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Taste Japan's Ocean Delights in Summer!

↑The uni(sea urchin) and ruby-red Ikura(salmon roe) box sushi remind me of a jewel box!

Come learn, cook, and savor seasonal foods at JCI!

Hello from Japan Culinary Institute, and welcome to JCI's blog for those looking for an opportunity to learn about Japanese cuisine and culture in Japan!

Once the rainy season is over in Japan, summer comes in full swing.

What do you think of seafood that tastes better in summer?

In Japan, Aji(Horse Mackerels) and Iwashi(Sardines) are inexpensive, tasty, and versatile, used in many home-cooked dishes, while expensive wild Uni(Sea Urchins), Ayu(sweetfish), and Kuruma-Ebi(prawns) are in season and become delicious!

We will introduce these summer seafood and dishes using them in this issue.

Why don't you learn Washoku with top-quality seasonal ingredients at JCI?

JCI's experienced and professional teachers will guide you through the process.

Table of Contents

  1. The Everyday Fish: Iwashi (Sardine)

  2. The Versatile Fish: Aji (Horse Mackerel)

  3. The Love or Hate Delicacy: Uni (Sea Urchin)

  4. The Queen of the River: Ayu (Sweetfish)

  5. The King of Prawn: Kuruma-Ebi (Kuruma Prawn)

  6. Summary

1. The Everyday Fish: Iwashi (Sardine)

↑The meaty flesh is simply delicious on top of Nigiri with grated ginger and green onion!

Iwashi (sardines) is among Japan's most delicious and fatty bluefish in summer! When caught as very young babies, sardines are called "Shirasu," when caught as young and dried, they transform into "Niboshi," used for Dashi stock. Did you know this fact?

Iwashi is a "popular fish" familiar to Japanese people since ancient times. Because it is caught in large quantities and is inexpensive, Iwashi has long appeared on the tables of the Japanese people. Fresh large Iwashi in season in summer can be enjoyed as Nigiri or sashimi with flavorful fatty meat.

↑Salted and semi-dried Mezashi has been favored on the breakfast table in Japan for a long time.

Other Iwashi dishes familiar to Japanese people include Mezashi, seasoned with salt and dried to preserve. Tatsuta-age is seasoned with soy sauce and other seasonings, coated with potato starch, and deep-fried. Shouga-ni is simmered with soy sauce and mirin and flavored with ginger. Tsumire-jiru is made with meatballs made from minced fillets in miso soup.

↑Crispy Iwashi Tatsuta-age is great with beer and sake!

↑Shoga-ni, Iwashi simmered in soy sauce and sweet mirin(cooking sake) with ginger is one of our favorite home dishes.

↑Tsumire-jiru with ground Iwashi meat is full of umami and nutrition!

Because Iwashi meat is soft, the technique of "Tebiraki" (hand-opening) is also used in preparations, in which sardines are handled with the fingers of the hand instead of using a knife. At JCI, you will also learn to repeatedly use a knife to "Harabiraki, open the belly" and other filleting techniques.

↑You can use your hands when working with fresh, plump Iwashi.

↑Beautiful Iwashi after Harabiraki, and they are ready for the next step.

↑Vinegared Iwashi Nigiri is said to be the item you can tell the sushi chef is good or not!

Do you eat fish similar to Iwashi where you live? If you do, please try out these dishes introduced here!

2. The Versatile Fish: Aji (Horse Mackerel)

↑The Japanese love the Aji for its versatility in cooking

Following Iwashi, we introduce the Versatile fish, Aji(Horse Mackerel).

When it comes to tasty fish in summer in Japan, Aji is the first fish that comes to mind. The Japanese, of course, love tuna, but tuna is a high-end fish and somewhat out of the category of everyday home cooking. On the other hand, Aji is relatively inexpensive and easy to find and is a versatile fish that can be served raw, grilled, or deep-fried. It appears on the tables of everyday Japanese people like various dishes.

↑Aji after Sanmai-Oroshi with a head, two filets, a middle part with the spine, and two zeigo(large hard scale-like parts).

That is why Aji is the first fish in Washoku when learning how to fillet fish. Mastering fish-fileting and making sashimi is the Washoku skill that JCI emphasizes. Aji is relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and has just the right size and thickness to be processed with a Deba knife for beginners. It has few scales, making it ideal for practicing the process of removing the skin and small bones.

↑The Gorgeous Aji Tataki presentation requires repetitive training of Sabaki(fileting).

Even if you process many of them, you can develop various cooking methods. You can learn a wide variety of techniques with Aji, such as basic Sanmai-oroshi(3-piece fileting), simple Daimyo-oroshi to separate the middle bone, preparation, and skewering for salted grilled fish, and various slicing and finishing techniques for sashimi.

↑Sweet and sour Nambanzuke is a perfect dish for summer!

Sashimi, Sushi, salted and grilled, and dried Aji are all delicious. But "Nanbanzuke," a dish made by coating the fish in flour, deep-frying it, and marinating it in a spicy marinade sauce, and "Aji Fry," a crispy deep-fried Aji coated in Panko bread crumbs are other dishes using Aji, are all favorites of Japanese people.

↑Aji fry with crispy panko is our favorite way to cook Aji!

↑ Simple Shio-yaki(salted and broiled fish) requires neat fish preparation.

3. The Love or Hate Delicacy: Uni (Sea Urchin)

↑ You can take only a few edible parts from a single sea urchin. The bright orange sea urchin is also called the "jewel of the sea."

Have you ever had "Uni" or sea urchin?

When most people think of Uni, they probably think of the black, spiky balls from the sea. In this article, I would like to introduce you to Uni, a delicacy that becomes more delicious in summer.

↑Uni Gunkan-Nigiri. You can enjoy it as it is, or with a dash of soy sauce.

The orange edible part hidden inside is also called "Uni" in Japan and is loved as a premium delicacy. The harvest of Bafun Uni and Murasaki(purple) Uni from the northern part of the Japanese archipelago increases in summer. It is also an expensive topping for sushi, but it is an item to be savored!

↑Bafun-uni with short spikes from Hokkaido.

↑Murasaki(purple) uni with longer, sharper, and darker spikes.

If you have never had Uni, you are probably wondering what flavor it is.

In my personal opinion, I could say that it is "LOVE or HATE," depending on the person. People who like it love it, and people who dislike it hate it.

The taste is also tricky to describe in words. It is a mixture of oceanic flavor and bitterness with a hint of sweetness and rich creaminess, a material full of contradictory tastes. It's a complex ingredient to describe and one that deserves the name "delicacy!"

↑The edible parts collected from the many sea urchin shells are carefully rinsed and then arranged in special boxes with tweezers.

It is challenging to collect from the sea, and only a few edible parts can be carefully removed by peeling off the spiny outer shell. Sea urchins are sold in neatly arranged boxes at markets, but if you imagine how many sea urchins it takes to make one box, it is no wonder that they are so expensive.

In addition to being used as a topping for sushi, Uni is also delicious as a pasta sauce or cooked with rice, taking advantage of its rich flavor. We hear it is also getting popular in sushi, combined with salmon roe and wagyu beef for the ultimate in luxury!

↑Pasta with sea urchin is a luxurious dish. In restaurants, it is served as an expensive menu item.

↑Slices of wagyu beef topped with sea urchin, modern sushi is the ultimate indulgence!

4. The Queen of the River: Ayu (Sweetfish)

↑The skewering, which replicates the streamlined shape of a fish swimming in the river, takes a lot of practice until you get used to it!

The ban on natural Ayu(Sweetfish) fishing has been lifted in Japan early in summer, and you can enjoy delicious Ayu from now until fall. Ayu is a freshwater fish that comes into season in summer. Ayu is a fish cooked with a unique technique that makes the most of its beautiful appearance. Japanese people have loved the shape and taste of this freshwater fish from ancient times. In early summer, Ayu Wagashi sweets are sold in the form of Ayu, and it has even become a summer seasonal word in the world of Haiku(Japanese short poem).

Ayu has a slim body like a willow leaf, and because it eats algae that grow only in clean mountain streams, Ayu's flesh has a refreshing aroma like watermelon or cucumber, to your surprise. The taste and smell vary from river to river, and the flavor changes from place to place. The fact that Ayu inhabits the river is also a barometer of the purity of the water.

↑Ayu is skewered and grilled slowly so as not to burn. If you like ayu fish, you can eat the whole fish, even the bitter-tasting entrails.

A simple recipe for Ayu is grilled with salt. The skewering of the fish to reproduce its swimming form is essential, a skill mastered in JCI's Washoku Chef Training course.

Of course, this technique can also be applied to other fish such as Aji (horse mackerel). When Japanese people taste Ayu, they enjoy the whole Ayu, the elegant aroma and delicate flavor of its plump, light white flesh, and the bitterness of its guts.

↑Ayu-meshi, with the broth from the browned ayu fish absorbed into the rice, is a must for any rice-loving Japanese!

Ayu-meshi, or Ayu rice, is made by cooking a slightly charred Ayu with rice in an earthenware pot. Ayu-Dengaku, grilled with miso mixed with its guts, deep-fried, tempura, and roasted with butter, is also recommended. As fall approaches and the ayu have eggs in their bodies, they are slowly stewed in soy sauce and mirin (sweet cooking sake), then flavored with Sansho (Japanese pepper) to create Ayu-Kanroni.

↑Ayu Dengaku is seared with a sweetened miso sauce, and the savory aroma of the charred miso enhances its delectable flavor.

↑Ayu-Kanroni is slowly cooked for a long time, and you can even eat the bones.

5.The King of Prawn: Kuruma-Ebi(Kuruma Prawn)

↑Nigiri of Kuruma-Ebi is finished in a bright red color. It's simply beautiful.

The Japanese love shrimps and prawns! Natural Kuruma Ebi(Kuruma prawn) caught along the Pacific coast of Japan are in season during the summer.

Kuruma Ebi is also an ingredient in Edomae (Tokyo-style)sushi and tempura and is famous as a luxury item. In Wasoku, it is an ingredient that you should learn how to prepare and cook well.

↑Although similar in appearance, Japanese Kuruma prawns are priced and taste different from shrimp imported from overseas.

The season for natural Kuruma Ebi is from June to August, and its rich flavor and sweetness characterize it. They are about 15 cm in length and are named Kuruma Ebi because their striped pattern looks like a wheel(=Kuruma in Japanese) when their bellies are rolled up.

↑If you look closely at the sashimi of Kuruma Ebi here, you can see that the head and tail portions have been boiled in hot water to enhance the red color. This is another technique of presentation.

There are both wild and farm-raised Kuruma Ebi. Wild ones have a beautiful stripes contrast, while farm-raised ones have a slightly darker overall color. Kuruma Ebi has very firm flesh and excellent elasticity when chewed. The more you chew, the more sweet and delicious it tastes. It is excellent not only as sashimi but also grilled or boiled in salted water, which reveals the umami of the ingredients. Fried or tempura, where the sweetness of the prawn is enhanced, is the ultimate indulgence!

↑Skewering and preparing the shrimp to keep the meat straight are also essential skills.

The Japanese do not waste ingredients. We eat them up! The head of the shrimp is deep-fried, and the tail and shell are also crispy and delicious. JCI also teaches you how to skewer and prepare the shrimp so it will not bend when boiled.

↑Colorful and beautiful Kuruma Ebi Tendon(tempura over rice). Don’t forget to enjoy the crispy fried heads.

6. Summary

↑The Iwashi sashimi, wonderfully fatty, is sliced ingeniously and arranged like leaves on a tree. The back pieces are seared so you can enjoy two different textures.

We selected five types of seafood for summer for you, and now you know there are many dishes you can cook seafood in Washoku besides sushi and sashimi.

JCI also emphasizes the practice of identifying the seasonality of fish and selecting the freshest fish.

At JCI, you will learn to cook and eat many kinds of seafood in the Japanese Chef Training Course, Sushi Course, and the Home Cooking Course, and improve your experience as a culinary professional.

Yes, JCI can do it with you!

Click on the link below to view JCI's diverse course offerings!


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