If you haven’t noticed I’ve been on a bit of a meat kick lately. I wanted to balance things out a bit so I made this nitsuke with some Sanma I had in the freezer.
Sanma or Pacific Saury is a long needle nosed fish with a shiny blue-tinted skin which puts it in a class of fish called aozakana or “blue fish”. Aozakana includes other similarly colored fish such as mackerel and sardines. The meat is darker and more oil laden and thus has a stronger flavor than other fish. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call them “fishy” (fresh fish should never be fishy), they are more intense than halibut or flounder which also means they contain more umami triggering glutamates.
All this is to say that you want to use stronger flavors when cooking aozakana. One of my favorite ways to prepare Sanma is as a nitsuke. In my version the Sanma is simmered in sake, soy sauce, sugar and ginger along with par boiled daikon. Sake and ginger are perfect for masking the stronger aromas and the sweet soy sauce compliments the rich meat perfectly. The daikon rounds have a nice soft texture and absorb the sauce making them a great accompaniment.
Serve it either with a big bowl of rice with a side of green veggies.
- To prepare the daikon, slice it into 1/2" thick rounds. Use a vegetable peeler to "peel" the corners. Rounding off the corners prevents the daikon from breaking apart as it cooks. Add the water, salt and sugar in a pot along with the daikon and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the daikon is tender, but not soft. Drain and set aside.
- To prepare the sanma, use a sturdy knife to cut the tail off and remove the head around the gills. Make an incision along the belly from where the head used to be to the anus. Pull out as much of the innards as you can then rinse off the inside in cold water to get rid of any remaining blood and offal. Cut each cleaned sanma into 4 pieces.
- In a pan that's big enough to accommodate the daikon and sanma in a single layer, add the sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and ginger and bring to a boil. Add the daikon and sanma pieces making sure the pieces are submerged. If you have an otoshi-buta (wooden drop lid), set it on top to keep it all submerged. If not, it's no big deal, but you'll need to gently flip the pieces half way through cooking. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook for 10 minutes.
- To serve, plate the daikon first then top with the sanma drizzling some of the cooking liquid on top.