Saturday, November 30, 2019

Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - Namazu kabayaki ナマズの蒲焼 (Catfish Kabayaki), Gohan ご飯 (Rice), Gari ガリ (Pickled Ginger)

Namazu kabayaki ナマズの蒲焼 (Catfish Kabayaki), Gohan ご飯 (Rice), Gari  ガリ (Pickled Ginger)
Picture Courtesy of Avelyn Grene (Kristen Lynn)
Yakimono no Bu (焼物之部) is a style of cooking which refers to food that has been cooked via the direct application of heat like grilling, broiling or pan frying. rather than the indirect application of heat that was termed "Iru" and referred to dry roasting in a pan or pot with oil. In Japanese "Yaki" refers to grilled or fired, while "Yakimono" means "a fired thing. During the Muromachi period of the fourteenth century, a typical hon-zen ryori-style meal was served on the principle of "one soup, three sides", also known as ichi ju san sai (一汁三菜) .  For more information on this style of cooking, please read my earlier post Crown Tourney 10/19/2019 - Honzen Ryori Style.

The meal would come with the staples of rice, soup and pickles in addition to the three okazu, or side) dishes which consisted of a namasu (vinegared vegetables), yakimono (a grilled dish) and nimono (a simmered dish) on the first tray. For Namasu, I used Mikawa ae (みかわあへ) and Kohaku-namasu (紅白なます). O-Zoni is the simmered dish. The grilled dish presented a challenge.

The original dish I wanted to serve was Unagi Kabayaki, eel that has been grilled and dipped or broiled in soy sauce, but it was prohibitively expensive to purchase.  This prompted me to search for a suitable substitute.  I discovered that catfish can be substituted for eel in cooking, and was also a known food in the period that I was trying to emulate.  Catfish is known as  Namazu 鱯 and is listed as a river fish in the Ryōri Monogatari.

The Ryōri Monogatari does not  give instructions on this specific dish; however, it does give instructions for Hamayaki which is tai (Sea Bream) that is sprinkled with salt and grilled with a sauce of tamari, sake (酒)and salt (shio  塩).

HAMAYAKI はまやき (SHORE GRILLED) - Scale a large tai with a bamboo blower. Stick a knife in. Sprinkle salt and grill. Drop a little tamari into sakeshio, pour it on top, and serve.

I also very briefly considered cooking the fish using a cedar plank as described in the Ryōri Monogatari. The method is below:

Hegi Yaki  へぎやき (skin and grill) - As above, line up one piece on cedar bark and grill.

This idea was because I was afraid that there would not be sufficient time to cook the fish in this fashion given the very limited facilities of the event site. I am thrilled to discover that this "modern" method of cooking has a very long history behind it. 

 Namazu kabayaki ナマズの蒲焼 (Catfish Kabayaki)

Catfish Fillets (Note: For feast, whiting was substituted for catfish because the store that the fish was being purchased from did not order the catfish when the other fish was ordered.) 
¼ cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 ½ Tbsp sake
2 ½ Tbsp sugar
¼ cup soy sauce (Coconut aminos can be substituted for soy allergies, and tamari can be substituted for gluten allergies.)

To make the sauce, add the sake, mirin and sugar to a small pot or saucepan and bring to a boil. Add soy sauce and reduce heat to low.  Continue to cook the sauce until it thickens and becomes reduced.  Sauce can then be cooled and stored for up to two weeks. 

The origins of this particular dish and sauce can be traced back to the Edo period.  It was traditionally made with eel because it was a cheap food suitable for everyone. It was a popular street food sold from vendor's carts.

Gohan ご飯 (Rice)

1 cup short grained rice
1 ¼ cup water

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Place in a bowl and allow to soak approximately 30 minutes. Transfer to a sieve and drain completely.

Combine rice and water in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once pot comes to a boil, turn to low and cook covered 12-13 minutes or until water is almost completely absorbed. Remove pot from heat and allow to steam 10-15 minutes. Prior to serving fluff the rice.

Note: The rice for feast was made in an "insta-pot"--which I HIGHLY recommend.  You will want to increase the amount of water so that the ratio is 2:1 water to rice.  My pot has a rice setting which I used and set for 10 minutes.  

An interesting bit of trivia I came across while researching is that grains of rice dating to 1000 B.C. were discovered in the early 2000s in northern Kyushu. Also, the oldest rice ball discovered is over 2000 years old and was discovered in the town of Rokuseimachi. 

Gari ガリ (Pickled Ginger)

8 ounces young ginger (Look for pink tips; they color the ginger pink in the pickle.)
1 ½ tsp. sea salt
1 c. rice wine vinegar
⅓ c. white sugar

Using a spoon, scrape off any brown spots from the ginger. Then, thinly slice with a peeler. Sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the ginger into boiling water and cook for 1-3 minutes. If you want to keep it spicy, take it out around 1 minute. Otherwise, 2-3 minutes is good. Drain the ginger slices over a sieve and then spread them out in a single layer. With your clean hands, squeeze the water out and put them in a sterilized jar or mason jar. In a small pot, add rice vinegar, sugar, and remaining salt. Bring it to a boil until the strong vinegar smell has evaporated, roughly 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Pour the vinegar mixture into the jar with the sliced ginger. Close the lid, let cool and refrigerate. In approximately 3-4 hours you should see the ginger turning slightly pink. The following day it will be pinker. The pickled ginger can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 year.

Note: Despite multiple attempts at ordering young ginger and having the shipments "lost" via Amazon, I was unable to make the pickled ginger as I wanted to.  Store-bought pickled ginger was used at feast.  The recipe is included here in hopes that someone else benefits from the research. On the plus side, I now have 200 ginger seeds, which might make it possible to grow my own ginger next spring.


Creative, T. (n.d.). Eel-y Good -- Why Japan Loves Unagi. Retrieved from

Hays, J. (n.d.). Rice In Japan: History, Kinds of Rice and Cooking and Eating Rice. Retrieved from,people%20at%20red%2Dkerneled%20rice

Monday, November 25, 2019

Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - Mikawa ae みかわあへ (salt and miso cured cucumbers) & Kohaku-namasu 紅白なます (Daikon and carrot Salad)

Mikawa ae (みかわあへ)
Picture Courtesy of Avelyn Grene (Kristen Lynn)

This beautifully simplistic dish of cucumbers that have been pickled in miso paste was one of the star dishes of the banquet. It was elegant to look at and a wonderful accompaniment to the other dishes that were served in the first course. It is believed that Miso originated in Japan during the Yayoi period (300 BCE to 300 CE). Miso is mentioned in the "Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku" ("The True History of the Three Reigns of Japan") that was compiled and completed in the year 901. In fact, Miso was once used to pay high level bureaucrats; it was a luxury item that most people could not afford to purchase.

Mikawa ae (みかわあへ)

Chop up cucumber with its skin. Sprinkle in some salt, rub it in, and quickly rinse and wring it out. Put in hanagatsuo (dried bonito shavings). Dress with poppy miso thinned with irizake and vinegar. If it is tough, the skin can be left out.

Cucumber Pickles with Miso and Sesame

1 3/4 pounds Japanese cucumbers (7 or 8 small). Note: English cucumbers were substituted for feast
1/2 tbsp. salt
4 tbsp sesame paste (tahini can be substituted, but it's best to use the toasted sesame paste available at ethnic stores.)
3 tbsp. white miso
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
6 shiso leaves (basil leaves or Thai basil can be substituted for shiso.)

Slice the cucumbers into paper-thin rounds and toss with the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add miso and rice vinegar to the sesame paste. Squeeze water from the cucumbers and add them to the miso and sesame mixture. Allow to marinate about four hours. Before serving, stack shiso leaves, roll into a cigar shape and slice into fine tendrils.

Toasted Sesame Paste
1 cup white sesame seeds
1 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the sesame seeds on the baking sheet in an even layer. Bake seeds, shaking pan every five minutes until the sesame seeds are golden brown and fragrant. Allow sesame seeds to cool slightly before placing them into a food processor. Start processing them on medium speed until seeds are crushed. Turn speed to low and then slowly add the oil until the mixture reaches the consistency you desire. Sesame paste can be stored up to a month in a dry air tight jar in the refrigerator.

The second dish, Kohaku-namasu 紅白なます, consists of lightly pickled daikon and carrot in sweetened vinegar. The colors of this pickle are very symbolic: red for happiness and protection from evil spirits and white for celebration and purity. This dish came to Japan from China during the Nara period (700's). I used these pickles as a bright burst of color to accompany the Namazu Kabayaki (catfish kabayaki) and gari (pickled ginger).

Daikon and carrot salad is now a traditional part of the Osechi Ryori 御節料理 or お節料理, the traditional New Year's celebration, which traces its origins back to the Heian Period (794-1185). Traditional Osechi-Ryori dishes are served in lacquered jubako boxes, and shared with family and friends. These dishes were prepared ahead of time because the use of heat to cook meals was not permitted during the first three days of the New Year. It was believed that the sounds of cooking would bother the Gods.

Kohaku-namasu 紅白なます (Daikon and Carrot Salad)

4-inch daikon radish (4" = 10 cm) peeled and cut into half-moon shapes or matchsticks
2 inch carrot (2" = 5 cm) peeled and cut into half-moon shapes or matchsticks
1 tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt)


1 ½ Tbsp sugar
1½ Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp water
¼ tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt)

1-2 strips yuzu or lemon zest as garnish (optional)

Place the daikon and carrot into a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt.  Allow to sit for approximately ten minutes.

Meanwhile, combine sugar, rice vinegar, water and salt into a bowl and mix together.  Squeeze water out of daikon and carrot and mix with the vinegar mixture.  Allow to marinate at room temperature for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Garnish with yuzu before serving. 


Exploring the Meaning of Osechi Ryori, Japan's Traditional New Year Food | Japanese Culture, Food. (2018, December 26). Retrieved from

The History of Miso. (2017, February 8). Retrieved from

New Year Food - Osechi Ryori, Toshi-koshi Soba & Ozoni. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Story Behind Osechi Ryori. (2019, May 2). Retrieved from