Fish and Chips

Though not quite.

At the end of 2011, I came upon something called 101 in 1001. The premise is that you come up with 101 things to do and you have 1001 days in which to complete them. You can put whatever you want on the list, from ‘learn to knit’ to ‘visit London’ to ‘make a dentist appointment’. I whipped up a list and set the start date for January 1, 2012. That means I’ve been chipping away at the list for little over a year now, with about 40 items completed so far. It’s the kind of thing that it’s nice to check in on every once in awhile, to see if you finished something off or if you’re looking for something to do.

One of the items on my list was ‘cook a sanma fish and eat it’. Sanma is what the Japanese call Pacific Saury – it’s a type of fish that’s commonly eaten grilled. I added it to my list because 1) I rarely cook fish, even though I like it, and 2) when I do cook fish, it’s usually in big thick fillets. This was a more Japanese-style experience, fish cooked whole with head and tail intact.

So, I obtained the fish (and some potatoes, to make me feel better):

Misgivings start here...

Misgivings start here…

Sanma is actually at it’s peak in autumn, which I knew…except that in autumn, you can’t find anyone who will sell you one sanma fish. They come in packs of three at least. I ended up waiting until the end of January, when they finally started to appear individually. I grabbed a produce bag and selected this fine specimen.

Normally, I don’t have a problem with my food having a face. Especially in this case – alive, it was a fish, big deal? Dead, it was highly tasty.

There was just one obstacle – gutting the fish.

I didn’t think it would be an issue. I’ve dissected things. I’ve handle meat and dead animals. I didn’t want to have to eat around the guts, so they had to go. I picked up the fish and my sharpest knife, standing over the sink as my brain cheered things like, “Yeah! Go for it! Don’t be a wuss! Get those guts out!”

I cut along the belly from just behind the gills all the way down. It cut easily until I got near the tail and I wondered where I should stop. That looked like the fish’s anus, which is presumably where the guts would stop…

Abruptly my brain switched from cheering to: “Ewwwwwwww!”

Then it started muttering about offal.

Needless to say, it took a few minutes to work up to sticking my fingers into the cavity and yanking out the digestive track (bless fish for having such simple organ systems).

Disemboweled and ready to roll.

Disemboweled and ready to roll.

I prepared the fish following these instructions, while the potatoes got this treatment. The fish was cooked in my fish grill, a shoebox-sized gas oven that is part of the same system as my gas burners. The potatoes were baked in my microwave oven, which has an actual oven setting.

Okay, much better.

Okay, much better.

I didn’t use enough salt on the fish and the potatoes were strangely sweet, but everything was quite tasty otherwise. Sanma can be messy to eat if you don’t know how to remove the bones, but I managed.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m done food-blogging for the forseeable future.

3 Comments

Filed under japan

3 responses to “Fish and Chips

  1. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Konnichiwa, Maureen! Thank you for trying and linking back to my Sanma Shioyaki recipe! So glad you got to try Sanma.🙂 It has such a unique flavor but I like it. 🙂 Thanks once again! I shared your post on my fan page, and I hope you don’t mind…

  2. Dad

    Very brave. Looks like what the Portuguese call “smelt,” a giant sardine. Is it oily like a sardine? At least it ended up looking edible — was afraid this was going to turn into an experiment in homemade sushi! (You know how I feel about raw fish!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s