I’m still on a mission to use up the food in my freezer. This new mission has forced my creativity and bent my rules for my Japanese cooking project to cook each recipe in “The Japanese Kitchen,” by Hiroko Shimbo. I found a salmon fillet and some bay scallops. And many packages of peas. Bent rules, and good dinner…
The name of this soup literally means “onboard boat,” indicating that it was made on fishing boats. Today, however, fish is caught on large factory-size boats that spend weeks out on the open seas. The fish are caught, cleaned, and frozen right on board, making it possible to haul in big volumes at relatively low costs. This soup can be made with fish scraps (from other meals), or with cheaper fish—Ms. Shimbo specifies mackerel, but suggests salmon can be used for a less “fishy” taste.
This dish is usually served in the spring with tai (sea bream), and tinted sweet rice: the pinks are associated with cherry blossoms. Autumn is beginning here so I’ve used wild salmon and flavored the rice with shiso from my garden. This recipe uses a different kind of Japanese rice: mochigome (glutinous rice), sometimes called “sweet rice.” This rice is used in dishes that require more stickiness. It requires soaking (at least 3 hours, to overnight) because it absorbs less water when it’s steamed.
The recipe is from the project book. I will note substitutions now: I used salmon fillets from the freezer, and neglected to notice that I should have removed the skin. As it turned out, the broiling and glazing made the skin nice and crispy, so that was good. I forgot the pickled ginger, but it would have been very nice with the fish. According to Ms. Shimbo, yellowtail is usually eaten during the cold months when it’s less oily, so her suggestion to serve it with mashed potatoes fell flat for me on a warm summer day. Avocado with lime, and tomatoes and broccoli were more appealing.
According to Ms. Shimbo, “namban” means “southern barbarian.” This word was applied to the Portuguese and Spanish, the first Westerners who came to Japan in the 16th century. Until that time, the Japanese traded mosty with Koreans and Chinese. “Namban” reflects the shock that the Japanese felt upon encountering Europeans with their large noses and eyes, hairy bodies, and height. Among the new foods and cooking techniques were squash, potatoes, corn, watermelons, chile peppers, figs, sugary sweets, and deep-frying.