Rice Bowl With 'kabayaki' - Style Sardines And Fried Bones

Rice bowl with 'kabayaki'-style sardines and fried bonesWith a 130-year history behind it, the Akahori Cooking School has seen many changes through the decades.
Masako Akahori is grandmother to Hiromi, the school’s 51-year-old present head.
Masako, the fourth head of the school, was also the first woman to lead the cooking school. When Hiromi’s mother, Chiemi, now aged 80, became its fifth head, the school opened its doors to men.

Eventually, cooking classes for children were introduced.

Rice bowl with “kabayaki”-style sardines, where the fish is cleaned, opened, dipped in sauce and cooked, is a popular recipe taught at the children’s cooking class. The children get to open the sardines by hand.

In this age when people often buy filleted fish at supermarkets to cook at home, children get excited to touch the whole fish, cut its head off with a knife and open it up. The sweet soy sauce-based sauce is the secret behind the recipe’s popularity. A key is to add some miso that softens the smell of the fish and enhances the flavor.

Deep-fried bones called “hone senbei” (bone crackers) are also hugely popular, and some children ask if they can just have the fried bones.

Some of the students of the cooking class are children who are picky eaters.

Occasionally, small children who are fussy about food refuse to touch ingredients that they are not familiar with. Once there was a boy who could not eat the dishes they made in class.

But when Akahori and his classmates showed their excitement for the prepared dish, he began to eat vegetables he disliked, dipped in mayonnaise which he loved.

After a few months, he was able to eat the dishes as well.

“If I leave food behind, it will hurt the person who made it,” he said.

“Children don’t have much experience. It is important to find appealing ways to cook ingredients that they have never tasted or seen before. It is also essential for the adults around them to show how much they enjoy the prepared dishes,” says Akahori. “I don’t like it” is a term not allowed in her cooking class.

Akahori believes that the classes for children not only teach cooking skills but also prepare them to enter society. She hopes to help them learn not to waste ingredients and be thankful to the person who cooked for them.

When they feel thirsty and want a drink, she wants them to think of how the others are feeling as well.


Serves four.

4 sardines (iwashi)

1/2 green onion

1 tsp ginger juice

2 tsp soy sauce

Sauce A (4 Tbsp each of sweet mirin sake and sake, 2 Tbsp each of sugar and soy sauce, 1 Tbsp miso)

Some “katakuriko” starch and oil

4 servings of rice


Place newspaper on cutting board to prepare sardines in “tebiraki” style. First rinse sardines, cut off head. Slice open stomach part and remove guts. Rinse them in bowl of water and pat dry thoroughly. Stick thumb in stomach and open up by sliding thumb along backbone. Peel off backbone. Lay in flat container, immerse in ginger juice and soy sauce for about 15 minutes. Deep fry backbone.

Cut green onion into 3- to 4-cm pieces.

To prepare Sauce A, pour sweet mirin sake in small pot and bring to a boil. Add remaining ingredients other than miso, reduce a little while mixing with ladle. Finally add miso, mix well and turn off heat.

Pat sardines dry, dust both sides with katakuriko starch and cook in oiled frying pan until both sides are golden. Cook green onions at the same time until slightly brown. Pour Sauce A in new flat container, add sardines while hot and coat them with sauce.

Serve rice in “donburi,” or oversized rice bowl, top with sardines, green onions and bone crackers.