3715
17:00 – 23:00, closed Sunday and holidays
No website


Yamariki

Since 1925, Yamariki has often been ranked as one of the top ten izakaya in the city. Located in the shitamachi district of Morishita, there is usually a line waiting to get in. There is a second shop down the street and the staff will direct you there. Their signature item is a nikomi made from cow innards, port wine, Hatcho miso, sugar, and bouquet garni. The store proudly says that they have been adding to the same nikomi for over 40 years now. The other house specialty is the yakiton or grilled pork bits on a skewer. What makes Yamariki unique is they have a wine list (French only) and a friendly sommelier, Mizukami-san, who will help you match a wine with your food, as well as, of course, sake.

Yamariki
Koto-ku, Morishita 2-18-8
tel: 03-3633-1638
17:00 – 22:00, closed Sunday and holidays
www.yamariki.com (Japanese)


Tachigui Sakaba Buri

The walls at buri are decorated with colorful cup sake from all over Japan. There are over 30 different types of sake served in individual cups. A unique sake to try is the frozen sake that is like a slush. The menu is filled with small plates of sake-friendly foods like seasonal seafood and grilled meats.

Tachigui Sakaba buri
Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-14-1
tel: 03-3496-7744
17:00 – 3:00 a.m., no holidays
www.takewaka.co.jp/buri/index.html (Japanese)


Stand Bar Maru

Maru may be one of the best bargains in the city for standing bars. Located next door to a wine shop with about 200 wines, customers can purchase a bottle and have it opened for drinking at a nominal fee. The first floor is standing only (tachinomi), but if you get there early enough, you may be able to snag a seat in the second floor restaurant. Following the tapas concept, legs of Iberico ham are shaved per order, small plates are to share, and the grilled meats are highly recommended. This shop is in an out of the way area and is always busy with local young hipsters and salary-men from the area. The staff at this fourth-generation shop is very friendly.

Stand Bar Maru
Chuo-ku, Hatchobori 3-22-10
tel: 03-3552-4477
17:00 – 23:00, closed weekends and holidays
No website

This article first appeared in the ACCJ Journal.

February Seasonal Japanese Seafood 2月旬の魚

As it is cold throughout most of Japan, February is a wonderful time for hot pots (nabe). Monkfish (ankou) is one of Shinji’s favorite nabes. We always save the liver and serve it separately. It’s very easy to steam – see a simple recipe here. Wakasagi or shirauo are both lovely when lightly battered and deep-fried. As for sashimi, we love kinmedai, hirame, kanburi and tairagai. If you get a fresh kawahagi for sashimi, save the liver, mash it in a mortar and pestle, and add it to some ponzu for a creamy dipping sauce. Shijimi miso soup is a wonderful way to start any day. And sazae are perfect for grilling in their shells. Best of all may be all the succulent crabs that are in season like tarabagani and zuwaigani.

If you click on the Japanese name of the seafood you should be directed to a link with a photo.

Ankou – 鮟鱇 monkfish (Lophiomus setigerus)

Aoyagi –  青柳  surf clam (Mactra chinensis)

Buri – 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Fugu – 真河豚 blowfish or pufferfish (Takifugu porphyreus)

Hamaguri – 浜栗  common Orient clam (Meretrix lusoria)

Hirame –  鮃 olive flounder (Paralichthys olivaceus)

Honmaguro – 本鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

* also called kuromaguro

Ishigarei – 石鰈 stone flounder  (Kareius bicoloratus)

Itoyori – 糸縒鯛  golden threadfin-bream (Nemipterus virgatus)

Kaki – 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Kanburi – 寒鰤 winter Japanese amberjack (see buri) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

* The port of Himi in Toyama is famous for its kanburi.

Kasago – 笠子 scorpionfish (Sebastiscus marmoratus)

Kawahagi – 皮剥 thread-sail filefish  (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)

Kinki – 黄血魚 thornhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

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

Madai –  真鯛 seabream (Pagurus major)

Mutsu –  gnomefish (Scombrops boops)

Saba – 鯖  Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Sawara – 鰆  Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Sazae – 栄螺  turban shell (Turbo cornutus)

Shijimi – 大和蜆 corbicula clams (Corbicula japonica)

Shirauo – 白魚 whitefish or ice goby (Salangichthys microdon)

Tairagai – 平貝  penshell (Atrina (Servatrina) pectinata)

Tara – 真鱈 codfish (Gadus macrocephalus)

Tarabagani – 鱈場蟹 Alaskan king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Umazurahagi – 馬面剥 filefish scraper (Thamnaconus modestus)

Wakasagi – 若細魚 Japanese smelt  (Hypomesus nipponensis)

Yari ika – 槍烏賊 spear squid (Loligo (Heterololigo) bleekeri)

Zuwaigani – 頭矮蟹  snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio)

January Japanese Seasonal Seafood 一月旬の魚

kanburi

kanburi

 

January Japanese Seasonal Seafood

The seafood in winter is rich with fat as the fish protects itself from the cold waters. Some sashimi eaten this time of year will be a bit oily as a result. As always, we love to have most seafood as sashimi when possible, in particular tairagai and yari ika. Shinji in particular has a soft spot for kanburi or winter buri from Himi port in Toyama. He loves it as sashimi but it is also good as teriyaki or in the classic dish buri daikon – simmered with daikon in a slightly sweet soy broth. Kinmedai is also lovely when simmered in a soy broth as nitsuke.

Aozakana, literally blue fish, are the fishy fish in the mackerel family like saba and sawara. Sawara can be marinated in a sweet Saikyo miso and grilled, the miso helps to cover some of the intense fish flavor. Saba is nice simmered in miso in a traditional dish preparation called misoni. Shime saba is the term for saba that has been marinated in a sweet rice vinegar, essentially pickling it. Finally, each January we usually have ankou nabe, a hot pot of monkfish. We save the liver to prepare it as ankimo, often called “foie gras of the sea”. It is simple to prepare, see the recipe here.

If you click on the name of the seafood in Japanese you should be directed to a photo of it.

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)

Benizuwaigani楚蟹  red snow crab   (Chionoecetes japonicus)

Buri – 鰤 Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Chidai–   血鯛  crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Hamaguri – 浜栗  common Orient clam  (Meretrix lusoria)

Hira suzuki – 平鱸   blackfin Japanese seabass (Lateolabrax latus)

Honmaguro – 本鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Hoshigarei –  星鰈  spotted halibut (Verasper variegatus)

Kaki – 牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Kanburi – 寒鰤 winter Japanese amberjack (see buri) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

* The port of Himi in Toyama is famous for its kanburi.

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

Matsuba gani – 松葉蟹 spiny crab (Hypothalassia armata)

Matsukawa –  松皮鰈  barfin flounder (Verasper moseri)

Nishin – 鰊  Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Oma honmaguro – 大間鮪 bluefin tuna from Oma in Aomori (see honmaguro)

Saba – 鯖  Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Sawara – 鰆  Japanese Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus niphonius)

Shijimi – 大和蜆 corbicula clams (Corbicula japonica)

Soudagatsuo– 騒多鰹  frigate mackerel  (Auxis thazard)

Surumeika –   鯣烏賊  Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

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

Yanagi dako – 柳蛸 chestnut octopus (Octopus conispadiceus)

Yari ika – 槍烏賊 spear squid (Loligo (Heterololigo) bleekeri)

November Seasonal Japanese Seafood

Chidai

Chidai

Autumn is a great time for Japanese seafood as a lot of the fish are rich with fat. This time of year we love sanma, both as sashimi, or simply salted and grilled. Katsuo done tataki-style, seared on the outside and rare on the inside, calls out for some shochu or nihonshu. And when it gets really cold, Shinji loves kanburi, or the winter buri (Japanese amberjack) rich with fat and as sashimi.

This list of November seafood is short as I don’t have a lot of time at the moment, but I do hope to update it later this month along with links to photo of the seafood.

Akagarei flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)

Ara – rock cod (Nuphon spinosus)

Buri – Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Chidai – crimson sea bream (Evynnis japonica)

Ginsake – coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Hamadai – ruby snapper (Etelis coruscans)

Hokke – arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus)

Katsuo – bonito or skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kawahagi – thread-sail filefish (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)

Kurigani – helmet crab (Telmessus cheiragonus)

Medai – Japanese butterfish (Hyperoglyphe japonica)

Mishima Okoze – Japanese stargazer (Uranoscopus japonicus)

Mizudako – North Pacific giant octopus (Octopus dofleini)

Sanma – Pacific saury (Cololabis saira)

Shishamo – Japanese longfin smelt (Spirinchus lanceolatus)

Yanaginomai – yellow-body rockfish (Sebastes steindachneri)

Tokyo’s Top Places to Drink

Izakaya 居酒屋 are literally places to have something to drink. When I was working as a sommelier at the New York Bar and Grill at the Park Hyatt Tokyo my shift would end late at night, well after dinner. I would often stop by a local izakaya for a beer and some small bites. What made this one so special was the friendly mama-san. I was always welcomed and the food was all made by okaasan. Good izakayas should be just this, offering good food and drinks, and making the customer feel comfortable.

Tokyo is also home to some of the world’s top mixologists at places like Star Bar Ginza  or Bar Tender. These will be covered in a separate post. For now, here are my favorite places to have a drink in Tokyo.

  1. A popular izakaya in the nostalgic shitamachi district of Morishita, Yamariki 山利喜  was introduced to me by Japan’s first Master Sommelier Ned Goodwin. Ned brought me here one night to drink French wines with izakaya cuisine. Yamariki has a sommelier on staff, Mizukami-san who will gladly pair wine with your order. One night here I ran into John Gauntner, who said the restaurant also has a great selection of nihonshu. Yamariki is also known for its nikomi, soy-simmered innards, which has been made with the same broth for over forty years. It is also known for its yakiton or grilled pork bits (like yakitori but made with pork instead of chicken). Koto-ku, Morishita 2-18-8.
  2. Sasagin 笹吟 has one of the better selections of nihonshu in the city and exquisite fare to go with it. Best of all, if you ask them to help you select interesting ones to try they will. It is very popular so reservations are highly recommended. Shibuya-ku, Uehara 1-32-15.
  3. For wine I love Maru マル because of its value. Next door to the standing bar is a wine shop. Pick up a bottle there and the corkage fee is only 500 yen at the bar. It feels a bit like a European wine bar with food like cured ham and cheese but there is also a grill station on the second floor for grilled skewers. There are also seats on the second floor. Chuo-ku, Hatchobori 3-22-10.
  4. Buri is a popular standing bar near Ebisu. I come here for the one cup sake, a selection of about 30 to choose from. Small plates to share, seasonal seafood, and some grilled meats. Ask for the frozen sake which is almost like a slushy. (I don’t think the brand I had was Hakutsuru, but this video shows you what the slushy looks like.)  Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-14-1.
  5. Everyone needs at least one reliable place for beer and my go-to bar is The Harajuku Taproom. Delicious craft beer by the talented Bryan Baird and kushiyaki (grilled meats and vegetables). It is also conveniently located just off of Takeshita Dori, a few minutes’ walk from Harajuku station. There is also a location in Naka-Meguro. To educate your palate, try small cups of a variety of his beer. You won’t be disappointed. Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 1-20-13, No Surrender Bldg. 2F
  6. Saiseisakaba 再生酒場 is the place to go if you are into innards. From sashimi to simmered to grilled, you’ll find a wide selection to choose from. My personal favorite shop is in Monzennakacho but there is also a branch at the Shin Maru Building near Tokyo station. Alternatively, the Shinjuku branch too is a lot of fun. I usually drink shochu as it is a great partner for the offal. Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-7-3. www.ishii-world.jp/brand/motsu/nihonsaisei/shinjuku3/ 
  7. Located in the heart of Ginza, Sake no Ana 酒の穴 is on John Gauntner’s great book, The Sake Handbook. I came across it as I was looking for a place to try a variety of nihonshu over lunch and this was the only place that was open. I called ahead and was told that there was a kikizakeshi (sake sommelier) on staff and that he would be there for lunch. Sakamoto-san gave us exactly what we were looking for, a variety of different nihonshu. The evening menu is also available at lunch if you ask for it. Traditional izakaya bites like grilled himono (salted and air-dried fish), natto omelet, and much more. Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-5-8.
  8. It is a bit of a journey to Ikejiri Ohashi, but well worth it to get to Tsukushinoko つくしのこ. One of my favorite nights out learning about nihonshu with beer writer (and nihonshu aficionado) Bryan Harrell. It feels very local and cozy inside and the selection of nihonshu is great. Staff are also very knowledgeable and can help guide you through a variety of sips. Typical izakaya fare – ask for a nabe (hot pot) in the winter time, you won’t be disappointed. Meguro-ku, Higashiyama 3-1-11.
  9. If you are looking for somewhere to celebrate an occasion then the New York Bar & Grill in the Park Hyatt Tokyo is on top of my list. Perhaps you’ll recognize it from Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. The high ceilings and the spectacular views from the 52nd floor are breathtaking. My recommendation is to go just before sunset so that you can see the lights come up on the city as it sparkles below you. I used to work here, and I am even more convinced that this is one of Tokyo’s special places. Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 3-7-1-2.
  10. A good martini and burger can be found at beacon in Aoyama. One of Tokyo’s top chefs, David Chiddo not only makes a great burger, he also knows his martinis. David’s Perfect Martini is made from one of my favorite gins, Hendricks. Parent company T.Y. Express is also the owner of the brewery TY Harbor, making really good beer, which is also on the menu here at beacon. Solo diners can sit at the bar and enjoy their martini and burger. Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-2-5.

Travel – Himi Fishing Port in Toyama 氷見魚市場

Himi Seafood Auction

Himi Seafood Auction

On the coast of Toyama on the Sea of Japan is a famous fishing port. In the winter it is renowned for its kanburi or winter buri (yellowtail). Rich in fat, it melts in your mouth like fatty tuna. Don’t worry if you miss the early morning auction as there is a retail market next door with several large stalls selling fish caught locally.

Kamasu (barracuda)

Kamasu (barracuda)

While barracuda may have the reputation of being an agressive, predatory fish, it is actually quite small in size. The meat is tender and delicate.

Saba (mackerel)

Saba (mackerel)

You can see that these mackerel are rich in fat by observing the back area, it is almost bulging from its skin.

Saba (mackerel)

Saba (mackerel)

Kanburi (winter yellowtail)

Kanburi (winter yellowtail)

Here is the famous kanburi, the whole reason for our journey to this famed fishing port. We had some for breakfast and it was amazing, rich, and worth the trip.

For more information on Himi:

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/toyama/himi.html