Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).

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For those of you who want to eat more fish but hesitate to cook them, having a limited repertoire or the fish's reputation for being troublesome to prepare may be holding you back.

As the weather gets colder, fatty fish fillets fill display cases at supermarkets. In a three-part series on “fall and winter fish” starting this week, we'll help you expand your repertoire while keeping to the crucial skills for preparing fish.

First up is Japanese amberjack, or “buri.” Though its fillets are often cooked teriyaki style (grilled with a glaze of soy sauce and sugar), we're going to steam it Chinese style. It may come as a surprise to steam fatty blueback fish, but compared to grilling, the heat will penetrate nicely in a way that will retain the fish's moisture.

One reason people find cooking fish difficult is the smell, which can be reduced by taking an extra step before steaming. If you dust both sides of the fish with salt and leave it for a while, it will absorb moisture and the fishy odor along with it.

Green onions and ginger will also mask the smell.

In a frying pan, bring water to a boil. Then put in your Japanese amberjack, cover with a lid and in six minutes the dish is done. You'll realize your notion that a “fish dish is difficult” was just an assumption.


(Supervised by Katsuhiko Yoshida in the cooking aspect and Midori Kasai in the cookery science aspect)

* Ingredients and cooking utensils (Serves two to three)

2 fillets (250 grams) of Japanese amberjack, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 green onion, 10 grams ginger, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 Tbsp sake, 4 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, kitchen knife and cutting board, frying pan with lid, deep plate that fits in frying pan, long cooking-use chopsticks and bamboo skewer

1. Cut fillets in half, dust salt on both sides. Pat dry water after 10 minutes (PHOTO A). Finely slice green onion at an angle. Finely slice ginger without peeling since its aroma is the strongest beneath the skin.

2. Use a frying pan around 26 centimeters in diameter. Spread ginger and green onion on plate and fit in pan. Pour 500 ml water outside plate and place on medium heat. When it comes to a boil, place in fish (PHOTO B), cover with lid and steam for 6 minutes.

3. To make sauce, mix 2 Tbsp water and sugar, sake, soy sauce and sesame oil and dissolve sugar. If dish is made for children and the alcohol content is a concern, microwave at 600 W for 30 seconds to reduce it. Insert bamboo skewer in fish and check if cooked thoroughly. (PHOTO C). Turn off stove and drizzle sauce on fish. It may be served on the same plate or separately in portions. You can also substitute white-fleshed fish such as flounder and cod to make the dish.

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Katsuhiko Yoshida is the owner-chef of Jeeten, a restaurant in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Uehara district offering Chinese home cooking.

Midori Kasai is a professor at Ochanomizu University and chairwoman of the Japan Society of Cookery Science.


<“Somen” noodles flavored with Japanese amberjack>

Enjoy some noodles with hot sauce rich with the flavor of Japanese amberjack just like “tai somen,” a local specialty in the Setouchi region, which uses sea bream.

Serve Japanese amberjack, ginger and green onions on a plate and use the remaining sauce. Bring water to a boil in a pot, cook a bunch of thin somen noodles as instructed. Place in sieve, rinse and drain. Place noodles in a heap in dish with sauce. Finely chop 2 cm of green onions and sprinkle on top.


Herb vegetables such as green onions and ginger as well as spices have a masking effect that blankets the smell of fish by giving off a strong aroma and flavor. Placing herbs on carpaccio or finely sliced “myoga” and garlic on “katsuo no tataki” (block of fresh skipjack tuna whose surface is seared and then sliced) are some examples. Soy sauce and other seasonings with a strong smell also tone down the fishy smell.

Satisfied with homemade dashi stock

Many readers wrote to us about our series on “dashi stock and soup.”

Ryoko Kobayashi, a 29-year-old Yokohama resident, wrote that she always thought that “it was realistic to use commercial dashi powder at home since it takes a lot of ingredients and fuss to make tasty dashi.”

She followed the recipe on how to produce “umami” by combining ingredients on hand and said she was surprised how well it turned out and that she was happy she could make it herself.

A 56-year-old man from Otsu city asked us whether the garlic used in the soup with asari clams is also a herb vegetable.

Garlic, onions, “oba” (young shiso leaves) are also herb vegetables that are used to mask odors or enhance the flavor, along with celery and coriander, which we mentioned in the article.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Gohan Lab column