A savory dish of sardines is a good choice for a ready-made dish that can be a great help on a busy day. To be able to eat the bones as well, Kimio Tomura, owner of a Kyoto-cuisine restaurant, suggests choosing fresh small-sized sardines that are 15 to 18 cm long.
They are first cooked slowly in water and sake. “Make sure to remove the scum that appears first,” Tomura says. He uses the richly-flavored “tamari” soy sauce to season the dish. In autumn, the recipe may be used to cook Pacific saury.
1 kg small sardines
200 cc sake
3, 4 slices of ginger with skin
180 grams sugar
80 cc “tamari” soy sauce
3 Tbsp Japanese pepper corn (mizansho) cooked in salt water (shio-ni)
Descale sardines with tip of kitchen knife. Cut off head and tail. Cut off stomach bone at an angle, remove guts. Rinse carefully so fish does not split open. Use tip of nail to remove blood around backbone. Pat surface and abdominal cavity dry with towel.
Place sardines single-layered in pan that is large in diameter. Add ginger, sake and plenty of water to cover fish.
Bring water to a boil over high heat. Remove scum. When most of the scum has been removed, turn down heat so water boils in few spots in pan. Simmer for about 2 hours until bone softens. When water evaporates, replenish before sardines appear above surface. After an hour or so, water level should be reduced to just about cover the fish.
Add sugar, soy sauce and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Check taste. Taste should be light at this point. Continue cooking and reduce sauce. Maintain heat so bubbles of sauce cover fish. After about 20 minutes when a nice glaze appears, check balance of flavor and add sugar and soy sauce to taste.
Raise pan from heat to check thickness of sauce. When thick enough, sprinkle with Japanese pepper corn. Turn off heat and cool in pan. Flavor becomes whole the next day. The dish will keep in the fridge for about a week.
Estimated time: 3.5 hours (30 minutes to prepare, 3 hours to cook)
Nutritional information (per serving): kilocalories, 270; sodium content, 1.9 grams; fat content, 11.7 grams