Sea bream, or “tai” in Japanese, is a symbol of spring in Osaka, and those fish that have reached spawning time in the cherry-blossom season are known as “sakura-dai” because of their color.
A seasoned chef of Japanese cuisine, Shuzo Ueno makes full use of this fish, using milt, roe, bone and innards to rustle up delicious dishes.
“They are the tasty parts. People used to eating nice-looking sashimi should try some. People of Osaka know what’s really tasty. We’re proud of that,” says Ueno, 79.
Although you can buy milt and roe of sea bream at a supermarket, innards are hard to come by. One way to secure them is to become friendly with a local fishmonger.
Ueno spares no effort in his cooking and even roasts the fish spine before immersing it in the broth. “You should use the ingredient greedily,” he insists.
When preparing the roe, simply boiling it will suffice. But you can enhance the taste by making a vertical incision in the bar of roe, opening the two sides like doors, and placing fine strips of ginger inside. Then roll them up from the narrow end of the roe before boiling briefly.
Udo, also known as Japanese spikenard, offers a slightly bitter flavor of spring. The delicate broad beans are better bought in pods and taken out right before cooking.
Although Ueno has been a chef for more than half a century, he says the most important thing is what you eat every day at home.
"Home cooking is intended to create good health. It also generates a sound mind,” he says.
About 200 grams milt (shirako) of sea bream
About 200 grams roe (mako) of sea bream
Innards of sea bream (stomach, intestine, liver, etc.)
Spine of sea bream
20 broad beans
Dashi stock (50 grams dried kelp immersed in 1.8-liter water overnight)
Some leaf bud (kinome)
50 cc sake
2 Tbsp light-colored soy sauce
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Toast spine in oven toaster, remove clinging meat and set aside. Place bone in appropriate amount of kelp stock and heat. (Remaining stock may be kept in the fridge and used to make other dishes.)
Peel around 5-cm long udo pieces. Immerse in vinegar water to remove bitterness.
Chop milt and roe, briefly immerse in boiling water. Rinse impurities off from fish innards, chop and briefly immerse in boiling water.
Pour two cups of bone-kelp stock in pot with sake, soy sauce, sugar and salt and cook udo with milt and roe.
Pour some soup from above in small pot and cook innards and meat removed from bone. Lower heat and pour in beaten eggs. Place drop lid and steam for 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour some soup used to cook udo in small pot and cook broad beans over high heat. Serve with udo, milt, roe and innards with egg. Place leaf bud.