Sardines Boiled Down In Salted Water Just Keep On Evolving

Sardines boiled down in salted water just keep on evolvingPreparing every meal from scratch could be toilsome even for those who love to cook. Although cook-ahead dishes are all the rage lately, cooking specialist Yoshiko Tatsumi has advocated the concept of “tenkai ryori” (evolving dishes).
The idea is to prepare a large amount of ingredients, then evolve them into a variety of dishes.

A generous amount of "dashi" stock, for example, may be used in an “oden” hot pot, soups and so on. An extra amount of sauteed ground meat may evolve into a simmered “soboro-ni” dish or curry paste.

“Beyond evolving dishes, there is ‘yutori’ (breadth of mind),” says Tatsumi.

No extra hassle will let you catch some breath. What’s more, different dishes will keep you from tiring of eating the same ingredient.

This week’s evolving dish is sardines boiled down in salted water.

“Fresh sardines are cooked in salt and water only. Since they will be evolved, salt is used in moderation, just enough to draw out their flavor.” A key to the evolving dish is not giving it a strong taste in the beginning.

The cooked sardines are first eaten with vinegar and soy sauce seasoned with grated ginger or Japanese mustard paste made by mixing mustard powder and water. Then the fish is opened and halved to be used on pizza toast or as an ingredient for “unohana-zushi,” hand-shaped sushi where “okara” (soy pulp) is used instead of rice.

The sardines are evolved further into sardines in oil, and for use in a savory soy sauce marinade. Sardines in oil may be incorporated into salad dressings or used in sandwiches.

Flavoring ingredients such as garlic, green onion, a bay leaf and peppercorns are sauteed slowly in about 50 cc of olive oil so the flavor is transferred to the oil. More olive oil is added and heated over a medium heat.

Line up the warm cooked sardines in a container alternately and pour on the fragrant oil. Start eating them three or four days later and finish them off within 10 days.

The sour taste of the savory soy sauce marinade will also stimulate the appetite.

“I wish to hand over the food and ingredients of Japan in optimal form. That is a duty of a person who has been involved in cooking for a long time," said this 91-year-old cook, who has yet to lose her drive.


Amount easy to make boiled down sardines:

2 kilograms sardines

3 to 4 Tbsp salt

2 pieces ginger (half the size of thumb each) sliced

2 pods chili

1/2 cup sake


Cut off head and tail of sardine, remove guts. Under running water, run finger along backbone to remove blood. Rinse in salt water (with about the same salinity of seawater), lay on flat sieve to drain.

Sprinkle a bit of salt and lay ginger slices at the bottom of pot, neatly pack sardines flat. Sprinkle salt and ginger slices and top with chili pods. If there are many sardines, create layers of salt, ginger and sardines.

Pour sake, then water, so sardines are just covered. Cover with paper lid, then lid of pot and bring to a boil over heat that is a little stronger than medium. Lower heat and simmer. Remove lid after about 20 minutes to boil down water. It is done when the pot starts to sizzle with the fat of sardines.

Sardines marinated in savory soy sauce

Place boiled sardines in container while still warm, sprinkle fine strips of ginger, leaves of Japanese pepper (sansho) and chili pods, and pour a vinegar-soy sauce mixture (equal amount or ratio of 6 versus 4 of vinegar and soy sauce). It tastes good from the second day. Serve with Japanese mustard paste and some marinade poured on top.