Crown Tournament 10/19/2019 - Wakasagi Nanbanzuke - 南部の野bなスタイルのワカサギ Smelt in the “Southern Barbarian Style”

Wakasagi Nanbanzuke
"Smelt in the “Southern Barbarian Style”
Picture by Avelyn Grene (Kristen Lynn)

Nanban means 'barbaric' and it is what the Japanese originally called Portuguese Europeans, when they first arrived in Japan.  According to Makiko Itoh, "The first Europeans on Japanese soil were the Portuguese — a handful of passengers on a Chinese ship that got blown off course and washed ashore on Tanegashima, an island off the coast of current-day Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Kyushu, in 1543. For almost 100 years after that, the Portuguese had a profound influence on Japan until their ships were banned by the Edo shogunate in 1639."

“Wakasagi Nanbanzuke” is a Japanese dish made by marinating fried fish and vegetables in a vinegar based marinade.  It is believed the Japanese adapted the Portuguese escabesche to create this dish.  I must admit that I was skeptical about the reception of this dish in the Crown Tournament feast. Afterwords, several people requested the recipe, and, to the best of my knowledge very little came back from the tables.  Smelt is a perfect one or two bite fish and strong enough to hold up to the flavors of the marinade. 

Wakasagi Nanbanzuke

5 cm x 5 cm kombu (dried kelp)
4 tbsp water
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp usukuchi shoyu (Japanese light soy sauce)
2 tsp sugar
½ dried takanotsume red pepper or dried red chili pepper
1 small onion, finely sliced
⅛ cup carrot, finely sliced
6 small fillet of aji, mackerel, salmon or sardines or smelt
1 tbps. plain flour
1 tbsp. katakuriko or cornstarch
vegetable oil, to deep fry


Soak the pepper in water until it re-hydrates.  Drain, seed and cut into very thin slices. Make the marinade by mixing together the water, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, kombu and red pepper.  Add onions and carrots to the marinade and set aside. 

Heat oil over medium heat.  Dry fish with a paper towel and then lightly dust the fish with flour and starch.  Fry the fish in the oil until it is lightly browned and then drain excess oil.  Once the fish has been fried, place it into the marinade. Allow it to stand for at least 30 minutes.  It can be kept overnight.


Eric Rath's "Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan", which I referenced heavily for the Crown Tourney feast, contains a translation of the earliest surviving recipe for kasutera.  Modern day Kasutera creates an airy sponge cake, flavored with honey and sugar.  However, the recipe in Rath's book is based on the Portugese Pão de Ló which gets its "airiness" beating the eggs until they become light and fluffy (15 to 20 minutes by hand). This too varies from the period recipe which uses sugar, flower water and almonds to create something that might resemble something similar to a nougat without the egg whites.


Com um quilo deaçúcar façam uma calda. Assim que esta espelhar, ajuntem-lhe algumas gotas deágua-de-flor e tirem-na do fogo. Pelem um quilo de amêndoas, soquem-nas um pouco,para que fiquem apenas em pedacinhos, e misturem-nas na calda. Mexam tudodurante algum tempo, e a seguir levem o tacho ao fogo brando, mexendo semprenuma só direção. De vez em quando tirem o tacho do fogo, mexendo sempre, paraque a massafique bem alva. Ela estará cozida assim que se desgarrar da vasilha. Despejem a massa num tabuleiro molhado, ouuntado com manteiga, alisando-a bem com uma colher de pau, de modo que nãofique muito grossa. Cortem-na emtabletes, na forma desejada.

With a kilo of sugar make a syrup. As soon as it is mirrored, add a few drops of flower water and remove it from the fire. Peel a kilo of almonds, punch them a little, so that they are just in pieces, and mix them in the syrup. Stir everything for a while, and then bring the pan to low heat, stirring constantly in one direction. From time to time, remove the pan from the heat, stirring constantly, so that the dough is very white. It will be cooked as soon as you get out of the bowl. Pour the dough into a wet pan, or greased it with butter, smoothing it well with a wooden spoon, so that it doesn't get too thick. Cut it into tablets, in the desired shape.

Recipe for Mu'aqqad (Nougat) of Sugar. Dissolve a ratl of sugar in two ratls of aromatic rosewater on a moderate fire, and when it is dissolved, strain it through a woolen cloth. Then return it to the fire and stir it gently until it is well cooked. Then remove it from the fire so that it cools slightly. Beat the whites of a dozen eggs in a dish until they give up their foam, and throw them on the melted sugar. Return it to the fire and beat it with the confectionery cane ['asab hulwâ: evidently a candy-making utensil] until it whitens and takes the consistency of 'asîda and remove it from the fire and put in half a ratl of pistachios, if possible, and half a ratl of peeled almonds, and serve it forth, God willing.


The recipe in Rath's book comes from from the Nanban Ryorisho or Southern Barbarian's Cookbook, 1641, the earliest depictions of Portuguese style cooking in Japan. I had considered including this particular recipe in the feast, but discarded it in favor of out of period ice cream with tangerines and persimmons. Below is more information on my research, which I include here in the hopes that someone may one day try to recreate this dish.


Knead more than sixty eggs with sixty momme sugar and one hundred and sixty momme flour. Spread the paper in the pan, sprinkle the powder, put the knead on it, put the fire up and down and bake

Eric Rath's translation calls for ten eggs: 

"Knead together 10 eggs, 160 momme (600 grams) of sugar and 160 momme of wheat flour. Spread paper in a pot and sprinkle it with flour. Place the dough on top of this. Place a heat source above and below to cook. There are oral instructions."

How many momme in 1 grams? The answer is 0.26666666666667
600 Grams of granulated sugar is equal to 21.16 ounces or 3 cups granulated sugar
600 Grams all purpose flour is equal to approximately 4 cups of flour

My interpretation of the recipe, using Eric Rath's measurement is below:

10 Eggs
3 cups granulated sugar
4 cups flour

Because I had discarded this dish, my research went no further. I do believe that at some point down the road I am going to experiment with this recipe and possibly publish a future post on it.  My current thoughts are that it should very closely resemble the Pão-de-ló  in the cooking technique, where eggs are used in place of, or as an addition to water, to create a syrup that then has the flour (almond?) and sugar added to it. These items are then beaten together until the dough becomes light and airy and begins to cool (similar to manus christi***).  After which, it is placed into an oven to dry or to cook depending upon what kind of "dough" it creates.

***Instructions for making manus christi are at the very bottom of that page.

For Further Reading

Nanban dishes are fit for a barbarian, Makiko Itoh