My Around the World posts feature my attempts at authentic and inspired dishes from…around the world. If you have tips (especially any passed down through generations), recommendations for ingredient brands, or memories of personal food experiences related to this post, please do share.
A story that really made an impression on me is one that Thomas Keller recounts in The French Laundry Cookbook. (The Pursuit of Food quotes “The Importance of Rabbits” here.) Growing up relishing fish cooked whole and shrimp with head on, I truly appreciate dishes that make a feast of what some may consider as “throw away” parts. Often, these parts are delicacies or really tasty bits, at least. Take beef tongue, pork cheeks, and chicken feet, for example… and don’t knock it till you try it!
Hamachi, or yellowtail, is one of my favorite fish–fatty, rich, and tender… just like how I like my men except for the fatty part. 😉 One of my favorite Japanese dishes is hamachi kama, or yellowtail collar, which has been simply grilled with salt and pepper and served with grated daikon radish and a slice of lemon. Hamachi kama often is very expensive, in the $16-18 per pound range. So, while shopping at Nijiya, a Japanese chain supermarket, I felt like I scored when I found hamachi for a lot less.
I believe hamachi ara basically translates to yellowtail scraps. I happily plucked the tray off the shelf and put it into our shopping basket along with a large daikon (white radish), fresh ginger, and a bunch of green onion. As is often the case with cheaper parts, the cooking may be just a bit more involved. I planned to simmer the succulent scraps along with daikon in a sweet and savory broth flavored with soy sauce, sake, and mirin.
This dish is still pretty simple as you’ll see. I found out that what I planned to do is usually done with the heads of the fish, cut into large chunks, in a dish called Buri Daikon. My broth may not be as gelatinous as one made with fish heads, but the dish made with yellowtail trimmings–some chunks of meat, some meat on the bones–is still quite delicious and much more economical, too. The daikon, prepared this way, is also very much a star, not just an accompaniment. (In fact, if you have broth left over after eating the fish, you can use it to cook more daikon as a vegetable side!)
2″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1-2 green onion, white and green separated, cut into 1″ pieces
Hamachi ara (yellowtail scraps)–just make sure it looks fresh
1 c sake
1 large daikon, cut into thick 1-1.5″ slices
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp mirin
1/2 c soy sauce
First, heat about 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a quart-size pot on medium high. Add ginger slices and the white part of the scallion and fry for 1-2 minutes until slightly golden.
Add fish pieces. (Note: Many cooks recommend blanching the fish first, or quickly “rinsing” it with boiling water, but I didn’t this time. I believe it’s done to get rid of any fishy smell.) Add sake and water to cover. Add daikon chunks and make sure they are mostly submerged. Add in sugar and mirin. (As you can see, I added carrots because I’m the cook and can do as I want. Seriously, though, I threw them in for color and to use what we just harvested from the garden.)
Bring liquid to a boil and turn heat down to a simmer. At this point, skim the scum off the top of the liquid. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Add in soy sauce and adjust seasoning.
Taste the broth for a balance of sweet and salty. You may need to add a little more sugar and/or mirin, soy sauce, or even water if it’s too salty. Simmer on low heat for another 10-15 minutes to let the daikon slices absorb the broth. Add the scallion greens right before serving. Enjoy with hot sticky rice. The broth is not to be served as a soup but rather as a sauce–a little goes a long way. Serves 2 people… or 4 if you’re eating like peasants, as maybe we should sometimes.