Other rich, oily fish can be substituted. If, like me, you prefer a milder flavour, try a sweet-fleshed fish like snapper (given as an option below), or instead of fish on the bone, opt for thick fillets – perhaps tuna. You can serve this dish straight away, but in Japan it is most often enjoyed after a day’s refrigeration. In fact it is often served at room temperature, where the sauce is at its most gelatinous and wobbly (from the gelatine in the fish bones) and considered a delicacy. This may not be your cup of tea, but I do recommend refrigerating and gently reheating the dish for a more rounded flavour.
This dish, known in short as buri daikon, is popular in winter when yellowtail is at its most flavoursome, the fish being oilier to insulate it from the cold waters.
- 18 cm (7 inch) length of daikon
- 3 cm (1¼ inch) piece of fresh ginger, thickly sliced
- 80 ml (2½ fl oz/⅓cup) shoyu
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) sake
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) mirin
- 2 tsp kurosato (Japanese black sugar) or dark brown sugar
- half a whole small yellowtail, head left on, or 1 whole small snapper, head left on — you’ll need about 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) fish in total, gutted and scaled (see Note)
- very finely shredded yuzu zest or fresh ginger, to garnish
- mitsuba (Japanese trefoil) leaves, to garnish (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Peel the daikon and slice into discs 3 cm (1¼ inch) thick. Trim off the sharp edges to stop them breaking up during cooking. Place in a large saucepan with the ginger and 1.25 litres (44 fl oz/5 cups) cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 40 minutes.
Add the shoyu, sake, mirin and sugar to the pan. Return to the boil and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the fish into squarish pieces about 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. It can be difficult cutting through the larger bones, so use a sharp, heavy knife or cleaver and take care. Place in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Pour boiling water over the fish to rinse away any impurities, then rinse well under cool running water to remove any remaining blood or grit. This step will ensure the fish’s aroma and flavour is not too strong.
Add the fish to the pan and cook for 20–22 minutes, or until the fish and daikon are very tender and have a brown hue from absorbing the cooking liquid.
Serve in a wide deep bowl, garnished with yuzu or ginger and scattered with a few mitsuba leaves, if desired.
• Yellowtail can vary wildly in size; if possible, use a full half of a medium-sized yellowtail, which should be about 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz). The sauce and daikon in this dish work well to cut through the oiliness of the fish, and also work well with other rich, fatty meats such as pork belly or duck. If using a mild, white-fleshed fish, you may like to add some dashi to dilute the base sauce flavour slightly, so it is not overpowering.
Recipe and images from Zenbu Zen by Jane Lawson, published by Murdoch Books $69.99.