Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - Shiobiki (塩鮭)/ Himono (干物) Grilled dried fish

Himono (干物) Grilled dried fish
Picture by Avelyn Grene (Kristen Lynn)

Iemitsu banquet in 1630 contained the following items on the first tray of food that was served:

Main Tray

Grilled salt-cured fish (shiobiki)
Fish-paste cake (kamaboko)
Fish salad (aemaze)
Hot water over rice (yuzuke)
Fish flavored in sake (sakabite)
Fermented intestines of sea cucumber (konowata)
Salt for flavoring (teshio)

Many of the dishes from this banquet were served at Crown Tournament feast because I wanted to preserve, as much as possible, the flavor of that historic banquet. The kamaboko was served in O-Zoni soup. The aemaze (affectionately dubbed "fish shooters") were also served in the first course. The yuzuke, hot water over rice was moved to the second course. Pickles were served in their many varieties throughout the feast, either as individual dishes or as garnishes for the food. Salt was on the table as well as chopsticks. The two dishes that were not served were octopus and the konowata.

The Shiobiki, grilled salt cured fish, was served as part of the first course and it is solely the work of one of my assistant's known in the SCA as Miguel Mono De Hierro. He also made the turtle soup, and was responsible for the beautiful plating of the aemaze and keeping the head cook (me) semi-sane the day of the event. Keep an eye out for this man--he will do GREAT things in the SCA.

The story behind the creation of this dish goes something like this. After several days of researching Shiobiki recipes and consistently coming up with salmon, and knowing that I was going to serve a cold smoked salmon as a garnish on one of the dishes I contacted Miguel.

"Hey you, I think I found something that you might enjoy doing that will help immensely with feast and you can take the summer to do in your own time. Interested?

Him: "What is it?"

"I would like to serve some salted and grilled fish at the event and it calls for Lake fish. So, we have nine tables that we will be serving on and I was wondering if you might be interested in possibly catching some fish that we can use to salt and grill and serve at the beginning of the meal? The salting process is very easy as is the drying process better that should be done within a week of feast so it will be a lot of last minute marinating and carrying the fish for 24 hours to hang out and dry.

Him: "Can the fish be frozen before hand?"

Me: "Absolutely"

At which point I called him and plans were made and great things ensued.

Shiobiki specifically is grilled salt cured salmon, however, the Ryōri Monogatari, contains a list of fish found in the rivers in Chapter 3: Kawa Uo no Bu (川魚の部) River Fish. Carp and Catfish are on that list, but after some discussion we decided that we may not be able to catch enough of either fish to be able to serve whole, which is one of the things we wanted to do. We settled on bluegill, I find it rather Karmic. Bluegill is an invasive species that was introduced to Japan in the 1960's. It was brought to Japan by Emperor Akihito with hopes that it could be raised as food. The fish has since wrecked the ecosystem and wiped out several native species in rivers and lakes.

The preservation method that we used for the bluegill can be traced back to the 10th Century. The Japanese word himono (干物) refers to "dried things". 

Grilled salt-cured fish - Himono - dried and grilled fish

1 quart water
4 tsp sea salt 
3-4 whole fish
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup  soy
Handful of shiso leaves

To start you will want to clean your fish, split it lengthwise, removing the guts and leaving the fish as whole as possible.  Make a brine from the water and salt, add the fish and brine it for at least an hour, overnight is better.  Remove fish from the brine and pat dry. 

You can spread the fish skin side up on  a wire rack and refrigerate overnight.  Alternatively, you can hang the fish to dry in the sun.  While the fish is drying you will want to heat up your grill.  The heat should be "intense but distant".  

Mix the remaining ingredients together to create a sauce for the fish. Mix together mirin and soy, and chiffonade the shiso leaves adding them to the brine. Place the fish skin-side down on the grill and cook for approximately 3 minutes, basting the fish with the sauce every few minutes while it cooks.  Turn it over and cook about 4 more minutes continuing to baste.  When the fish is well cooked and the skin brown and crispy serve.  

For more information see the following links:

Himono: Cutting, Drying and Grilling Fish The Japanese Way