This week, Jinnosuke Uotsuka, a 60-year-old expert on food culture, introduces a recipe that appeared in the "Fujin no Tomo" magazine in 1936: “Sea bream mixed with pickled daikon radish.”
The recipe goes as follows:
“This dish is quite savory. Small ‘tai’ (sea bream) weighing 100 ‘monme’ (about 375 grams) may be chosen. As substitutes, ‘koaji’ (small horse mackerel), ‘kosaba’ (small mackerel), tiny ‘sagoshi’ (Japanese Spanish mackerel) or ‘kohada’ (dotted gizzard shad) may be used instead. Choose ‘takuan’ (pickled daikon radish) with a rustic flavor. Those sweetened with saccharin are not suitable.”
“The art of cooking where diced sashimi is mixed with another ingredient appears in the traditional ‘kaiseki’ course. Somehow it has found its way into home cooking,” says Uotsuka, who calls himself the “investigation unit of food.”
As this is home cooking, the recipe allows small sea bream, horse mackerel or mackerel to be used. Since the distribution system back then was not as developed as today, the freshness of fish must not have been excellent.
“It is likely that the salty taste and umami of the pickled daikon radish hid the fishy smell of the sashimi. It is a dish where smell offsets smell. This is one of life’s pearls of wisdom,” says Uotsuka.
It may come as a surprise that pickled daikon radish containing the artificial sweetener saccharin was already being marketed in 1936. Cooking styles mirror the times they are from, and cookbooks can tell us much about the past.
Uotsuka once added olive oil and chopped shiso leaves to this dish and served it as “carpaccio.” Non-Japanese people may not like pickled daikon radish or raw fish so much, but they are said to have enjoyed the dish.
The photo shows sea bream without skin (back) and with skin (front). A procedure called “yubiki” has been applied to the one with skin by pouring boiling water to cook the surface. A key to this recipe is to choose radish that has been pickled for a long time (“furuzuke” type) with just salt and rice bran.
“Those containing food coloring and sweetener were too sugary and didn’t work,” says Uotsuka.
Nowadays not many people pickle daikon radish at home. It may not be easy to find pickled radish made the traditional way. Alas, times have changed.
Sea bream (tai) sashimi
Pickled daikon radish (takuan of furuzuke-type)
Cut sea bream into 7-mm dices.
Chop pickled daikon radish as finely as possible. Rinse in water and squeeze out water thoroughly. Do not over-rinse.
Mix sea bream and pickled daikon radish.
Mixing sea bream and radish in the ratio of 1 to 1 or 1 to 1.5 works best. Since the radish is salty, no soy sauce is required. Finely chopped shiso leaves or juice of “sudachi” and other citrus may also be used.