Precious, precious salmon head

Look at this beast! For $2! And possibly free in future! I think I’m switching fishmonger.

Can't believe people throw this away

For reference, that head is the size of my hand with all fingers outstretched. And it includes the bottom half of the salmon collar.

Mr Fishmonger says he will give me these for free if I am a regular (free!! free!! My Singaporean within rejoices, and I’m not even Singaporean). However, I can’t decide whether he is just bribing me to buy his other stuff with the offer of free fish head. But free fish head is free fish head. One doesn’t sniff at free fish head.

I feel a bit like a cat that someone has bribed to be friends with them using leftover dinner.

I wonder if he has other types of fish head too.

My mother thought I was depriving myself when I excitedly shared news of my purchase with her. She was all: “are you eating properly? Don’t starve yourself to save money!” She didn’t quite grasp that I specifically wanted the fish head, and asked 3 different fishmongers for it, simply because salmon head is awesome.

If you haven’t tried it, lock your squeamishness in a box and give it a go. It’s a really fatty part of the fish with lots of smooth flesh (much more moist than salmon steak), and crispy skin all over when done well.

We dumped the bones / fins in a slow cooker with some water, onions, salt, and pepper. There was so much fatty salmon goodness that the resulting stock tasted almost creamy.  Hello udon noodle soup. Another post, maybe.

The salmon head became this roasted amazingness you see below. Prompting a discussion of the merits of a simple dinner of a (whole) salmon head each, and rice. Looks like I need to get 2 salmon heads next time.

Salmon head in teriyaki sauce

Roasted Teriyaki Salmon Head 

Teriyaki sauce based on the one used by Just Bento, but with substitutions the sake.

Salmon head + collar
Salt

2 tablesp soya sauce
3 tablesp sushi vinegar
1 tablesp rice vinegar
1 tablesp sugar

  1. Wash the salmon head and collar, and rub with a little salt. Set aside for half an hour.
  2. Wipe the salmon with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Mix the sauces and sugar in a small bowl, and pour over salmon. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Roast in an oven for around 15 minutes or so at 220 degrees C, until the skin is a little charred on the edges and the fish is cooked through. If your salmon head is large, you may need to flip it over and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
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Descent into auntie-food (like lotus stir-fry)

Lotus root as a bit of a bad rep sometimes as being very traditional, and boring, and possibly not-food (I know some people who refuse to eat the lotus in soups as it is considered not-food and therefore not-edible).

Yes, I did get funny looks when I very excitedly found an ugly  potato-root-looking thing in the market. Yes, it was an effort to persuade Bigfoot that I did in fact want to buy this rather expensive thing that looked a bit like a petrified hotdog bun. But it was worth it in the end.

I didn’t think it was ugly at all. Or even auntie-ish. In the end, you can’t beat simple, tasty, and most importantly quick food  after a long day.

I swear it tastes good

Lotus Stir-Fry

Adapted from Just Bento’s version.

1 lotus root, peeled and sliced
2-3 cm ginger, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic (depending on size), chopped
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped into approx 1cm lengths

chilli flakes or whole red chilli, to taste – I used around 1/2 teasp red chilli flakes
1 teasp brown suger
1 teasp rice / balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablesp sesame seeds
1.5 tablesp soya sauce
2 teasp sesame oil
white pepper to taste

  1. Slice lotus root and leave it in some slightly vinegared water while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Fry ginger and garlic in oil until fragrant, over medium heat. Drain the lotus slices and add to the pain in a single layer, flipping as needed.
  3. Add chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, pepper, soya sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and vinegar. Cook until slightly caramelised.

Vege + Dressing = Instafood

Problem: want to eat fresh vegetables, but too lazy to cook after the effort of making onigiri. Here is your solution!

Fresh and crisp and tasty

Tastes best with crispy fresh asparagus, because it’s one of those recipes where the taste of the actual vegetable comes through. It’d probably work with any vegetable actually, or even as a nice salad dressing.

Now wasn't that simple

Asparagus with Sesame Dressing

Adapted from About.com’s Japanese Food section. I wonder if it’s some sort of crime to use recipes from here? I’ve never seen other bloggers use anything from About.com.

About 200g of young asparagus
2-3 tablesp sushi vinegar
1 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp sesame oil
2 teasp sugar – or to taste
A few shakes of white pepper
Sesame seeds – I didn’t have this but it would be nice

  1. Cook the asparagus somehow. I fried mine in a little oil, but you could also steam or blanche if you feel so inclined.
  2. Mix up all the sauces and the sugar. Taste. Adjust if you like.
  3. Pour the sauce over the asparagus, add the pepper, and some sesame seeds if you have them.

Japanese Food-Smuggling

I like onigiri. Very much. It’s satisfying and fun, and a bit of a novelty to me to be honest. But it’s a bit of a hassle (because I’m slow and not a professional Japanese food person).

What that means is that I need an excuse for onigiri, else I feel like I’m spending far too much time on what is essentially a snack.

Raw salmon is one of the prettiest raw fish in my opinion Salmon spa therapy Probably it's a bit black because of the sugar in the sushi vinegar Flaked and back in the pan

Watching Batman in on Imax  in a country that doesn’t seem to understand the greatness of caramel popcorn is a reasonable excuse. Seriously, Melbournians. Do you not know what a crime this is? Cinema without caramel popcorn?

If anyone finds a cinema with awesome caramel popcorn in Melbourne, give me a shout because I’d love to know about it. Until then, please don’t squeal on  me as I smuggle food into the movies. I’ll share, promise!

Furikakeeee-haiMisshapen yes. Remember what I said about not being a professional Japanese food person?Back to the onigiri – this filling keeps well and is a little more exciting than the tuna filling I used here. Apparently it also freezes well. I didn’t have any leftover to freeze because I ate the remainder on rice for lunch with asparagus. You can sprinkle it on pretty much anything 🙂

(Mini) lunch

Spicy Salmon Furikake

Adapted from Just Bento. As I might have mentioned before, I don’t generally cook with wine so I’ve subbed out the mirin.

You can find the onigiri rice and shaping method here, I didn’t fry them this time – I just wrapped them in clingwrap. Keep them at room temperature if you’re going to eat them soon, else you can stash them in the fridge. I’ve frozen onigiri as well for a week or two (but the rice gets a little hard). If you freeze/fridge them, you can either zap them in the microwave for a few seconds and then eat once they reach room temperature, or just wait for them to warm up naturally.

1 slab of salmon – mine wasn’t that big, as you cansee
Approx 1/4 cup sushi vinegar – to steam
2 tablesp sushi vinegar – to fry
2-3 teasp soya sauce – I added 2 first, and then a third because it was a little sweetish
1-2 teasp sugar – taste it and see what you like
Chilli flakes to taste
A bunch of salt

  1. Rub the salmon with salt and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour to dry out.
  2. Wipe any moisture off the fish, then put it in a non-stick frying pan (or a normal pan, skin side down if your fish has skin). Pour in about a 1/4 of a cup of sushi vinegar.  I also added a little bit of oil to prevent stickage. Cover the pan and steam the fish over medium heat, until most of the sushi vinegar has evaporated and the fish is cooked through.
  3. Take the salmon out and flake it with a fork.
  4. Wipe out the inside of the frying pan, then throw the fish flakes back in. Add 2 tablesp of sushi vinegar, the soya sauce, and sugar. Taste and rebalance if you find it a bit sweet or salty. Keep stirring, the heat should be on medium.
  5. Keep going until the furikake gets as dry as you want it to be. As you can see mine was still a little moist. When you’re done, shake in a few chilli flakes and stir (I put in quite a bit more than a few…)

Onigiri Onigiri Onigiri

Onigiri is such a funny word, I like to say it. Onigiri onigiri onigiri. I’m sure it isn’t that fun for normal people. Perhaps I’m just a little tired today.

I made onigiri a while back to take with me when I went for a day-long Red Cross event. I thought it was too exciting and cute a packed lunch to keep to myself until I made it again. It begged not to be hidden in drafts for that long, bouncing up and down on its springy rice bottom, imploring to be set free. Well onigiri, here you have your wish.

Onigiri with Tuna

You can really fill these with anything that’s relatively dry, and savoury. If you use a filling that’s too wet then the onigiri won’t hold its shape so well. Also, note that these freeze well and can keep for up to a week in the fridge. Eat them within the day if you take them out with you!

Guided by various pages on Just Hungry.

Sushi rice – 2 rice cups
Sushi vinegar – a quarter of a cup
Water – 2 and a quarter rice cups

Canned tuna – one can
Soya sauce – about two teaspoons, more if you like it a little stronger
Chilli flakes – half a teaspoon

Salt
Warm water – bearably hot, you need to use the salty water to mold the onigiri

Sushi rice

  1. Rinse the rice 3 times, by swilling water around in a bowl with the rice and then draining the water.
  2. Rub the grains together with your hands, as if scrubbing them. Then rinse with water.
  3. Drain in a sieve for about 30 minutes. I skipped this, but don’t as your rice will suffer for it.
  4. Put the rice in a rice cooker with the water, let it sit for about half an hour then turn on the rice cooker. I didn’t let it set for more than 5 minutes because I’m an impatient person, but for best results you should wait.
  5. Once the rice is done, mix in the sushi vinegar with a spatula. Try to fold it in as you would do to cake batter, and don’t squish the rice grains if you can help it.

Gooey chewy vinegar - yes I overdid the water a bit

Tuna filling
Do this while your rice is cooking. You need your rice to be hot when you shape your onigiri, or it won’t work.

  1. Drain the tuna. Flake it well with a fork.
  2. Mix in a couple of teaspoons of soya sauce, and chilli flakes.
  3. Taste, if you think it isn’t salty enough add a little more soya sauce.

It’s onigiri-making time!

  1. Wash your hands. And again. And under the nails too.
  2. Mix the warm water with a generous helping of salt. It should be salty like the sea. You don’t need a whole lot of water.
  3. Dip your hands in the salty water, make sure they are pretty damp. This stops the rice sticking to your hands.
  4. Grab a handful of rice, the size that you want your onigiri to be. Don’t make them too large or they won’t hold themselves together so well. About the amount that fits in a rice cup should be fine.
  5. Make an indentation in the middle of the rice. Hollow it out a bit with your thumb, then spoon in the tuna filling.
  6. Wrap the rice around the filling to make a ball, adding a bit more rice on top of the filling if you need to.
  7. To make the triangular shape, cup your hand so your thumb and the rest of your fingers forms a right angle, then push the onigiri into your (still wet and salty) palm to form the corner. Repeat for all three corners.

Yay onigiri!

You can either stop here, or add a wrapper of seaweed, or sprinkle on some sesame seed-seaweed mix (you can get this at Japanese food shops). Don’t wrap them with seaweed until you want to eat them, or the seaweed’ll get soggy. No one likes soggy seaweed.

Or, you can grill them!

Grilling onigiri

  1. Mix equal parts soya sauce and sesame oil (about a tablespoon each will do quite a few onigiri).
  2. Toast your onigiri on both sides in a hot, non-stick pan for a few minutes. You don’t need any oil for this.
  3. Brush on the soya sauce-sesame oil mixture.

Enjoy! They have a nice crunchy outer layer, and are extra tasty because of the soya sauce-sesame oil coating. Don’t forget to wrap your onigiri friends tightly in plastic wrap to keep them in shape and prevent them from drying out too much.

Any clues to the plural of onigiri? Onigiris? Onigirii?

Mentaiko Pasta

Bel and I frequent Sakae Sushi quite regularly, and on one of those visits we tried the magnificent Hotate Mentaiko. I suspect, primarily because of its exciting name. It’s a thick layer of mentaiko (cod-roe with japanese mayo, for the uninitiated like us), on top of a fried scallop with breadcrumbs. It’s one really really large bite size. Every time we ate it, that was the end of the meal. We always felt sick afterwards. Though very tasty sickness during the first couple of bites I must admit.

In any case, being the overly ambitious people that we are we thought we could do a better job. Specifically at mentaiko pasta. Maybe next time there will be hotate 🙂

There are a lot of mentaiko pasta recipes floating around the internet, we picked the one that seemed the least rich. A word of caution, mentaiko is kinda gross when you buy it from the Japanese supermarket – it smells kinda strong and makes you feel like you doing serious fish surgery. Also it looks like a finger.

 Mentaiko Pasta with Shimeji Mushrooms

Linguine – enough for two
Mentaiko – one egg sac, fresh from mummy fish’s belly
Butter – one tablespoon
Kewpie Mayo – one squirt
Shimeji Mushrooms – a handful
Garlic – a couple of cloves (we used about 5 for 2 people, not everyone is as bold)

  1. Fry mushrooms with a generous helping of chopped garlic.
  2. Boil linguine in salty, oily water.
  3. Remove the Mentaiko from the egg sack. Mix mentaiko, softened butter and kewpie mayo.
  4. Dump everything into the pasta and stir.
Fit for the samurai that we are.