From sea bream and octopus to Japanese sea bass and flounder, a wide variety of catches are unloaded at the port of Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture, a place of special significance to Mihoko Toda.

Married to an Akashi fisherman, Toda gives lessons in cooking fish, and she is also involved in a cause to teach children about the bountiful sea and fish of Hyogo Prefecture.

As a lecturer representing the Hyogo Prefectural Fishery Cooperation, the 41-year-old cooking expert visits elementary and junior high schools to popularize fish dishes. She talks about how people made a collective effort to clean the sea that had become polluted during the nation’s high growth period and win back the bountiful sea, and how “local production for local consumption” is important to protect the environment and the fishing industry.

Then she shows the students how to prepare fish. She often chooses “aji,” or horse mackerel, since it is familiar and easily obtained, and its bone structure is most suitable when learning the basics of fish.

At first, the children are nervous about touching the fish and holding the kitchen knife. But as they scrape off the scales and open up the stomach, they start to assume a serious expression, says Toda. It is slightly tricky to remove the fillet from the bones cleanly, but it is all right if it turns out slightly out of shape.

“It is important to have the children touch the fish to begin with,” says Toda.

The children sprinkle salt and pepper on the fillets and grill them. They smile and remark that the fish taste good.

“Children who had said that they didn’t like fish will try the ones they had prepared and say how good they taste. That’s what makes me so happy.”

At her cooking class, Toda also offers parent-and-child lessons during the summer holidays, when they make burgers with fried horse mackerel.

“I think it is an easy dish for children to try. It also looks nice,” says Toda who adorns it with a small flag to make it look prettier.

Instead of using pickled vegetables in the tartar sauce, she uses Chinese scallions pickled in sugared vinegar for a milder flavor. Store-bought tartar sauce will also work nicely.

Take a big bite and you will see how the fluffy meat of the fresh horse mackerel pairs well with the vegetable and the buns.

INGREDIENTS

(Serves four)

1 medium to large horse mackerel

1 egg

2 Tbsp flour

4 Tbsp breadcrumbs

4 lettuce leaves

1 medium tomato

1/2 cucumber

4 buns for hamburger

For tartar sauce (3 boiled eggs, 10 to 15 Chinese scallions pickled in sugared vinegar [amazu-zuke rakkyo], 50 grams mayonnaise, 1 tsp vinegar, bit of salt and pepper)

Frying oil

METHOD

Fillet horse mackerel, slice off stomach bones and pick smaller bones. Cut each fillet in half and prepare four pieces.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on fish, dust with flour, dip in beaten egg and coat with breadcrumbs.

Heat oil to 170 to 180 degrees, place fish and deep-fry until golden.

Tear lettuce into pieces suitable to tuck in buns. Remove calyx from tomato, cut into four round slices. Finely slice cucumber at an angle.

To make tartar sauce, mash boiled eggs, coarsely chop Chinese scallions and mix with seasonings.

Cut buns in half sideways. On the bottom half, lay lettuce, tartar sauce, tomato, cucumber and fried fish and cover with top half.

* * *

From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column