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.

August Seasonal Japanese Seafood

Photo of anago tempura.

Some of my favorite seafood is in season this time of year, particularly unagi and anago. For unagi I love Nodaiwa and for anago, Tamai in Nihonbashi is a treat. Kamasu (barracuda) is lovely just salted and grilled. The meat is light and flakey. Kawahagi (thread-sail filefish) sashimi is light and delicate. If the fish is very fresh the liver can also be eaten. We love to mix the fresh liver with some soy sauce and dip the kawahagi sashimi into the creamy dip. Tachiuo (cutlassfish) is also very nice as sashimi as it too is a light whitefish. One of our favorite preparations of tachiuo sashimi is to mix it with a bit of aromatic sesame oil and salt.

Ainame 鮎並 fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)

Aka isaki 赤伊佐幾 Schlegel’s red bass (Caprodon schlegelii)

Akashita birame 赤舌鮃  red-tongued sole (Cynoglossus joyneri)

Awabi 鮑abalone (Haliotis sorenseni)

Ayu 鮎 sweetfish (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis)

Benisake べにさけ 紅鮭 sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Hamo  鱧pike eel or pike conger (Muraenesox cinereus)

Hiramasa 平政 yellowtail amberjack (Seriola lalandi)

Hoya 海鞘 sea squirt (Halocynthia roretzi)

Inada イナダ young Japanese amberjack (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Stages of buri: wakashi, inada, warasa, buri

Isaki 伊佐幾 chicken grunt  (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Ishidai 石鯛  barred knifejaw (Oplegnathus fasciatus)

Ishimochi イシモチ nibe croaker (Nibea mitsukurii)

Iwana 日光岩魚 whitespotted char (Salvelinus leucomaenis pluvius)

Kamasu 大和叺 barracuda (Sphyraena japonica)

Kanpachi  間八 amberjack or yellowtail (Seriola dumerili)

Karei 鰈 littlemouth flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Katsuo 鰹  skipjack tuna or oceanic bonito (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kawahagi 皮剥 thread-sail filefish (Stephanolepis cirrhifer)

Kensaki ika 剣先烏賊 swordtip squid (Loligo edulis)

Kijihata (Akahata) 雉羽太 red-spotted grouper (Epinephelus akaara)

Kisu 鱚 Japanese whiting (Sillago japonica)*or shirogisu

Kochi 鯒 bartail flathead (Platycephalus)

Koyari-ika槍烏賊  baby spear squid (Loligo bleekeri)

Ma-anago 真穴子 whitespotted conger (Conger myriaster)

Maiwashi 真鰯  Japanese sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Makogarei 真子鰈 marbled sole (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Masaba 真鯖 Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Matsubu (Ezobora) まつぶ(えぞぼら Japanese neptune or whelk (Neptunea polycostata)

Mehikari  目光 greeneyes (Chlorophthalmus borealis)

Mejimaguro めじまぐろ young tuna (genus Thunnus)

Nijimasu 虹鱒 rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Oni-okoze  鬼虎魚 spiny devilfish (Inimicus japonicus)

Saba 鯖  Pacific mackerel (Scomber japonicus)

Saragai 皿貝 Northern great tellin (Megangulus venulosa)

Shiira  しいら 鱪 dorado or mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

Shima-aji  島鯵 striped jack or white trevally (Pseudocaranx dentex)

Shinko (Konoshiro) 鰶 dotted gizzard shad (Konosirus punctatus)

Surumei ika するめいか 鯣烏賊 Japanese common squid (or flying squid) (Todarodes pacificus)

Suzuki 鱸  Japanese sea perch (Lateolabrax japonicus)

Tachiuo 太刀魚 cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tobiuo 飛魚 Japanese flying fish (Cypselurus agoo)

Unagi 鰻 Japanese eel  (Anguilla japonica)

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)

September Seasonal Japanese Seafood 9月旬の魚

September Seasonal Japanese Seafood

Sanma

Sanma

Perhaps no fish signals the arrival of autumn to me than sanma (Pacific saury), a silver skinned, long and skinny fish that for me is best when simply salted and grilled. This at night with a glass of nihonshu or shochu is heaven for me. What many Japanese especially appreciate is the bitter innards of the grilled sanma, a nice match for a hearty sake.

The shijimi (corbicula clams) are perfect in a bowl of miso soup and asari (Japanese littleneck clams) are great simply steamed in some sake or if you are craving a Western preparation, then steamed with white wine and garlic and served over pasta.

Many flounders are in season now. We like these meuniere style, sauteed in butter and then finished with a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Finally, a lot of these are great as sashimi. Shinji likes the fishy seafood like nishin (Pacific herring), sanma (Pacific saury), and iwashi (Japanse anchovy).

To make it easier for readers to understand what each seafood is I have linked to a photo of the seafood. Just click on the Japanese name.

Ainame 鮎並 fat greenling (Hexagrammos otakii)

Aka garei 赤鰈 flathead flounder (Hippoglossoides dubius)

Akijake 秋鮭

Amaebi 甘海老 sweet shrimp (Pandalus borealis)

Asaba garei 浅羽鰈 dusky sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata)

Asahigani spanner crab (Ranina ranina)

Asari 浅蜊 Japanese little neck clam (Ruditapes philippinarum)

Awabi 鮑abalone (Haliotis sorenseni)

Ayu 鮎 sweetfish (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis)

Baka gai 馬鹿貝 surf clam (Mactra chinensis)

Benizuwai gani 紅頭矮蟹 red snow crab (Chionoecetes japonicus)

Botan ebi ボタンエビ Botan shrimp  (Pandalus nipponesis)

Dojou 泥鰌 loach (Misgurnus Anguillicaudatus)

Ezo bafun uni 蝦夷馬糞海胆 short-spined sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus intermedius)

Ezobora 蝦夷法螺 whelk (Neptunea polycostata)

Hakkaku 八角 sailfin poacher (Podothecus sachi)

Also called tokubire

Hanasaki gani 花咲蟹  spiny king crab (Paralithodes brevipes)

Hata hata 鰰  sailfin sandfish (Arctoscopus japonicus)

Hime ezobora 姫蝦夷法螺  sea snail (Neptunea arthritica)

Hirame 鮃 olive halibut (Paralichthys olivaceus)

Hokke 𩸽 arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus)

Hokki gai  北寄貝 surf clam (Pseudocardium sachalinense)

Hokkoku aka ebi 北国赤蝦  Alaskan pink shrimp (Pandalus borealis)

Hon maguro (or kuromaguro) 黒鮪 bluefin tuna (Thunus thynnus)

Hotate gai 帆立貝 Japanese scallop (Mizuhopecten yessoensis)

Ibodai 疣鯛 butterfish (Psenopsis anomala)

Kaki  牡蠣 oyster (Crassostrea gigas)

Katakuchi iwashi 片口鰯 Japanese anchovy (Engraulis japonicus)

Kawa yatsume 川八目 Japanese lamprey (Lampetra japonica)

Kawagarei or Numagarei 沼鰈 starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus)

Kegani 毛蟹 horsehair crab (Erimacrus isenbeckii)

Kinki or Kichiji 黄血魚 thornhead (Sebastolobus macrochir)

Kita murasaki uni 北紫海胆 Northern sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus nudus)

Kouika 甲烏賊 cuttlefish (Sepia (Platysepia) esculenta)

Kounago 小女子 Japanese sand lance (Ammodytes personatus)

Kuro gashira garei 黒頭鰈 cresthead flounder (Pleuronectes schrenki)

Kurokarei 黒鰈 black plaice (Pleuronectes obscurus)

Kuruma ebi 車海老 kuruma prawn (Penaeus (Melicertus) japonicus)

Ma anago 真穴子 conger eel (Conger myriaster)

Magarei 真鰈 littlemouth flounder (Pleuronectes herzensteini)

Mako garei 真子鰈 marbled flounder (Pleuronectes yokohamae)

Managatsuo 真名鰹 silver pomfret (Pampus punctatissimus)

Masu 鱒 trout (there are many types of trout – see nijimasu, sakuramasu)

Mizudako 水蛸 North Pacific giant octopus (Octopus dofleini)

Namako 真海鼠 Japanese sea cucumber (Stichopus japonica)

Niji masu 虹鱒 rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Nishin 鰊 Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Sake 鮭 salmon (Oncorhynchus keta)

Sakura masu 桜鱒 cherry salmon (Oncorhynchus masou maso)

Sanma 秋刀魚 Pacific saury (Cololabis saira)

Saragai 皿貝 Northern great tellin (Megangulus venulosa)

Shijimi 大和蜆 corbicula clam (Corbicula japonica)

Shirauo 白魚 icefish (Salangichthys microdon)

Souhachi 宗八鰈 pointhead flounder (Cleishenes pinetorum)

Suketou dara 鯳 Alaska pollack (Theragra chalcogramma)

Suna garei 砂鰈 sand flounder (Limanda punctatissima)

Surumeika 鯣烏賊 Japanese flying squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Tachiuo 太刀魚 cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus)

Tarabagani 鱈場蟹 Alaska king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Torigai 鳥貝 Japanese cockle (Fulvia mutica)

Unagi 鰻 Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica)

Wakasagi 若細魚 Japanese smelt (Hypomesus nipponensis)

Yanagi no mai 柳の舞 yellow rockfish (Sebastes steindachneri)