Fresh, not Fishy

May 13, 2008 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

What comes to mind when you think of FRESH food? How about a slice of fish twitching on your plate? That’s what I encountered last month while dining on fugu (blowfish) at a Tokyo restaurant with a friend. We ordered a cut of the poisonous creature for our hot-pot broth. But before I could grab a piece with my chopsticks it started moving around, looking for a quick exit. Don’t worry, that fish was officially dead. It just took a few minutes for the nerve endings to catch on.

Freshness is no joke in Japan. No respectable sushi bar will serve day-old fish. At Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market you can seat yourself in front of a sashimi breakfast while fishermen next door haul in the catch of the day. The video above is an extreme example of fresh food. Believe me, most Japanese people have and never will see a chef slice through a live fish and release it back into the tank, seemingly harm-free. That’s just bizarre.

Though of course with high demand comes high cost. And in this economic recession freshness can be a luxury. I’m not a sushi connoisseur (can’t stand raw fish), so I prefer the 150-yen-a-dish conveyor belt sushi joints (a.k.a. kaiten sushi) scattered throughout Japan. The fish comes a tad dry and lifeless (though that’s a given), but if it’s between that or a McDonalds combo meal I’ll take the flounder. For 1,000 yen (just under 10 bucks) you can get 5 to 6 plates plus a bowl of miso soup. That’s more than enough to fill your stomach.

Though they might not move on your plate, there are all kinds of other fresh fish dishes like salt-roasted mackerel (saba no shioyaki), teriyaki sauce-soaked yellowtail (buri no teriyaki), and everyone’s favorite black cod with miso glaze (tara no saikyoyaki). I recommend any of them. They’re packed with so much flavor you wouldn’t guess it just emerged from the sea. Van de Kamps’ ain’t got nothin’ on them~ \(^_^)/

Himawari

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