You’re crewing on a Japanese-owned boat? You much catch a ton of fish!
Well, not so much. Not a one in the Bahamas. We did catch a ton of barracuda in Cuba, but we’d thrown all of them back. It may have been open water but we had absolutely no desire to mess with ciguatera, the fish-borne illness that’s featured in various places on the spectrum from wish-you-were-dead to actually deadly. We had caught a king fish and a few little things in harbors, but fish seemed to be keeping clear of Umineko.
But our luck seemed to be changing on our long passage. We caught our first big(ish) fish. And a tasty one too, a bonito, and perfect for a Japanese boat. Japanese cooking uses bonito, or katsuo, flakes and stock in a whole lot of their dishes. I just had never tasted a fresh one.
When Toshi San, our resident fish expert, deftly cleaned our catch I found out the 10 pound catch had red meat. I’m not sure why I’d been expecting it to have white, but the dark red meat looked good. For this catch we had a real Japanese feast, curtsey of Toshi San, or as I like to call him, my sakane sensai (fish sensai).
He showed me how to trim all of the edges off of the fillets, leaving only the “beautiful” meat, for sashimi and chirashi sushi. We waste all of the scraps? I asked him, horrified. Not at all, he replied, putting them in a small pan.
He chopped up some fresh ginger and arranged it over the fish. Then he poured a little mirin, a little soy sauce, a few spoonfuls of sugar, and enough water to cover the fish.
“I’ve been cooking fish since I was a child,” he told me. I never measure anything. I don’t have to!”
The dish was delicious but as I’m still not up to judging how much of what goes in I won’t put the recipe up. I’ll just have to experiment a bit more.
For the “beautiful dishes,” we made easy sushi rice, cooking the rice, folding in a sushi powder packet, and then training a fan on it: The modern take on hand-fanned sushi.
Then we thickly sliced the most beautiful fish rolls, each piece about 1” thick. He explained to me that dark meat was generally sliced more thickly in Japan.
He sliced the meat and arranged the pieces one after the other in elegant lines on a plate. Each one fit together perfectly. Next he chopped 3 cloves of garlic and spread it over the bonito. Finally he sprinkled finely chopped spring onions over the top, wrapped it in plastic film, and refrigerated it until dinner time.
I was in charge of arranging the toppings for the chirashi sushi. With the three dishes we had a glorious bonito feast that day.
Blue Water Bonito Sashimi
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- Spring onion
Slice bonito in 1” slices and arrange on plate
- Cover with chopped garlic
- Sprinkle with spring onion
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for 4 hours
- Serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, and rice, or as a starter for a meal